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Bukayo Saka’s journey from A* student loved by teachers to England hero at 19

New England star Bukayo Saka’s parents said they were keeping their feet on the ground after the A* student’s man of the match display against the Czech Republic.

The 19-year-old Arsenal attacker was the shining light in England’s 1-0 win on Tuesday and pressure is now on Gareth Southgate to keep him in the starting line up.

As Southgate’s men were making their way to an historic World Cup semi-final in 2018, Saka was just receiving his GCSE results.

He finished up with four A*s and three As, despite having to balance his studies with his blooming football career.

Little did he know that at the next major tournament, he would be the one carrying the hopes of a nation.

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Bukayo Saka put on a terrific display against the Czech Republic

Arsenal star Saka rose through the ranks with the Gunners from the age of seven
Arsenal star Saka rose through the ranks with the Gunners from the age of seven

His dad Yomi said on Wednesday: “We don’t blow our own trumpets.”

Outside the Saka family home in Hatfield, Herts, he spoke of his pride at the star’s performance, agreeing Saka was “brilliant”, adding: “We are very happy, yeah.”

But he added: “England is full of superstars themselves so if he is picked by the manager, if they think he is good enough, he will play. If not, he is happy on the bench.”

On whether Saka is destined for great things, he added: “He is trying his best. We don’t blow our own trumpets.

“He goes out there, tries his best and see how it goes.”

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Saka aged 12, left, meeting UK javelin thrower Goldie Sayers at Greenford High School
Saka aged 12, left, meeting UK javelin thrower Goldie Sayers at Greenford High School

Saka is congratulated by England manager Southgate
Saka is congratulated by England manager Southgate

His former Greenford High School PE teacher Mark Harvey, who Saka is still in contact with, said of the star: “He was quite a role model student to be honest with you.

“He was a role model student and academically sound across the board. He was very, very good at PE, a naturally talented sportsman.

“No matter what sport he played he’d always be very good at it. He had quite a small social group of friends, a close knit group of boys who are all still close now.

“But he was really pleasant student who was perceived well by his staff.

“Every single day you saw Bukayo, you saw he was active in some way shape or form.”

Two stories that stand out for Mark give an indication of Saka’s competitive but kind character.

“He was in year seven or year eight and his side got into the borough final. Bukayo was only around 11 or 12 at the time,” he said.

“They played well but they lost the game 4-2 and Bukayo came off and looked at (his football coach) Mr Patel and said: ‘I’m never going to play football again!’

“Mr Patel just happened to be a Tottenham fan so you can imagine the banter that brought about.”

Saka, fourth from left, with his former PE teacher Mark Harvey, fifth from left, and other staff at Greenford High School
Saka, fourth from left, with his former PE teacher Mark Harvey, fifth from left, and other staff at Greenford High School

Harvey added: “Another important one to mention came about two-and-a-half years ago.

“Our head teacher, who had a really good relationship with him at the time and was a massive Chelsea fan, invited him to open a new building and he came down with his dad for a good hour-and-a-half, two hours and took photos with everyone.

“It was a really nice touch. He didn’t have to at all as he’d already left the school and it was all by his own good will.”

West London’s Greenford High School tweeted as Saka was named in the starting line up on Tuesday: “Bukayo Saka at Greenford High School: always ready to learn, so respectful towards staff and peers, wonderful family and top grades. Such a proud night!“

Saka’s family are football-obsessed and it was actually his Newcastle-mad dad taking him to Old Trafford as a seven-year-old that ignited his aspirations to become a professional.

At just 18 years and 125 days old, he became the youngest player to start a match between Arsenal and Man United in the Premier League.

“I was standing on the pitch at Old Trafford before the game,” Saka said last February.

“It was just my second-ever start in the Premier League – and it finally hit me: I’m in the Arsenal first team.

Bukayo Saka revealed the advice Gareth Southgate had given him ahead of England's win over the Czech Republic
Saka revealed the advice Gareth Southgate had given him ahead of England’s win over the Czech Republic

“I had been here 10 years earlier with my dad, sitting in the away end with the Newcastle fans.

“My dad has always been a big football fan, he supported Newcastle because he loved Alan Shearer.

“I hadn’t been to many stadiums at all, so it was a big moment for me, as an eight-year-old, to go to a game.

“But now here I was as a player.

“Being down on the pitch, looking up at the fans in the stands, it really hit me. I realised what was starting to happen.”

Saka put on a coming of age performance
Saka put on a coming of age performance

Saka lives with his parents in a six bedroom mansion in Hertfordshire, which he bought in November 2019 for £2.3 million.

Bukayo’s Nigerian parents, mum Adenike and dad Yomi, settled in Ealing when they came to the UK in the 1990s as economic migrants to give their unborn children a better life.

Former neighbour Eileen Nolder, 91 in Greenford, Ealing, where the star grew up, said of the family: “They are a lovely family, Yomi in particular.

“He was fantastic and the boys were lovely. There were a couple of times when an ambulance was called for me.

“Yomi noticed and came straight over to help. Anything you needed carrying or doing, he would come and do it.

“Yomi was convinced his son was going to be a star and they moved to be closer to Arsenal. I was very sad when the family left.”

Bukayo has an older brother who played for Watford until he was 14, it was reported last year.

Saka's talent was developed at Arsenal as he rose through the ranks
Saka’s talent was developed at Arsenal as he rose through the ranks

“From the age of three or four I would be playing football at home in the garden with my dad, and my older brother,’’ Bukayo told arsenal.com.

“It was always like that. After school, we would eat and then it was straight into the garden to play football. We would play for hours.

“My dad and brother would want to go back inside but I never let them. We kept playing until I won. I’m serious, you can ask them. As long as they were winning, I wouldn’t let them back inside.

“My brother played as a defender for Watford until he was about 14.

“Weekends in our house were always about football. My dad would usually take me to Arsenal – I joined when I was about seven – and my mum would take my brother to Watford.’’



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