Porter makes the grade
IF school days are supposed to be the happiest days of your life then you won't get any arguments from Oldham Athletic's Chris Porter.
The 22-year-old youngster has fired himself into the headlines after a sensational scoring run, which has seen him hit the net five times in three games for the League One side.
Many pundits are tipping Chris to go on to bigger and better things.
And although he was born in Wigan, his eagle eye for goal and deft finishing touch can be traced back to Blackburn and Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (QEGS) in particular, where he received an education on and off the pitch.
He said: "I started QEGS in my first year and carried on right through into my sixth form when I sat my A Levels.
"I had the chance to go to a few schools but my family wanted me to go there (QEGS) from an academic point of view and I was really impressed with the football facilities.
"They were really good, the pitches were really good and they were really into their sport.
"All the coaches were good and we were helped out a lot from Blackburn Rovers who had connections with the school.
"Of course, the academic side was good too, it was a good mixture."
Everton and England striker James Beattie is another footballing protige to have passed through the classrooms at QEGS and gone on to tread the turf as a professional player.
And although Beattie had just left the school when Chris joined up, he was fortunate enough to play alongside a talented bunch of youngsters, which included former England Under-18 international Andrew Bell, who went on to play for Wycombe amongst others, and is currently plying his trade with Fleetwood in the Northern Premier League.
And there was also midfielder Josh O'Keefe, son of former Rovers keeper Vince, who was signed up by the Blackburn Rovers Academy team and has made six starts already this season, scoring three goals.
Chris said: "I played in some really good teams with some really good players. I played football in every year that I was at school and I enjoyed every minute of it. I took part in a lot of sports at school but football was the main one."
The highlight of his footballing career at QEGS came when the school reached the final of the Independent Schools Football Association Cup back in 2001. The big match was played at Filbert Street, the former home of Leicester City, and the scholars from Blackburn were given top marks for their performance against Brentwood, running out 2-1 winners courtesy of a first half strike from Marcus Hedley and a winning goal from none other than Chris Porter, who headed home a cross to give QEGS the cup for the second time, the first school to achieve this feat.
Chris added: "It was a great game and it was brilliant to play at Leicester's ground. We had an excellent squad of players and I think we deserved the win. That was definitely the best thing about my time at QEGS and it's what I remember the most."
David Hopkinson, who has been involved with coaching the 1st XI at QEGS for over 15 years, said today: "For all our footballers at QEGS, we aim to instil the basics in terms of skills, fitness and tactical awareness, in addition to sportsmanship.
"Whether a player then has what it takes to make it as a professional, as James Beattie and Chris Porter have, is very much down to their own dedication and hard work.
"But we do have close links with a number of professional clubs, so that if a young player appears to have what it takes, he will be watched playing for QEGS and be given his chance with a club's own youth set-up."
Chris was already at Preston North End when he was at QEGS although he parted company with the Deepdale outfit to allow him to sit his A Level exams and finish college.
From there he had trials with Wigan and Blackpool before being taken on by Bury where he scored 20 goals in 54 starts as well as 24 appearances as a substitute.
His talent was soon spotted by the Latics who paid £150,000 to secure his services at a tribunal in June 2005 when the two sides couldn't agree a fee.
And despite tendonitis interrupting his progress last season the marksman scored nine goals in 36 appearances, including a memorable hat trick against Brentford.
He said: "I've had my knee injury for the last year-and-a-half, it's a gradual thing that's getting better slowly. It made me miss the first four games of the season, but I've come in after that and done quite well so I'm reasonably happy with the way things are going.
"I just want to play at the highest possible level.
"I'm like any other footballer and if Oldham can do that then it'd be great."