TRIBUTES WERE flowing like the wine when one of England's best-known educationists stepped down after five years overseeing schools in Hackney, east London.
Sir Mike Tomlinson was feted at a dinner at Lord's cricket ground an apt venue given the former chief inspector's enthusiasm for sports.
In 2002, Sir Mike was selected to chair the Learning Trust, a not-for-profit body which in effect took over the local education authority.
Hackney has now moved from education basket-case to being rated good by inspectors last year.
Sir Mike, a Sheffield Wednesday fan, seemed particularly pleased to be presented with a club shirt with his name on the back.
But Richard Hardie, who will succeed him as chair, told the audience that the sporting connection to Hackney schools might have been very different. Before Sir Mike accepted, the trust was thinking about offering the job to Sir Trevor Brooking, the former England and West Ham footballer.
This obsession with soccer is no surprise in a borough whose community football fields, Hackney Marshes, produced such players as Bobby Moore, Rio Ferdinand and David Beckham. Indeed, Hackney Council won pound;300,000 compensation from Nike for unauthorised use of the marshes and the borough logo during last year's World Cup. It ploughed the money straight back into youth sport. Sir Mike would have approved.