Mark Fenton was greeted with a Guard of Honour when he took to the pitch for a final staff football match before his retirement.
The former Harrogate Town goalie was “completely gobsmacked” when he arrived for the teachers’ weekly evening kick-about to see around 30 past and present Rossett staff and students, including Leeds United’s Robbie Gotts and Barnsley FC’s Liam Kitching, lining up in his honour.
Mr Fenton said:
It was a very well-kept secret. It was absolutely lovely, and doubly so because ours was the first football game to be played on the new 3G pitch. It really was quite overwhelming.
Alongside teaching generations of students since joining Rossett School in 1986, Mr Fenton, 61, has also dedicated a huge amount of time to football, both as a player and a community coach.
His footballing career has seen him play against the likes of former Yugoslavian international Dragan Stojkovic and the Republic of Ireland’s John Sheridan.
After being taken on at Southampton FC as an 18 year old under manager Lawrie Macmenemie but released a year later, he had a stint in his family’s electrical retail business. When that didn’t work out, he returned to education and later completed a teaching degree in PE at Leeds Carnegie.
During this time, he was playing at Guiseley FC and twice represented Great Britain in the World Student Games in Japan and Zagreb. And it was arguably his goalkeeping talents that bagged him his job as a teacher of PE at Rossett School.
Rossett’s head of PE at that time was Fergus Donaldson, who was also the assistant manager of Harrogate Town FC. I remember him sitting me down and telling me that if I signed for Harrogate Town I’d get the teaching job!
Mr Fenton went on to make 247 first team appearances for Harrogate Town over nearly ten years, before moving on to Harrogate Railway.
Meanwhile, at Rossett, he progressed to become director of sport, and has been director of social inclusion since 2016. He has also been form tutor in all year groups and head of the gifted and talented programme.
Mr Fenton retires with a wealth of memories from his decades in education and sport, and said he is privileged that he has been able to combine the two during his time at Rossett.
Within the local community, he served for 20 years as secretary of Harrogate and Craven Area Schools Football, and spent ten years as the organisation’s U14s and U15s manager. From 2013 to 2017, he also helped deliver the FA coach mentor programme at St George’s Park.
Mr Fenton is now looking forward to a quieter life, spending more time with his family in Devon where he is going to learn to sail.
Although he’ll be focusing a bit less on football, he hasn’t ruled out returning to play in the Friday night staff matches once bubble restrictions have eased.
It’s been a real pleasure and an honour to be able to work with such brilliant people in a fantastic school and community. The students have all been amazing, and what they have gone on to achieve and will go on to achieve is outstanding.
Rossett headteacher Helen Woodcock said:
Mark Fenton has spent his entire teaching career at our school and is a much loved and respected member of our team who will be missed by us all.
He has been an integral part of our school’s footballing success for more than three decades, as well as in the wider community, and leaves a huge legacy that will be remembered by many. We wish him all the very best for the future.