Football legend Dwight Yorke told Hackney kids how sheer hard work and determination allowed him to overcome the poverty he experienced growing up in a two-bedroom house in Tobago inhabited by nine people.
The former Trinidad and Tobago and Man U player, and father to glamour model Katie Price’s son Harvey, visited Urswick School in Paragon Road to give the secondary school’s up and coming soccer stars a coaching session.
Later the Caribbean-born star faced a grilling from pupils in a question and answer session, when he told the teenagers his mum had been his inspiration.
“I came from a very poor family of nine, I lived in a two-bedroom house at the time,” said Yorke, who was nicknamed The Smiling Assassin because of his goal scoring abilities and his constant smile.
“Seeing what my mum had to go through as a parent I felt that I needed to do something about it, and being a young boy at the time I felt football was the way forward.
“I’m sure not every one of you will be a footballer or an athlete, you might be a lawyer or a doctor, but I do think the same thing applies, I was prepared to work hard, I had to make some sacrifices, to not hang out on the streets, not to drink smoke or indulge in drugs and to learn more about the sport that I felt was the way out in terms of helping my family.
“I never drank until I was 21 years of age, and I drank Baileys for the first time,” he added.
“Everything I did was down to hard work, it wasn’t down to my talent, I was prepared to go beyond the people around me, we all could be footballers or good athletes or doctors but if you want to be exceptional and you want people to remember you, you’ve got to work harder than the people around you.
He told the youngsters how he never let the ball out of his sight.
“I slept with a ball in my bed until I was 25 years of age, every night, and was always breaking up stuff in my mum’s house because I was trying to get through the door and smashed the television.
“That’s what I did and today that’s why I can say I played in the greatest team and achieved the greatest things a footballer can achieve.
“That’s what made me play for Aston Villa and eventually play for the greatest team in England.
“I’m sure some of you might not agree, because you might be an Arsenal fan,” he said laughing
The 41-year old, who retired from playing professionally three years ago, told pupils he doesn’t miss football too much nowadays, because he is still involved with it.
“Making the announcement I was going to retire from the game, it was kind of depressing, football was my life,” he said.
Yorke now works as a commentator for Sky Sports, as well as being an ambassador for Manchester United and the Trinidad and Tobago Tourist Board, which organised the visit along with the Learning Trust.
“I hope I can get a message through to you guys,” said Yorke - and 16-year old Michael Oyasaden, from the Kingsmead Estate confirmed he had indeed succeeded.
“It helps inspire us and it made us achieve, he came from overseas so it was harder for him to break through in England, I just want to get as high as he was,” he said.
Yorke was also asked whether racism existed when he played the game.
“In the late 70s and the early 80s the level of racism in this country was really bad, they would throw banana skins, and all that kind of stuff, but I’ve experienced racist chants maybe once in my playing career,” said Yorke who came to the UK in 1988.
“For me the biggest disappointment is having a fellow player calling you a certain name, and I think that’s where we need to draw the line.
“If it’s fans or supporters call you that sort of name you don’t mind but if a colleague is saying something to you that’s out of order, I think everyone should be treated equally, because if I cut you and you cut me it’s the same colour blood right, the important thing is we treat everybody in respect.”