'He opened up the world to me' - Ian Wright on primary teacher

Football star was 'struggling and disruptive' but PE teacher taught him patience and confidence... and everything else

Football star Ian Wright pictured with the teacher who inspired him

Former England and Arsenal striker Ian Wright has spoken about his special bond with the primary school PE teacher he says changed his life.

Sydney Pigden, who died this year aged 95, was a teacher at Turnham Primary School, in Brockley, South London, when Wright joined as an eight-year-old.

The relationship has already been documented in Tes and in Wright's autobiography, but in a new blog published this week, the BBC soccer pundit tells of how he first met Mr Pigden while standing in the corridor after being sent out of a lesson.

Wright says: “I was struggling. Really struggling. I must have been about eight years old, and I could barely read or write — not because I didn’t have the intellect, it was just that my attention span was very, very, very, very short.

“As soon as I couldn’t grasp something in class, I would mess around and spoil things for everyone.

"My teacher must have sent me outside the classroom for misbehaving nearly every week, and that’s where Mr Pigden found me one day.

“Some of you may know of him, but let me tell you how we first met. I was eight years old, standing outside my classroom, when Mr Pigden walks past.

"He was a very strict man, and every time he’d pass me he’d always say, ‘Outside the classroom again?’

“It must have been after the third time he saw me that I stopped making eye contact with him. I was so scared and embarrassed.

"One day when he walked past, he stopped and came back to look at me. You know when someone sees you? They’re looking at you like they can see something more? It’s hard to look back at them.

“Mr Pigden gave me that kind of look and I had to look down at the ground. And then he went into my classroom to talk to my teacher. He spoke to her for about 10 minutes, and when he came out he said, ‘Come with me.’

Ian Wright: Teacher 'changed my life'

“And then he changed my life.

“We went to the library, and from that moment on I stayed with him. I went into classrooms every now and then, but the majority of the time at school I was with Mr Pigden.

“He taught me everything: how to read and how to write, how to have patience, and how to be confident and communicate, and why sometimes I would get angry.

"He really opened up the world to me. He even made me the register monitor and the milk monitor and gave me a sense of responsibility.

"He made me believe that the things I did mattered, even if they were as small as collecting school registers and handing out milk.

"It was really nice, simply because he was the first man who showed me any kind of love."

Nearly 2 million people have watched the video of Ian Wright being reunited with Mr Pigden in 2010 (below).

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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