Two goals for teacher Dan Carroll sends his non-league team into battle against the Arsenal superstars. George Wright reports.
AS a talented PE teacher who spends his spare time playing football for Farnborough Town FC, Dan Carroll has always been popular with pupils at St Paul's preparatory school.
But his latest exploit on the pitch, as scorer of the winning goal in an FA Cup match, has raised him to the status of genuine hero, not only for the boys in his classes, but for thousands of gleeful Farnborough fans.
Mr Carroll scored twice in the 3-2 win against Darlington which takes the Hampshire club into the fourth round of the FA Cup, where they will meet Premiership giants Arsenal.
And while Mr Carroll knows there are plenty of Arsenal fans at his west London school who would love to see his team trounced, he is relishing the prospect of playing against his own footballing heroes.
Mr Carroll, 26, told The TES: "This is like a dream come true for me. The reaction has been incredible. I've done so many interviews for radio, TV and the papers in the last few days.
"The kids have been brilliant, telling me how they've seen me on TV and what a hero I am. As a teacher, you don't get this sort of attention very often so I'm enjoying it while it lasts.
"Playing Arsenal is great because I get to play against Patrick Vieira, who is my opposite number in midfield. I think he is one of the best players in the world in his position - but on the day I will have to forget that he is a star and just get on with trying to get the better of him."
Mr Carroll, who is married and lives at the school in Barnes, west London, started playing football as a Crystal Palace junior when he was 16.
He was player of the year at Crawley Town FC for two years running before he moved to Farnborough Town, currently eighth in the Nationwide Conference.
Despite his recent success, however, he says he has no plans to give up the day job. "I'm 26 so I think if I was going to make it to a professional club I would have done it by now.
"But I am very happy with what I've achieved. I have the best of both worlds: I am playing at the top level of non-league football and I teach at a great school with wonderful staff and pupils."