Education: Passed/Failed: Garth Crooks

Garth Crooks, 40, is a broadcaster and ex-footballer. A striker with more than 200 League goals to his credit, he played for Stoke City, Manchester United, West Bromwich and Charlton; with Spurs, he became the first black footballer to score in a Cup Final. He was chair of the Professional Footballers' Association and is now on the Sports Council Committee and on the Lottery Sports Panel. He interviews for Football Focus on BBC1 and is one of the presenters on Despatch Box, the new Monday-to-Thursday political discussion programme at midnight on BBC2.

Kick-off: I went to St Peter's Junior School, a church school next to the old Victoria ground (of Stoke City FC, now demolished). Butler Street, where I was born, was almost adjacent to the Butler Stand and you could hear the roar of the crowd. I found education difficult. It was sport, especially soccer, that became my emancipation. When I was about seven, I found myself playing in the school team with 11-year-olds. Teachers said that if only I applied myself in the classroom as I applied myself on the soccer field, I would reap rewards and benefits. I thought: "I don't believe you!" It took a few more years to be convinced.

Taking one book at a time: I sensed a lot was resting on the 11-plus but I failed and went to Penkhill Secondary Modern. It was a pretty good secondary modern and I was fortunate to get there. I focused on sport for about two years. However, I suddenly discovered education at 14. I discovered things I didn't know; reading was boring - but I was led to read because that was where the information was. The more I looked to books, the more I found them fascinating. The school looked to pupils to give their views on social and political issues and on how the school should be run. We were a church school: how relevant was a religious institution in a society that was becoming multi-cultural? I found myself becoming very vocal. The school gave us the sort of debates that we heard our parents having at home.

The result we came for?: I was put in the CSE stream, being considered not good enough for O-levels. I got two CSE grade ones, the equivalent of O-level passes, and just missed out on a third. The staff said: "If we'd pushed you harder, you'd have got more." A lot in the higher streams flunked.

Getting my Spurs: I went straight into football, on the basis that I would continue my education later; a lie, but my mother fell for it! I played football for 17 or 18 years - and behold, I kept my word! In 1981, when Tottenham Hotspurs reached the FA Cup Final, I came into contact with the media. I became fascinated by the way it worked, radio in particular. I did a foundation year at Tottenham Tech and then a general degree in applied social sciences, a BSc specialising in politics, at North London Poly, which changed to the University of North London while I was there. They were six great years - but extremely demanding. It was all part-time. I started at 27 and finished when I was 33, just as I retired from professional football. I got a 2.2.

Playing at No 10: The team didn't know about it; it was something that I did for me. The Professional Footballers' Association paid for two-thirds of my fees and books. When I was chair of the PFA, we had a pounds 100,000 bill for the education of players. There were times when I'd come from the House of Commons or No 10 and go to the classroom, into debates about Mrs Thatcher - and I'd think, "If only they knew where I've just come from..."

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London