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Russell Martin Interviewed by Varndean Students

November 14th 2023

Varndean School alumnus Russell Martin came back to school to give an exclusive Q&A opportunity to the Varndean football teams and PE Senior Students. A former player and professional manager, Russell is now the Manager of Southampton. 

Opening the session Headteacher Shelley Baker spoke of the qualities needed to make it to this level in sport, and why being the best person you can be is so important. 

Russell Martin Interview Nov 23

Before giving a summary of Varndean's teams achievements so far this year, Calum Thomas, Director of Sport, said:

I feel very lucky to put sport right at the heart of our school community...The biggest reason for PE teachers wanting to become PE teachers is to be able to be part of your achievements and progress.  

As we approach the halfway point of the season, there is a lot to celebrate and so I just want to briefly summarise how we as a school football community are doing.

Year 7 Boys have started Division 2 strongly winning their opening games of the season.  They are top of Division 2 and so our hopes and expectations are that they will be fighting for promotion into Division 1 towards the end of the season.

Year 7 Girls (Division 1) have so far won their opening 3 games in the district league conceding only 2 goals. They are through to the quarter finals of the County Cup.  We certainly have high hopes for this group of players and look forward to continuing improvement and increasing the number of girls selected to play in district squad games with so many students attending training.  We also look forward to getting some competitive games for those players who are not quite at the point of selection. 

Year 8 Boys (Division 2) have improved massively during the off season and are off to a great start.  Their challenge is to finish strongly this season, keep up the positivity, growth mindset and try and chip away at those teams currently above you in the league.

Year 8 Girls (Division 1) They are in a 3 way tie at the top of Division 1, so all to play for in the second half of the season. It looks like it is going to be close so aim for clean sheets and rack up as many goals as possible.

Year 9 Boys congratulations on your promotion to Division 1.  As a team you have an excellent attitude, you are so supportive of each other and I think this is the main reason why you were able to finish so strongly last season.  With tough opposition everywhere you look in this division, a top 4 position in the league is definitely achievable so good luck.

Year 9 Girls (Division 1) An early loss in the district league meant a difficult start to the season but Mr Tuck reports that the girls are gaining in confidence and making good progress.  They currently sit in second position in the district league.  In the County Cup they have shown strong performances and they are also currently undefeated in the National Cup.

Year 10 Boys (Division 1)  Also under the helm of Mr Tuck, they are through to round 3 in the County Cup. In the district league they are currently lying second.  Well done to you.  

Year 10/11 Girls (Division 1) again achieving to the highest level with a 4-0 victory against Millais means they play Heathfield in round 2 of the County Cup . In the National Cup a 6-3 win against Dorothy Stringer and a 4-1 win against Warden Park means a game against a London based team in round 3.  

Russell Martin Interview Nov 23Last but not least, Yr 11 Boys (Division 2) A committed squad who relish training and playing together, have played well both in the district league and County Cup. 

So much to be proud of Varndean.  Well done and good luck for the remainder of the season. 

Special achievements were then recognised by Russell Martin, who awarded sports badges to select players. 

On to the Q&A where PE Senior Students posed their questions first:

What was sport like at Varndean when you were here?

Sport was good, athletics was good, Varndean was always a sports school but it's even better now. 

Would you say sport runs in the family?

Yes - I have three brothers and a foster brother - all of them came here (to Varndean). Two are very sporty, sport kept them going through school, one is an actor and is hopeless at sport! I have three children and they are all sporty.


What first made you want to play football?

My older brothers were always playing so I was nudged into football, but I love it. I remember my dog popping my football when I was 4 and I was so upset. At school I remember in Years 10/11 telling the careers advisors that all I wanted to do was play football. 


How have you helped girls football grow?

With RMF when I started, we had 12 girls playing, now we have over 100, and I'm trying to grow this more. At Southampton I support the women's team there and go to watch their games. My daughter loves gymnastics but also now football since the World Cup.


If you hadn't made it as a footballer what do you think you would have done?

My back up plan was a scholarship in the USA playing football and doing coaching/sports science. I started coaching badges age 18.


Do you have any advice?

Go for it! Keep going after leaving school/college, don't stop playing, don't give up.


Which three attributes would help a player reach their potential?

Being a great team mate, character before talent, learn from your mistakes - are you willing to make a mistake and learn from it?


What the the best and worst things about being a football manager?

Best - doing a job that I love and watching players grow.

Worst - time away from my family and having to tell players they're not playing. I also choose not to be on social media, to not listen to the negative talk, to help me stay the person I am.


What was the biggest setback you've had in your career?

You have to get used to failing a lot. Failures early in the season are hard but it's part of being a professional sportsperson. I was very ill a while back and was out of the game for over three months, this was a big scare but I was determined to get fit and well again.


What was your biggest achievement?

Playing in the premier league. To always understand and keep a sense of perspective - it's all just football. Don't get carried away, stay stable.


What team did you support?



Who was your idol?

Apart from Mr Tuck? Teddy Sheringham. 


Varndean coach Stuart Tuck was also invited on stage to be honoured for his commitment to Varndean sports and students. Mr Tuck was a coach here when Russell attended Varndean School and he spoke about his memories of working with Russell, and how he showed a great level of ability but that he was really grounded and down to earth.

You can't underestimate what Russell has achieved yet he is still the same person as when he was at Varndean - he has never forgotten his roots. 

A huge thank you to Russell Martin and Dr. Alan Sanders, RMF Chief Executive for coming into school to talk with our students and staff.

Stuart Tuck is a former professional player for Brighton & Hove Albion and an integral and highly respected member of the Varndean PE team.