Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed that he keeps the belt he was beaten with by his “inspirational” schoolteacher.
Speaking in Friday's TES, the former Manchester United manager said the “competitive nature” of Elizabeth Thomson rubbed off on him when he was a pupil at Broomloan Road Primary School in the tough area of Govan in Glasgow.
But despite the “absolute agony” that the belt administered during his schooldays, it is now a prized possession of his after it was bestowed to him following Mrs Thomson’s death.
“It’s in my study,” Sir Alex said. "My grandchildren are terrified of it. Six from that belt and you were in absolute agony. I used to try to draw my hand away.
"But that was the sort of punishment you had if you stepped out of line.
"In my case, it was usually for fighting in the playground."
Sir Alex stayed in contact with his teacher throughout his successful career, and she attended games when he managed both Aberdeen and Manchester United.
“When she died, I couldn't go to the funeral because Manchester United were playing abroad, but months later I received a parcel," he said.
"She had bequeathed her belt to me. Her nephew sent it to me along with a letter that said: 'You'll know more about this belt than anyone'."
The 72-year-old established a fearsome reputation for keeping his players in line during his managerial career, often referred to as the “hairdryer treatment”, and he attributed much of his character development to his former teacher.
"Elizabeth Thomson was an inspiration to me," he said.
"That's the perfect word to describe her. The area of Glasgow I grew up in, Govan, had one of the highest truancy rates in the city. She came from a different world, really. She was from a middle-class, wealthy family, but she had a raw determination about her.
"When she first got to Broomloan Road Primary, she went round to the house of every student who wasn't in her class that day and said, 'If your kid isn't in school tomorrow, I'll be back at your door'.
"Maybe 2,000 teachers turned the job down, turned down that sort of challenge, but she thrived on it. She improved everyone she touched. She actively sought out challenge.
"The three ingredients to Elizabeth, when I think about it, were personality, determination and energy. Anyone who's in charge of someone else needs those three ingredients. It just won't work without them.
"When I think about her now, I realise that it wasn't all about education. Mrs Thomson endeavoured to make you want to be the best you could be.
"Yes, I think there's part of me that comes from her. That determination and that sense of drive. That 'never give in' attitude she had about all her students."
Sir Alex is a patron of education charity Shine, which runs Let Teachers Shine, a competition to fund innovative teacher-led ideas to raise attainment in the classroom. To apply for a grant of up to £15,000 before the closing date of 27 April, visit shinetrust.org.uk