Jesse Lingard at school.

Old school! Lingard revisits his former primary

Jesse Lingard recently paid a visit to St. Margaret's Primary, where he enjoyed his first taste of school life in his home town of Warrington back in the day.

Inside United tagged along to witness the down-to-earth 26-year-old spread smiles, joy and laughter as he surprised and delighted the school's youngsters... even if he did flash them a few yellow and red cards!

“It’s been a long time,” he reflected, as we edged closer to the destination and some of our no.14’s earliest memories began to flood back.

“I was nervous at first. I think everyone is,” he added, recalling his first steps into the schoolyard as an infant, over two decades ago. “But once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. 

“It was just pure enjoyment, being there every day with my friends. I don’t think I ever missed a day! I was always 100 per cent record attendance. Over the years, I’ve always wanted to go back, sit back and just reminisce about the good times. Of course it might have changed by now, but just to be back there and get that feeling of being a kid again – you can’t beat that.”

The pupils – who include Jesse’s little sister – did not yet know the Academy graduate was visiting, so there was an element of stealth involved.

Manchester United Foundation staff took a select group of 20-30 kids through some activities, to distract them from the menagerie of cameras, microphones and press folk scattered across the back of the hall. As Jesse entered, passing the multicoloured climbing frames and gymnastic equipment, the youngsters erupted. Within seconds, however, they were stunned into an awed silence, as Lingard sat down on a PE bench for a chat. 

The pupils asked him,
“What was your favourite subject?”
“What’s your best memory of school?”
, before listening with rapt attention to the replies. Then, it was time for some fun. Sadly there could be no football, due to Jesse’s injury against PSG just days earlier, but in its place was that old classic, benchball – with our hero given the refereeing gig, and some obligatory yellow and red cards.

There were deafening cheers as the contest began, with Lingard in his element, imparting fun and humour at every turn. He pretended to dish out a yellow to a kid who excitedly tried to intercept the ball upon its return to the match official, and channeled his inner Mike Dean with some ridiculously dramatic signalling. Breathless excitement filled the air, as the kids with their giddy grins sat down to listen to Jesse's interview with Inside United...
Welcome back to St Margaret’s, Jesse! What was your first emotion upon walking into that school hall again?
“It just brought back so many memories. My time here, it was a great time. It brought back so much, and it was great seeing quite a few staff and the pupils. I’m looking at this classroom now and thinking, ‘Did I actually sit in here?!’ I feel old! I can’t even sit on this chair!”
How would you describe yourself as a primary school student? 
“I was a good student; I liked to learn. I always wanted to better myself and was a hard worker. I knew that if I didn’t make it at football I had to have something to fall back on, so I knew I had to work hard.”
Favourite lesson?
“I liked English, writing long paragraphs and opening up! I always used to like science work and doing different scientific things. Looking forward to the future, you never know, I could be a scientific genius in years to come!”

When Lingard returned to schoolVideo

Were there any other games you enjoyed playing?
“Rounders. PE, I used to be the king at rounders! We used to do a lot of running-type things, especially on sports day. I was up with the fastest in the year.”
Who did you pretend to be on the playground?
“Everyone! Giggsy, Cantona sometimes. We had little polo shirts and I always had my collar up when I was playing. Good days.”
Who was the hardest kid in your year? 
“This is going way back now, this! We had a girl called Siobhan and she was like six foot tall. Imagine being six foot at eight! She used to swing us round in the playground. I was tiny and she used to just grab me and swing me round!”
Jesse Lingard and Dion Dublin
Former Reds striker Dion Dublin popped in to speak to Jesse for the BBC.
Which teacher had the scariest hairdryer?
“There were quite a few hairdryers flying about, but I just made sure that, personally, I wasn’t in any of that! But I’ve not got a single bad word to say about a single teacher. They respected me and I respected them.”

How did you balance your school and your football?
“Quite well. Back then it was Tuesdays and Thursdays we used to train, so after school we’d go home, get changed, have a bit of food and then go straight down the motorway to Manchester. I was very patient and obviously United told me to be patient. I listened to the words of the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson. He always said I was a late developer, so ‘be patient and your time will come’.”
Jesse Lingard on the cover of Inside United magazine
Jesse Lingard on the cover of the new Inside United magazine.
What do people say to you around Warrington?
“I come quite often. I come to see my mum, my nana and granddad. My little sister goes this school. She’s here right now, and she should be in class! But it’s a small town. To have someone break through and play professional football is great. I think I’m well respected, and I respect the community.”

What message would you give to everyone else reading this, in terms of enjoying what they do and taking things seriously?
“You have to take school seriously. That’s what United drilled into me. Not everyone makes it as a footballer but as long as you get good grades, you can go and get whatever job you want. But if it’s not in sport, enjoy it.”
To read the full article and interview from Jesse Lingard's day back at school, pick up a copy of the new Inside United or order your magazine online.