Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Gary Lineker, Match of the Day presenter and former footballer

'I remember thinking the 11-plus was easy'


Gary Lineker, 49, is England's highest scorer in World Cup finals and regarded as one of our best-ever strikers. He has played for Leicester City, Everton, Barcelona and Tottenham. He will present Sport Relief on BBC1 on 19 March. He is a patron of the charity CLIC Sargent and has just launched its "Kick for Children with Cancer" annual appeal aimed at schools and youth football clubs (www.clic sargent. org.uk /football).

Our headmaster at Caldecote Juniors was pretty fierce. He was German, straight out of the Gestapo. I remember being caned a couple of times – and one of those times I was entirely innocent. The other time? Cheekiness. There were some good teachers at Caldecote Juniors and I enjoyed lessons. I was always happy in English – I write all my own scripts – as well as mathematics, particularly mental arithmetic. (Algebra I found more difficult: less logical.) Caldecote Juniors was where I started playing football and I had a degree of success. When I was nine or 10 I got into the under-eleven side.

I passed the 11-plus, thinking, "That exam was really easy." I remember one question: "Which is the tallest tree?" There was a picture of three trees which appeared to be of the same height – except that one was in a dip in the ground and was obviously twice the height of the others. I thought, "How can anyone fail to get that?"

The issue now was that I would have to go to a rugby-playing school, as our house in Leicestershire was in its catchment area, but if I lived in the city of Leicester I would have a choice of four schools – and only two of them were rugby schools. I had scored a lot of goals (three or four a game) and clearly showed promise at football, because my parents moved to a house in the city. For six months before that I lived with my grandmother in Leicester.

I wasn't a great lover of school but City of Leicester Boys was a good school and a good sporting school. There were some good teachers and I got on with the teachers in the subjects I preferred, such as English and maths. I got an A in maths and in one of the English O-levels and probably a B in geography. I was always fairly hopeless at science and got a couple of Ds. I used to enjoy history and then we had a teacher who seemed hell-bent on converting us to communism; I got Ungraded for history.

If I'd known how difficult it was to be a footballer, I'd have worked harder at school. I did okay, but my mind was elsewhere. My last report said something along the lines of:"He concentrates far too much on football. He'll never make a living at that." These were wise words in many ways; a huge percentage of boys don't make a living at it.

When you do well at one sport, you tend to do well at other sports. I was in both the football and cricket teams and got a lot of goals and runs. I was captain of the Leicestershire Schools cricket team from 11 to 16 and thought at the time I would probably have more chance afterwards in cricket than football.

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