THE game this week has been to find the most famous, successful person to have passed through Haverstock School in Camden. Ex-pupil Oona King launched her bid to become London Mayor in the assembly hall there yesterday, just as the Miliband brothers – Haverstock kids in the 1980s – contest the Labour Party leadership.
Like a game of top trumps, the office has been trying to outdo each other. Author Zoe ‘Notes On A Scandal’ Heller was in the mix, plus Dappy and Fazer from the inexplicably popular NDubz.
But the toppest top trump alumni award – he’s probably the richest and best known around the world, somebody shouted – went to Chelsea and England international footballer Joe Cole.
His stint at Haverstock was brief – he also went to St Aloysius in Highgate before being whisked to the famous Lilleshall School of Football Excellence. But he didn’t quit Camden before he and his family gave his favourite local paper an exclusive interview. Look up the January 22, 1998, edition of the Camden New Journal, and there the 16 year-old cherub is: ‘Jackpot Joe scores super $igning’. The front pahe story followed him joining West Ham United where the then Irons manager Harry Redknapp proclaimed: “What a player. If he doesn’t become a full England regular in the next ten years I’ll give up the game.” Redknapp is of course still in the game – and rumours persist that he wants to sign him all over again 12 years on for Spurs. Joe, as Harry predicted, is almost certain to feature for England at this summer’s World Cup.
But what did the 16 year-old Joe make of it all? “To be honest, there was always a question in the back of my mind: could I really do it, play for England?”, he said bashfully before telling how he had gained in confidence by playing for the national team’s youth side. “I have done quote well for them, so now I don’t feel the pressure. I don’t mean that in a cocky way, but now I know I can do it.”
And his pop George? He told the CNJ: “I don’t want all this to go to his head. I want Joe to enjoy his football but wthout the pressure of just thinking of becoming a professional. That would be unfair. But we’re all glad he’s got the chance to make a life for himself and get away from areas like this.”
A few years back, Joe returned to NW1 for a promotional photoshoot in which he play keepy-ups with oranges for a McDonalds advert. While other Premiership footballers with him that day shunned desperate kid cries for autographs, Joe stopped and signed away through the fence on the Clarence Way Estate. Even as an Arsenal fan, you could not help admire that. I just wish he’d left Haverstock and signed for the Gunners.