Wing wizard Gareth Bale’s secret in transforming himself from Tottenham’s losing curse to likely becoming the world’s most expensive player is simple dedication and commitment.
That is the verdict of Bale’s old PE teacher Gwyn Morris, who used to write rules prohibiting Bale from using his left foot to give his classmates a chance of getting the ball off him.
Yesterday, it was claimed Bale had already said goodbye to Tottenham team mates as it was reported Real Madrid prepared a bid in excess of £100m for the 24 year old.
It is a far cry from when Bale played in 24 games without victory in the Premier League at the start of his Spurs career.
Mr Morris, who still teaches PE at Whitchurch High in Cardiff, said Bale was a quiet boy but with a burning hunger to win and dedication to becoming the best.
He said: “Gareth was willing to do all different sports: cross-country, hockey and football.
“He was a quiet young man, very firmly on the ground with a great dedication and commitment and attitude to his sport and he knew what he wanted to achieve and he’s worked very, very hard to work towards that.
“He was just a normal teenager, popular with the other boys.”
Off the field, Mr Morris said he was unassuming and popular with his peers who included Wales rugby captain Sam Warburton.
“There were 12 or 13 internationals in that year group and they all drove each other forward,” he said.
“He was just one of the boys and I’m sure his best mates now were his best mates at school.”
Mr Morris famously wrote special rules for Bale to only use his right foot.
He admitted while in part it was to give the other boys a chance against him, it was also designed to develop a less potent right foot which Bale possessed in those days.
“As a teacher, if you have got a tennis player wit a tremendous forehand but not so good backhand, you develop the backhand,” he said.
“If you can help produce a player just as good on both feet, you will have a better footballer.
“I tried to get him to use his right foot and let the other kids have a go as well!
“It’s what we do every day in teaching: try to maintain strengths and develop weaknesses.”
The last game Bale played for his school ended perfectly: he signed off with a starring role in a Cardiff and Vale Cup win for Whitchurch over Llanishen High.
Despite being just 16 on a pitch mostly occupied by 18 year olds, Bale – by then a part of Southampton’s youth set up – ran the opposition ragged and stood out as a prospect for the future.
“The last game he played for school and he played for the seniors,” Mr Morris said.
“The kids turned round and said ‘he is something special’.
“He was 16 playing in an under-18s cup final. He was just a step above anybody else and that was the last time he played for school.”
Bale has since taken time out to revisit the school’s current crop in the hope of providing inspiration to follow in his and many of the school’s other sporting alumni’s footsteps.
Mr Morris added: “Anybody would be proud of seeing somebody you had the privilege of teaching reaching their aspirations in life, be it a footballer, rugby player, doctor or whatever.
“He’s a great role model for kids in school now. He does all his talking on the field of play
“His roots are firmly based in Cardiff – he comes home to see his family who are great and offer a fantastic support system and comes into school to inspire the next generation.
“It means a lot to the school he’s willing to do that in order to inspire other pupils.
“He’s a great model for the school and the department and everybody is really proud of what he’s achieving.”