Home » Sports » Michael Owen: We got all the prettiest girls because we were England schoolboys at Lilleshall – it led to big fights

Michael Owen: We got all the prettiest girls because we were England schoolboys at Lilleshall – it led to big fights

March 21st, 2013 Sports


Top of the class: Michael owen (right) with two class-mates at Lilleshall in 1996


Top of the class: Michael owen (right) with two class-mates at Lilleshall in 1996 Photo: REX FEATURES




The youngsters stayed in a mansion in the Shropshire countryside which had
been built in 1831 as a hunting lodge for the Duke of Cambridge. They went
to the local school, Idsall Comprehensive School in the village of Shifnal.

The scheme was maintained for 15 years, during which time 234 pupils passed
through it, including Michael Owen, Nick Barmby, Sol Campbell, Joe Cole,
Andy Cole, Jamie Carragher, Jermain Defoe and Gareth Barry, plus many who
did not become professional footballers.

The boys were not always made welcome at Idsall Comprehensive, as Michael Owen
recalled in Four Four Two magazine last month. “There was a great
deal of jealousy. We naturally took all the prettiest girls because we were
playing for England schoolboys. We had one or two serious problems and some
fights. I remember a big group coming down one day with baseball bats and us
having to run off. There were even attempts to confront us at Lilleshall.”

Nor were many of the boys keen on Idsall. “Coming to school five days a week
was a shock for a lot of them,” teacher Barry Fisher told Four Four
Two
. “The lads from the big cities will tell you that, before coming
here, they would often go to school in the morning and then bunk off to play
football in the afternoon. Or they dumped their bags at home after school
and played until it was dark. Homework was alien to them.”

The FA’s school of excellence was closed in 1999, when a report by Howard
Wilkinson said youth development should be pursued through club academies.
Lilleshall is still a ‘sporting centre of excellence’ covering 30,000 acres
and can also be booked for weddings and conferences.