A football hero inspired primary school children on Thursday with a talk for Black History Month.

Ledley King, former Tottenham Hotspur captain and England international defender, spoke to year five and six pupils at Bush Hill Park Primary School.

He was one of a number of speakers to attend the school, which has around 80 per cent ethnic minority students, this month. The Spurs club ambassador offered inspiration for the children as they prepare for secondary school.

Few other speakers can have had the reception Ledley King had, however, with the children screaming, applauding, and all wanting to give him a high five, as he walked in with a huge smile at their reaction – acknowledging it as the “best welcome I have ever had”.

He spoke to the children for half an hour about his life before, during, and after his career – including when he was their age, at Olga Primary School in Mile End.

He said: “Life at school was quite tough, I come from a single parent family so my mum had to raise me and my brother, it wasn’t easy. I was very fortunate to have a good friend whose parents could take me to play football.

“You have to work hard in school, because it’s very important to have something after football as well. I retired at 31, and there’s a lot of years after 31.

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“It is important to get as many qualifications as you can at school. I wish I had more.

“When I was younger I was quite quiet and shy, and I was always nervous playing football, but I was just myself. I had to be myself when I was Tottenham captain as well. Everyone in the team had to be able to talk to me, and I had to lead by example and show a good work ethic.”

He also talked about how difficult it was when he was forced to retire with a knee injury in 2012, describing it as a “very lonely time” for a sportsperson, and emphasising the importance of his family and friends.

He also talked about his favourite game of football – “whenever we beat Arsenal” – and whether he wishes he could still play: “I do miss playing football, but I’m a bit old now at 35, so I’m not sure I’d be very good at it.”

Bush Hill Park headteacher Anna Theodosiou said she was bowled over by the children’s reaction to King, who took a long time after talking to pose for photos and sign autographs for pupils and staff alike.

She said of the pupils: “It is just phenomenal for them to respond like that. They don’t all support Spurs, but just to see someone they all know and respect for real, for them it is a big deal.

“We can stand there as teachers day in, day out, but when it is someone famous, a guest speaker with the same message, it is so much easier.

“This is about passion, self-discipline and motivation, that if they have a dream about something they can achieve it, no matter who you are or your heritage.”