'King of the Kop' Brendan Rodgers goes back to school
The Liverpool Football Club manager, Brendan Rodgers, has made a surprise visit to his former secondary school.
The Northern Ireland native made the unscheduled stop at St Patrick's College in Ballymena during a trip home to see his family in County Antrim.
He met pupils and staff, signed autographs and posed for photographs.
The new Anfield boss also congratulated his former PE teacher, Paul McKee, who was recently honoured by the Queen for his services to amateur sport.
He made the trip with his brother who had picked him up from the airport to take him to his hometown of Carnlough.
Mr McKee said the visit was "completely out of the blue".
He said the Liverpool boss had a cup of tea and "a chat" with members of staff before the word spread among the students about his arrival.Talent
"He had time for everyone," said Mr McKee, "and it was always with a smile."
The teacher said Mr Rodgers had a "great love and affection" for the school and spent 40 minutes meeting pupils.
Mr McKee remembers him as a "good pupil who never left the sports hall".
Although the school did not participate in competitive soccer in the 1980s, he recalled how the new Liverpool boss had displayed a talent for basketball before achieving success in his football career.
"He was my point guard, and a very clever one he was too," he said.
Mr McKee had recently sent him a card congratulating him on his new job.
The Liverpool manager was able to return the favour on Thursday and congratulate his former teacher on his own achievement.
Mr McKee was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen's Birthday Honours list "for services to amateur sport, basketball and the community".Pride
The principal of St Patrick's College, Catherine Magee, said: "He just decided to pop in to see us all and we were delighted."
She added that despite winning one of the top jobs in football, Brendan Rodgers' feet remain very firmly on the ground.
"He has always been good at maintaining links with the school and we have followed his career with great interest and pride," she said.
Thursday's surprise visit was not the first time he has returned to St Patrick's College.
On a previous occasion, he was invited as a guest speaker at their annual prize day.
The 39-year-old was raised in Carnlough in County Antrim and spent much of his school days playing Gaelic football, hurling and basketball.
He was forced to retire as a player at the age of 20 because of a genetic knee condition and turned to a career in coaching.
Before securing the top job at Liverpool, he was a youth team coach for Reading and Chelsea before moving on to managerial positions with Watford, Reading and Swansea City.