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Raheem Sterling's former football coach asked to sort FA semi-final gift for Wembley pupils

PUBLISHED: 09:44 10 April 2019

Brighton & Hove Albion's Anthony Knockaert (left) and Manchester City's Raheem Sterling (right) battle for the ball during the FA Cup semi final match at Wembley Stadium, London.

Brighton & Hove Albion's Anthony Knockaert (left) and Manchester City's Raheem Sterling (right) battle for the ball during the FA Cup semi final match at Wembley Stadium, London.

PA Wire/PA Images

Football star Raheem Sterling gifted more than 500 tickets to pupils and staff at his old Wembley school by appealing to his former coach.

The Manchester City midfielder did not disappoint local fans as his team beat Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 at the FA Cup semi-final match at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

Paul Lawrence, football coach at Ark Elvin Academy, received an email from Raheem’s agents offering 550 tickets to watch the game.

Ten lucky pupils at the school were also invited to come and watch him train at the Manchester City club’s complex two days before.

Paul, who was Raheem’s coach at what was then Copland Community School, said: “He paid for it out of his own money. It was such a great gesture but it was not surprising for me.”

Mr Lawrence, who also coached him at QPR, first met Raheem when he was eight years old. “Raheem was excellent as a person and excellent as a player,” he said, “a coach’s dream. He knew when to pass, when to shoot, when to cross a ball.

“He was outstanding from the first time I saw him – I knew he would be a star.

“Raheem did his first ever interview with the Brent & Kilburn Times – the first ever interview he did in his life before he moved from QPR to Liverpool.”

Paul was among Raheem’s guests on Saturday, along with his former RE and PE teachers. Many of the pupils were invited on to the pitch at half-time.

Before Ark Elvin broke up for the Easter holidays principal Becky Curtis told this paper: “Isn’t he amazing? It’s incredible – such a lovely gift.

“Our pupils here idolise him and he’s such a great role model for them.

“We’ve been inundated with pupils wanting to go, so we’ve given out raffle tickets and we’re going to pull them out of a hat.”

Raheem moved to England from Jamaica as a youngster. He was brought up on the St Raphael’s estate in Stonebridge.

He joined Liverpool aged 16 and then signed to Manchester City in 2015.

Some 36 per cent of the 935 students at Ark Elvin qualify for free school meals, and more than 50 different languages are spoken by pupils.

Ms Curtis added: “It’s a lovely opportunity and we massively appreciate it.

“Many pupils live in the shadow of stadium and don’t have a chance to watch a game in it.”

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