My best teacher Alec Stewart

16th July 2004 at 01:00
I went to Coombe Hill primary school, which was a five-minute walk from where we lived in Kingston upon Thames. It was a normal primary school. I don't remember much about it, although I remember the headmistress was a Mrs Keane.

I played a lot of sport there, football and cricket, and they had a swimming pool, which was unusual for a primary school. I was always sporty, coming from a sporting family, but the opportunity to run around playing games at school at that age was important. That's probably where I played my first games of cricket.

Then I went to Tiffin Boys' grammar school in Kingston, from the age of 11 until I left at 17, when I went into professional cricket. It was a good school, and still is. It did well in its results, although not from me - I was always more into playing sport than the academic stuff.

It was a good sports school - known for its rugby, although I always preferred playing football, and cricket, of course. It's produced a few good sportsmen - apart from myself, there's Mark Feltham and Gregor Kennis, both professional cricketers, and Neil Bennett, who played rugby for England.

It had an excellent sports ground at Hampton Court. Looking back, that was important, being able to learn my cricket on such good facilities. The teachers I remember best are those who were involved in the sport, in particular my form master, Martin Williams, who was head of cricket. He was influential and helped me develop as a young player. And there was Tim McCann, my history teacher and the coach for under 14s cricket and rugby.

There were others, too. John Rice, who wrote my under-12 report. In it he said that if you checked the first class batting averages in 10 years' time he was sure my name would be there. He was right. At the time, it was great to have that belief from someone like him, to be given that confidence in your abilities at that age makes such a difference.

And Reg Dodgson, who was a physics teacher but also the careers adviser.

When he asked what I wanted to do after school I said: "I want to be a cricketer." He looked at my results and my cricket performances and said:

"Well, that's what you should do." That was encouraging too, that open attitude.

They all had an effect on me as a person, in their individual ways. They were certainly all very supportive of my cricket career, and they've kept in contact since, especially Mr Williams and Mr McCann. Those two have followed my career closely and I've always received a letter or phone call of support if I've done well - I had a call from Tim McCann the other day, in fact.

I wasn't a star pupil academically, and not in French or history, which those men taught, but because of my sporting relationship there was a common bond between us that has lasted. If you have talent, whether it's for education, sport, music, or whatever, then those teachers who are in charge of that particular subject bend over backwards to help you even more. Those two really did go the extra mile for me.

When I was on This is Your Life last year they came on the show. It's nice, because you respect them as teachers, but now I can call them friends as well. I still have contact with the school, and went back for speech day last year. It's good to have that connection.

Former England cricket captain Alec Stewart was talking to Matthew Brown

The story so far

1963 Born Merton, Surrey

1967 Coombe Hill primary school, London borough of Kingston upon Thames

1974 Tiffin boys' grammar school, Kingston

1980 Signs as professional cricketer for Surrey

1981 Makes first-class debut for Surrey

1989 Plays first one-day international for England against Sri Lanka

1990 Makes England Test match debut against West Indies in Barbados

1992 Makes highest test match score, 190, against Pakistan at Edgbaston

1993 Named one of Wisden's players of the year

1994 Scores a century in both innings of a Test match against West Indies

1998 Becomes England captain; awarded MBE

2000 Scores a century in his 100th Test match

2002 Plays his 119th Test match, becoming England's most capped cricketer

2003 Retires after playing a record 132 Test matches; awarded OBE

2004 Runs in Sport Relief

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