Children at one York school got an amazing surprise today (4 July) when Gareth Southgate walked through the door.

The England football manager was the unannounced special guest at the speech and prize-giving day at St Olave’s School.

He handed out prizes for academic, sporting and artistic achievement before speaking to the hundreds of people who attended the event.


Gareth, who famously overcame his own sporting adversity after missing a penalty as a player in Euro 96 before guiding the England team to the World Cup semi finals last summer, was an inspiring speaker.

He used examples from his own life to illustrate learning habits the pupils are encouraged to foster, including collaboration, creativity and perseverance.

He then showed how the England team used those same ways of approaching life to achieve their successes, telling the audience: “When something goes wrong in life, it doesn’t finish you.”

Ups and downs

Life lessons: Gareth Southgate talks to children, teachers and parents
Head of St Olave’s Andy Falconer said: “Gareth Southgate was the perfect speaker for us because of the open, courageous and humble way he has spoken about his own very public setbacks, most notably that famous saved penalty 23 years ago.

“His success since then is proof, as Gareth himself told himself, that life will not follow a steady path. There will be ups and downs.”

Andy added:

  • We try to teach our children not to let setbacks define them, but to allow mistakes to shape them into stronger and more resilient people.

    We know it’s this attitude, rather than exam results, that is the best predictor of long term success and happiness.

    Gareth is an inspiration and a brilliant example of how to deal with failure, learn from it, and grow. We’re incredibly grateful to him for coming today and giving a talk that I’m sure all the children will remember for the rest of their lives.