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Pupils I'll never forget

Barry Cooke looks back on a slightly built star of the classroom and the sports field

Alan Wright was only a small lad - about 5ft 3in - and the smallest in his year. But he was a brilliant football player. He played left back, he was very, very quick and even as a small child he could land the ball from 50 yards on a sixpence. When I met his parents to show them round the school they were keen that he should continue with his football. They knew he had a talent, even from a very young age.

Alan (pictured) captained England under-15s and his father invited me to see him play at Sheffield United's ground against France. The French centre forward must have been 6ft tall but Alan managed. He was such a lovely lad, he never let it go to his head that he was England captain. He was able to relate to his friends in school and the staff. After he left, if ever we wanted him to speak or present prizes, Alan would do it.

He was set on a career in football. He knew all the time that he would make it. The belief shone through him.

When the England team was going on a tour of New Zealand and Australia and he asked if he could go, I said, "Yes, that's an education in itself". But he kept up to date with his homework.

I allowed him a considerable amount of time off during Year 10 and 11 to go away and play with the England youth squads. In Year 11 he must have missed four months of education, but he managed to get eight Cs in his GCSEs.

Alan left at 16 and went to play for Blackpool. Then Kenny Dalglish made him his first signing when he became manager at Blackburn. He then went to Aston Villa and now he's playing for Sheffield United.

He was an honest, hard-working lad who lived on the nearby estate. Whenthe children picked up the paper or saw a goal he scored on television, I used to remind them, "He was one of ours". And as a role model for our youngsters it was lovely to be able to say to them, "If you are as dedicated as Alan was, you will realise your potential".

Barry Cooke recently retired after 20 years as headteacher of Hyde Technology College, Greater Manchester. He was talking to Harvey McGavin.

Do you have special memories of unforgettable pupils? Write to Sarah Bayliss at the address on page 3 or email sarah.bayliss@tes.co.uk

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