Ryan Sessegnon’s school: Teachers at Coombe Boys’ remember how Fulham prodigy’s man-of-the-match display inspired a 9-0 cup final victory and won him a PlayStation
The boy wonder has been a revelation for Fulham this season, sweeping the board at the recent EFL Awards by winning five gongs, including Championship Player of the Year.
His 14 goals and six assists secured the Cottagers a play-off berth, and they're still within a shout of automatic promotion to the Premier League.
In mid-April he was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year, becoming the first player outside the Premier League to do so.
But what stands out most about the England Under-19 star is the level-headed and determined attitude he's shown while maturing into a first-team regular at Craven Cottage.
SunSport went back to the classroom to see where Sessegnon's football dreams were first realised as a schoolboy.
Educated at Coombe Boys' School in New Malden, South West London, from the age of 11, he thrived in their under-14 and under-15 school teams.
Playing alongside his twin brother Steven, who is also on Fulham's books and won the Under-17 World Cup last October, they won the prestigious PlayStation Schools' Cup two years in a row.
In one final at Reading's Madjeski Stadium, he inspired a 9-0 drubbing of Ribblesdale High School in front of amazed FA bosses.
We spoke exclusively to Sessegnon's former teachers who all agreed the left-winger's success is down to his hard-work and focused ambition.
SunSport learned the boy wonder incredibly sat some of his GCSE exams at the British Consulate in Georgia, while starring for England at the Under-19 Euros.
Managing his rapid footballing rise alongside his education, Sessegnon also returned to the secondary school only last month to sit exams for his BTEC diploma.
In what is a unique partnership, Fulham and Coombe Boys' School work together to ensure the West Londoner's top talents get a proper education off the field.
As well as both Sessegnons, Man City's Patrick Roberts and Liverpool's hotly-tipped teenage sensation Liam Miller have graced these school halls.
We discovered Miller played alongside both the Sessegnons and scored more goals than Ryan at Coombe Boys' School during their time there.
However, it's the Roehampton-born midfielder that has his former teachers purring the most at the moment.
Walking into reception, you're greeted by a blown-up image of a pre-teen Ryan peeking through a microscope sitting pride of place on the wall.
It's no doubt he would have noticed that when he recently returned to the school with Steven to offer career advice to current pupils.
"We are incredibly proud of Ryan and Steven," headteacher David Smith told SunSport.
"They were both respectful, hard-working young men.
"I'm not saying they were absolutely perfect, but they both had a clear purpose, were determined and ambitious.
"We want pupils to develop skills and a work ethic that'll see them take advantage of whatever comes their way.
"I think that's what Ryan and Steven demonstrated all the way through. They had some opportunities and they took full advantage of that.
"From the school's perspective they are really good role models for us."
Smith, 47, was introduced to Ryan's talent when he came to the school in 2015.. and an amazing game to decide the Under-14 national championship against Ribblesdale High School from Clitheroe, Lancs.
"In my first year at Coombe Boys' we got to the PlayStation Schools' Cup final at the Madejski stadium," Smith said.
"When the teams lined up I thought there might be some trouble here because their team was so much bigger physically than ours.
"But we won the game 9-0, Ryan scored a couple of goals and was voted man of the match.
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"Not only did he get a medal, he also won a PlayStation.
"We won the PlayStation Schools' Cup final two years in a row thanks to Ryan and Steven, who were both immense."
Smith admitted he was wowed by his former student's appetite to continue his studies while excelling for England at youth level.
At the Under-19 European Championships last summer Ryan lit up Georgia with some incredible displays.
He was joint top scorer with three goals and was named in the team of the tournament as England lifted the trophy.
Astonishingly, he was juggling studying for his GCSE exams at the time, some of which he sat at the British Consulate in Tbilisi.
"There were quite a lot of obstacles put in front of him," Smith explained.
"In the run up to his GCSEs he was with England at the Under-19 European Championships.
"He was studying, training and playing. In fact, Ryan had to do some of his exams in the British Consulate while he was in Georgia.
"He never once neglected his studies, which was refreshing to see."
Ryan was popular at school because of his burgeoning football career and had many friends.
But he never let it go to his head, Smith said.
In fact, he was a model student, only getting told off once for taking his food out of the school canteen.
"You hear stories about other players that were terrors when they were kids, but Ryan wasn't that type of student.
"The only thing I can remember was he took his food out of the canteen once!
"That's how minor the trouble was that he got into."
Despite a star-turn in the Championship this season, Ryan has continued with his education.
Although he left school last year, he recently sat his exams in one of the Coombe Boys' School's classrooms.
"I think it's important to recognise how busy his schedule is," Smith explained.
"He's got a full academic programme, they're not on a reduced academic programme at Fulham.
"As well as training and playing with them, Ryan sat an exam last month for his BTEC diploma.
"It's amazing that he still comes back and does his school exams, as well as continues his promising football career."
Fulham set up the Coombe School Programme in the late 2000s – the school is just a stone's throw away from their training ground.
The man responsible for that link was Chris Fidler, the school's former deputy head.
Fidler, 64, now works with Fulham's youth players on a part-time basis following his retirement from Coombe Boys'.
He told SunSport: "Fulham's training ground is very close to the school, that's why it really started.
"We had a phone call from them asking us if we wanted to enrol some of their boys.
"Fulham came across, I met with them and it was promising.
"The issue they had was that a group of boys were coming from all over London, playing at Fulham, but getting there too late at night.
"So they thought if they could get the boys coming to the school, they could get them straight over to the training ground and back home early.
"We spent a year setting it up. There were very few clubs doing that, Watford was one of them.
"We went there and looked at their programme and decided the best way in which we could do it.
"We thought it would be beneficial for the boys to come, integrate and be part of Coombe Boys' School.
"We started off with ten boys, then it fluctuated dependent on who Fulham thought would be appropriate to come here.
"And it wasn't just about football, they had to be nice boys who worked hard and wanted to learn at school too.
"In fact, one year I remember the Fulham boys outperformed the rest of the school for their GCSE results.
"They were, in the most part, competitive, motivated boys."
Looking back, Fidler has fond memories of both Ryan and Steven.
"They were part of the cohort that came in at year seven," he recalled.
"Ryan and Steven were unassuming and they got on with what they had to do. And they had to sacrifice so much.
"When they joined us, they were training two times a week, playing once at a weekend.
"Suddenly in year seven, they were playing Monday through to Thursday, would have Friday off, maybe train Saturday and play a game on Sunday.
"Since they've been ten-years-old, football has dominated their lives.
"They also had to fit in their studies, so it's not like they're going home and watching TV or wasting any of their time."
In terms of memories of Ryan as a school player, Fidler has a spate of stories he can pick from where the protege showed early promise.
"I remember a tournament we played in Holland. The last time we went out there, Ryan was named player of the tournament.
"He was always a very gifted player, as was his brother.
"They've been part of a group of players that have done well and most are in professional football somewhere.
"I also saw Ryan play in a school team which had reached the PlayStation Schools' Cup final
"We won 9-0 and Ryan was just outstanding. The FA were there and they said they never saw a school team play that well."
The Sessegnon success story has known no bounds this season. It's something Fidler admitted he didn't see coming.
"Everyone has been surprised about how good he's been this year and how many goals he's scored, initially from a defensive position.
"I don't think anyone would've predicted the success he's achieved now back in September.
"But it's all about his work ethic. He gets on with his job, he's always wanting to learn and improve.
"He's playing with older pros, so that helps too. He's in the first team all the time and he's picking up the awards.
"Everyone associated with him is incredibly proud.
"I'm sure we will look back and say, 'He was a smashing lad who gave everything and was very successful as a result of that'."
Sessegnon's thirst for learning was echoed by his former history teacher, Owen Jones, who taught him through secondary school.
"Ryan was hardworking, diligent… he wanted to do things properly.
"When you wanted a task done, it might not have been the best work in the world but it would always be the best to his ability.
"I think that translates with his football. He does everything to the nth degree.
"He took on advice well and that seems to have followed on into his football career.
"If he wasn't the first to the lesson, he was one of the first to the lessons. He was never late.
"In terms of appearance, he wasn't scruffy and he was well-mannered. He never tore down the corridors.
"He got on with his work, he wanted to do the right thing and do it well.
"His favourite subject was French, but he was a French-speaker at home so he had a bit of a head start."
Of course, it's Ryan's PE teachers at Coombe Boys' School that gave this A-grade student his most glowing report.
Director of sport, Pietro Paliotta, championed Ryan for creating a pathway for pupils who want to follow in his footsteps.
"I think one of the legacies he's left behind is, 'this is how to do it'," Paliotta proudly said.
"He's built a road to be successful for all the other boys to follow and he did that through hard graft, dedication and ambition.
"Another one of the pleasing things for me is that he wanted to contribute in other things.
"He wanted to do athletics, he was big on that, and he holds a school record in the 1500m."
This season hasn't been the best in terms of results for Coombe Park Boys' School.
That's a fact that hasn't been lost by rival schools, whose pupils like to boast on social media about beating them.
"The other schools will never fail to tweet about us if they've got one over us," Paliotta, 41, said.
"We've had that when teams have even beaten our B teams, which is funny. I guess, it's because everyone wants to beat Ryan's school.
"But that's all fine, we've got some brilliant relationships with the schools nearby so we take it on the chin."
"It's been copied by many schools, having a link with football clubs," he said.
"We were one of the first ones through the door. Fulham needed an academic provider for their Under-18s and we were happy to step in.
"Working with Lee we came up with one or two ideas on how we can support them.
"That relationship has matured, there's lots of feedback and dialogue back and forth and we're delighted to have that relationship."
Paliotta confessed he'd love to be a fly on the wall to hear the family debate when the question of who the better footballer arises around the Sessegnon dinner table.
"Ryan's had a great year, but I bet Steve teases him saying, 'I won the World Cup'," he jokes.
"Steven's time will come though and he will start receiving the accolades in the future, we're sure of that."
Despite Sessegnon's glut of goals this year, Paliotta revealed that he wasn't leading goalscorer at Coombe Boys' School.
"They shared the goals out in that team," he revealed.
"It was actually Liam Miller who was top goalscorer, but Ryan did play a massive part in his assists."
Paliotta has been delighted to see Ryan's development this season, but he is surprised by his rapid rise.
"I think he would've targeted getting into the first team quickly, because he's been supported so well at the club," he said.
"They put extra into Ryan. When he got to 14, he really started to motor along.
"All the other bits that have come together, that's a little bit of a surprise.
"He's done absolutely superb, he's had a great season. He's done really well. The accolades are brilliant.
"But he's grounded enough to know, without wanting to sound too cliched, you take each game as it comes.
"He got to the play-offs last year, he wants to be successful this season, especially after missing out last year.
"All the accolades are great, but what he wants is promotion with Fulham this season."
Stephen Norman, deputy director of sport, was Ryan's football coach at Coombe Boys'.
When the PFA Young Player of the Year nominee came to him as a small boy, 47-year-old Norman was well-aware his talent belied his stature.
"When he came to the school he was already a very special player.
"In his first year he won Player's Player of the Year. He stood out in that year group.
"He was determined, committed, could attack and defend well on that left hand side.
"He was maturing as the years went by, then coming into those two years, winning the national cup, he went from strength to strength.
"He was a nice boy, he was very enthusiastic. He was quiet, academic and was very conscientious of the work he was doing at Fulham and at the school.
"Ryan had both parts to his game. He could be very creative, he could inject speed going forward, even at that age.
"He also had that tenacity that his brother had going backwards. If he lost the ball, he'd be back at someone's heals to win it back."
Like Paliotta, Norman has also been amazed by Sessegnon's progress.
"To be honest, I've been a little bit surprised," he echoed.
"It's happened so quickly over this season and it's been an incredible for him.
"He's taken his opportunity in the first team amazingly well.
"But then I can see some of the traits in his football that he's had over the time at school.
"He's listened, he's learned, he's built and he continues to develop.
"If you look at some of his tweets, he's always talking about wanting to improve, wanting to get better.
"He's pretty laid back, he never seems under pressure in big games. He's a humble young man and quietly confident.
"We're very pleased with him, winning the awards and they were thoroughly deserved."
Pinning down Norman on the best game he saw Ryan have at school level provided the PE teacher a wry smile.
"That's tough, there were so many," he beamed back.
"I remember when we played away against a school from Plymouth, which was a bit of a trek.
"A big crowd watched that game because it was at lunchtime. They had some Plymouth academy players playing too.
"Their school came out to support them and we knew it was going to be a close game.
"Ryan really stood out and by the end of it he won the away school crowd over. They were applauding some of the skills he showed.
"We won the game 3-0, but it wasn't as easy as it sounded."
Both Ryan and Steven went back to Coombe Boys' School recently to give a talk to the pupils.
Norman called the pair "inspirational" for giving something back to the school that provided them so much.
"We had a recent visit where Ryan came back with Steven and they gave a talk to the students," Norman said.
"Some year seven and eights don't even realise that Ryan and Steven came here so that's funny to see.
"They did a meet and greet, a Q&A and even played football in the playground with some of the boys.
"They fully integrated with the pupils and the teams we introduced to them, which was lovely to see.
"They really came across as great role models and the kids grasped the idea that you need to be more than just a good footballer to succeed.
"Ryan and Steven encouraged them to work hard at school and said they needed to be committed if they wanted to follow in their footsteps.
"It was great to see them being such inspirational figures who could inspire future generations to come."
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