On hearing that local lad Matt Harrold had ‘come home’ and was finally playing for his local club, O’s fan and Head of Year 11 at Trinity Catholic High School in Woodford, Dave Sears, contacted the club in the hope that the centre forward could pop in to his old school to meet up with some former teachers and inspire the young students as they begin their own journeys into their professional lives.
In November last year, principal owner Kent Teague had visited the school and spoken to a group of Year 10-13’s studying business and economics and this was an ideal opportunity to continue to grow a relationship between Club and school.
“It was great to welcome Matthew Harrold back to the school,” stated Dave. “He gave a great deal of insight into his life as a footballer as well as the choices he had to make as a student to help ensure that he was a success in his career as a footballer. It was very interesting to hear how he responded to the setback of being released by West Ham as a youngster but great to see how he responded and overcame the challenges that were put before him as a result. All students were very excited to meet Matthew and look forward to participating in further developing the partnership between the club and the school in the future.”
After meeting members of staff that taught him, including his old Headmaster still in situ, Matt, now 33, then met a group of almost 30 pupils who had prepared a variety of questions for him relating to his school life at Trinity and on to his experiences as a professional footballer.
“Some of the questions were excellent,” said Matt, “and I even learned something! I hadn’t realised I was the youngest player to score a hat-trick for Brentford. It’s a bit surreal coming back after such a while but I’ve really enjoyed it and I’d be happy to return.”
After the Q&A session, pupils were asked to note down their thoughts on the experience:
‘I found the talk highly beneficial as when I am older, I would love to become a tennis player, therefore, speaking to Matt really opened up my eyes to see how difficult the world of sport really is. This made me realise that before you succeed you will lose and play badly, if you want to do well you have to be determined.’ Annabel McKenna 7T
‘My question to Matthew Harrold was: ‘What was the most memorable game he played in? He told us that they (Southend) beat Manchester United 1 – 0 and that was his most memorable moment.’ Emily Morris 7P
‘I asked him, “If you could have had any other career, what would it be?” He said that he would like to be a physiotherapist or something to do with fitness. I enjoyed the session today and it was very informative.’ Oliver Licheri 7P
‘Matthew’s answer to my question was: “You need to be persistent and you must not let setbacks stop you.”’ Kayin Ashade Brown 7C
‘Today I met a professional footballer called Matthew Harrold. I found it interesting and good to get a first-hand experience of what it is like to be a footballer. I found it beneficial when he said to never stop giving up.’ William Anthony 7B
‘I enjoyed asking Matt questions and hearing his answers, one question I asked him was, “What advice would he give to me a beginner in football?” He replied, “You must train hard and never give up.” I found that inspirational.’ Ciara Anderson 7C
Trinity Catholic will now become a ‘partner’ school and as well as Matt returning later in the season, students will have the chance to meet other various members of staff whilst visiting the Matchroom Stadium for an insight into how the football club runs alongside stadium tours and a visit to the training ground.
Howard Gould, Community Liaison Officer, said, “It obviously helps considerably when a member of staff at a school is an O’s fan as the passion and commitment for a link with the club remains significant. And having a player as a former pupil really enhances the connection.
We have some great ideas on how the two establishments can really form a solid partnership going forwards and look forward to working with Dave and the school for many years to come.”