My best teacher: Casey Stoney

8th July 2011 at 01:00
The England defender was given the support at school that set her on the path to the World Cup

I started playing football with the boys in the street when I was five or six and have wanted to be a footballer for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Essex there weren't many opportunities for girls to play football, but my parents saw how much I loved it so my dad used to take me to the park to play.

I went to Runwell County Primary in Essex, and joined the school team. I was the only girl on the squad and the boys really weren't sure of me at first, but I was one of the better players and once they saw I could play they changed their attitudes and started to just see me as one of the boys. We were coached by the caretaker, Mr Robinson, who was in his fifties and buzzing with energy. His enthusiasm rubbed off on us and you always wanted to do well for him. He wrote to me recently to say he saw me on TV and he was really pleased for me.

When I was 10 we moved to Surrey and I was itching to start playing again. In the end it was my mum who forced the issue and took me to a local boys' team. I started playing for them, but I had to leave when I was 11 because that was the FA's age limit for mixed teams (it was raised to 13 in May). I was lucky to find a local girls' team to join and was picked up from there by Chelsea when I was 12.

My secondary school, Ricards Lodge High in Wimbledon, was supportive of my football, which was unusual for an all-girls' school. Because I represented the school, I was allowed time off from lessons to catch up on my work or read.

My English teacher, Miss Creasey, played a key role in my education and pushed me to get good grades. She was quite shy and quiet, but she really engaged with us one on one. I was hard-working at school, but a bit of a joker. Miss Creasey was laid back, but she could be strict when she needed to. I liked to have a laugh in class, but it's all about timing and I knew when I was pushing my luck with her.

I was quite good at English, but when we first started reading Shakespeare I couldn't understand the language and didn't see the point in it. Miss Creasey brought it to life and made me understand the passion and the politics in the plays until I started to enjoy it.

Another teacher who was a big influence on me at Ricards Lodge was my PE teacher, Miss Ford. She taught me that the more you learn, the more enjoyment you get out of a subject. She could see what your strengths were and she pushed me to achieve in my football. And it paid off: our school 11-a-side team was unbeaten in four years.

I remember they held trials at the school for ballgirls for Wimbledon. I wasn't sure if I would try out, but Miss Ford pushed me to go for it. You had to be physically tough and train a lot and go through cross-country trials, but I was one of the 10 girls from my school selected to go. When I was 14, I was one of the ballgirls on centre court for the 1997 finals, which was an incredible experience.

Miss Ford used to tell us that if we worked hard enough we could achieve anything we wanted. I never dreamt I would be good enough to play for England. Now it has happened it is a dream come true.

Casey Stoney, 29, is a defender for England and Lincoln Ladies. She has been capped 89 times for England and is playing in the World Cup, which is being held in Germany until 17 July. She was talking to Sarah Boyall.

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