Enjoyable career made up of two halves

I began teaching with the World Cup in 1966 and finished with Euro '96. I've missed a few chances due to injury but I've also felt the warm support from the terraces.

A talent scout spotted me in 1959. She was Eileen Nash, my form teacher. I was playing up front at the time, taking a philosophy lesson.

"We've a natural teacher here," she told my mum. Mum, always a little unsure about girls and education, warned me constantly about "being bossy". I graduated and drifted into FE. Apprentices from Norton Villiers, came into my class. Every one was a 6ft biker. School was more of a sentence than a success story for most. Their gaffer said they did not have to do general studies, let alone be taught by a 5ft 5in woman.

However, it was the staff who were the real opposition. They showed a cast-iron opposition to multi-culturalism and equal opportunities.

Then to the personnel managers and business studies students - the upwardly mobile in Walsall and West Bromwich. Their companies were burgeoning, but their misogynous philosophy remained untouched by education.

And then to secondary schools. Most days I went home with a result. I hope the kids did too. In 30 years the game has changed.

The take-home pay's gone from Pounds 48 a month to Pounds 1,700; there's hardly any break between seasons; and you have to perform seven days a week. You can find yourself the victim of abuse or a late tackle from an irate parent and everyone is reliant on sponsorship. So, I consider myself privileged to have enjoyed teaching for so long.

Denise Coles lives in Essex

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