My Best Teacher;Interview;Graeme Le Saux

15th January 1999 at 00:00
The headmaster at my primary school - St Saviour's school in Jersey - was a very good teacher. His name was Ron Cobb. He was quite an old man, a grandfatherly type, demanding but fair. He rewarded you if you did well, which is something children need, and if you got praised by him it seemed very significant because he was the headmaster.

It was a small school but it was built around a swimming pool and had a large playing field. Maybe he always had more time for me because I was always enthusiastic about sport.

My father spoke to him recently and he is not particularly well, so I sent him a Chelsea programme with a photograph of me on the cover and wished him all the best.

That's one of the nice things about growing up on an island; people are still around. It was a wonderful place to grow up; quite idyllic. I had a very active childhood and a good quality education; there were never any problems with class sizes or lack of materials. I remember being picked up after school and going straight to the beach. My Mum would bring a cold box and we would eat our tea and play on the beach. As a child you take these things for granted, but now I look back and think how lucky I was.

I went to a secondary school called St Helier Boys, which later changed its name when it became mixed. All my sporting development took place there. We used to go abseiling and rock climbing, canoeing and surfing. I had some good teachers who were influential for different reasons. It was a state school - there was a fee-paying school on the island but it seemed to be for prestige rather than anything else. if you go through the state system in Jersey you get the chance when you are 14 to go to the high school called Hautlieu.

It was a big change. Hautlieu was much more educationally based and more testing than secondary school. The students were more serious and determined.

From the ages of 14 to 18, you feel as if you are really growing up. At Hautlieu they treated you as an adult. You weren't left to your own devices - they expected you to work, which was quite hard to adjust to.

My favourite subject was biology and I always got on well with my biology teachers, but when I was 16 my most important teacher was a woman called Mrs Bunting. She was head of the sixth form and she took us for general studies. Everyone respected her; she was someone to look up to, she was someone who was wise.

She was in her 40s when she taught us. Her husband was a maths teacher and they were both larger than life characters. She was good fun but she was also sensitive and would always be there for you if you had problems. She was quite alternative and had lots of good ideas. For Jersey, she was quite risky.

From the outside the school wasn't looked on as being very good - they used to call us the "Commie school". There was a big CND and Amnesty International movement at the time in the mid-80s, and Mrs Bunting encouraged us to look at issues and not just agree with things but look beyond the controversy. We were encouraged to think for ourselves. That's where I got my sense of morals and where I got interested in politics. I got a lot of that from her.

In football I have learned so much from so many different people that it seems unfair to single out any one person. I have learned as much from the amateur players I played with at 17 or 18 as I have from the big names. But one guy who stands out was Vic Bourgoise, who was coach of the team I was playing for when I was 16 or 17 called St Paul's. He had a military background and he was an authoritarian type of guy, so you would have thought he would be a loud mouth. But he wasn't a shouter; he was very thorough. He was a good influence on me because he had high standards and he believed that high standards brought success.

I always wanted to be a footballer. I remember my first interview with the careers teacher at Hautlieu. She asked me, "What do you want to do?" When I told her she looked at me, then she looked at my Dad and said "I can't put that down". In the end I think she put down PE teacher. My Dad still ribs her about that when he sees her.

I had trials with Southampton, and one or two other clubs were interested in me but they didn't want to take a chance on me; because I wasn't local they thought it was too risky. In the end I went for a trial with Chelsea and signed for them straight from school. But right through my childhood my father was adamant that I maintained my education, and I am very grateful for that.

Graeme Le Saux, 30, footballer, plays for Chelsea, and has been capped 32 times by England. He was talking to Harvey McGavin

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