The words Luke Shaw and football were synonymous when the England left-back was growing up and one of his old teachers felt it was inevitable he would make it to the top.
Heidi Stone was head of Windsor House, who the 25-year-old represented when he attended Rydens School which has since been renamed to Three Rivers Academy.
Already part of Southampton’s academy when he joined as an 11-year-old, football was always the top priority for Shaw and even though he is on the verge of playing for England in the Euro 2020 final, he has not changed.
“It was always Luke Shaw and football. It was Luke football Shaw,” Stone told the PA news agency.
“We were quite lucky really because I have heard people say once you are signed up they don’t play for the school but Luke played for us religiously.
“It was our most successful football team ever and he was a huge role model to others at the school in terms of his sporting attitude. He was very laid-back and modest, still is and I think that comes across to everyone.
“When you see him in interviews, he is a very sensible lad with his feet on the ground and he has amazing family around him who definitely contributed to that and his football career because they were so supportive.”
Even though Shaw was dreaming of playing in the Premier League from a young age, dad Paul and mum Joanna always insisted school work had to come first.
It contributed towards his drive to make it at Southampton where he made his first-team debut at the age of 16 having left his old school at the end of Year 10 to go full-time with the Saints.
Stone added: “He was a very popular lad but he was understated. For him it was all about football but for mum and dad it was school first, then football.
“If school was right, he was off to football so they really valued his learning at school and attitude. I think that must have helped him for the approach he has now. His family were awesome, they used to travel the country for his training.
“And our school team were definitely cup winners with him but he was always so humble and it wasn’t about him, it was about the team. Obviously it is all about him now because of what has happened but at the time he was just our best footballer.”
Having become a Southampton regular, the Kingston-born ace saw life change in 2014 with his England debut followed by a £30million move to Manchester United and a ticket on the plane to the World Cup that summer.
It has not been plain-sailing for Shaw since with his early years at Old Trafford blighted by injuries, including a double-leg fracture, before he initially endured difficulties under former manager Jose Mourinho.
The arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the end of 2018 has helped and it was during that season the defender showed he firmly remains in touch with his past when he invited some of his old teachers to watch a match at United with Stone delighted to get the call.
“Honestly, he doesn’t have to do that stuff and we don’t chase him,” she said.
“To be invited was just the loveliest thing and to be in the family box and watch him. It was very exciting and we weren’t expecting it. It was really nice.
“I think as amazing as it is now, he wouldn’t be doing it if he wasn’t hard core resilient because as everyone knows he has not had the easiest of times.
“He has also had long periods of recovery after serious injuries but he knew all he ever wanted to do was play football. Luke Shaw was going to be a Premier League footballer, there was no other option and he just committed to it.”
A new level of consistency coupled with outstanding fitness levels have resulted in the United defender forcing his way back into the England fold this year and he has been a regular for Gareth Southgate at Euro 2020.
With three assists to his name, Shaw is only two off David Beckham’s overall record of five for the Three Lions at European Championship tournaments and will hope to add another to his tally on Sunday against Italy.
A day before his 26th birthday, the Surrey boy will walk out at Wembley with plenty of people proud of the journey he has taken to get there.
“It is so uplifting to see a young lad who had the determination to achieve his dream and he has absolutely done it,” the Three Rivers assistant headteacher admitted.
“Some of our current lads, they do need to see if they work hard and put the time and effort in, there are aspirations for them.
“For me Sunday is probably an early death. The nerves, I can’t bear it any time he touches the ball but it is outweighed by utter pride. Everyone is excited, everyone is talking about Luke and we are just so happy for him.”
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