Pupils and staff at the former school of England star Mason Mount have urged the national team onwards to victory at next year’s World Cup.
The 22-year-old midfielder was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, and attended Purbrook Park School in nearby Waterlooville before he moved to London to step up his training with Chelsea Football Club.
The son of a non-league footballer, from the age of four Mr Mount spent one day week training with Portsmouth FC’s academy before joining Chelsea in 2005.
Staff at Purbrook Park, which has a photograph of him on display in the school corridor, remember him as a talented and ambitious footballer but who achieved well off the pitch as well.
Deputy headteacher Emma Bolton told the PA news agency: “While he was at school he was with Chelsea, our headteacher allowed him a day off a week to train and sometimes he would come in a bit later if he had games the night before.
“He was playing for Chelsea then and he was adamant he was going to go on and play for their first team and play for England, and that is what he would tell us all.
“He lived and breathed football but he was also a really bright, able pupil as well, he was in top sets, he was well known for football but he was so much more than that as well.
“When we found he was going to be leaving us, he and I tried to arrange some kind of testimonial ‘Goodbye Mason’ game, and we had so much fun talking about what we were going to do, but unfortunately we ran out of time so it would be nice if he wanted to come back and take us up on the office.”
She said the current pupils had been “massively” inspired by his role in the European Championships and added: “It really helps that they know he came here and played on this pitch, and what it has helped them realise is that you can have a dream and you can have an aspiration and if you work hard you can be successful, and he has shown them that dreams can come true.”
Ms Bolton said that the pupils had also responded to Mr Mount’s gesture of giving his shirt to a young girl fan in the crown after the semi-final against Denmark.
She said: “Pupils love to see footballers give something back, that they are human beings as well, and I think he showed us that and when he was at school he was very much about other people, he wasn’t a selfish person at all, he was very generous so it’s no surprise.”
Describing the school’s reaction to defeat in the final, she added: “Pupils are disappointed, so are staff, however I feel what the England team and Mason in particular has given us is a sense of coming together as a community and a country that we have been waiting for that positive experience to come together for reasons other than Covid.
“The children have been really inspired and think they can be the next Mason Mount, which is brilliant.”
Current pupil Max Lewis, 15, from Portsmouth, said: “He’s come from our school and played in the same environment as us and he’s learnt all the same things we have learnt from the same teachers, and that he has come from here, to up to England, to play in the Wembley final, is quite amazing.
“I’d love to do it eventually.”
On the final result, he added: “Obviously it was horrible going out on pens (penalties), it’s probably the worst way to go, but it is what it is and you just have to roll on to the next world cup in 2022.
“I feel sorry for the team, the boys really deserved the Euros win, but roll-on next year, it’s going to come home next year.
“I was watching Mason, he was playing on the left and he was getting the ball out, spitting it across the pitch.”
Sam Wilson, head of PE, said: “Knowing Mason used to go here is fantastic for all the pupils, they are following what he is doing, it only encourages them further to want to play.
“It’s really good to have conversations with the young lads and ladies about Mason and how inspired they are and want to carry on and play and come to the after-school clubs, he’s been doing an absolutely fantastic job and inspiring our pupils.”