AN ISLE of Wight football legend has been recognised by the English Schools’ Football Association (ESFA) with a prestigious award.

John Bell, of Carisbrooke Road, has been awarded the highest accolade possible by the ESFA, in the form of a specially engraved 50-years-of-service silver salver.

It is believed John is the first person from the IW to be awarded such an honour.

Many Islanders ­— both adults and former students alike ­— will know John from his Carisbrooke High School days, and his exemplary work with the IW Schools’ Football Association (IWSFA).

John was born in Oldham, Lancashire, and moved to the IW in 1948 when the National Health Service was first established.

Living in Carisbrooke, he attended Newport Secondary Grammar School at Nodehill, and in 1961, moved to Bermuda with the Colonial Police.

He married his wife, Jacqueline Kinchington, in September 1961 in Bermuda, and at the end of his two-year-contract, returned to England and joined Hampshire Police, stationed at Farnham.

Having enjoyed his own school life in Newport, John later attended King Alfred’s College, Winchester, to train as a PE teacher.

In 1960, he then returned to his old school ­— Carisbrooke Grammar School ­— as a PE and geography teacher.

He retired in 1997, having been the head of year for the last 15 years.

John played football for Carisbrooke United, East Cowes Vics, the Bermuda Police, and upon his return to the Island, Cowes Sports and Newport.

He also established the Newport A football team, who played at Church Litten, and didn’t retire from his playing career until he was 47.

“I’ve always been happy to do what I’ve been doing for a long time, and it gives me pleasure to see the success of other people, such as Gareth Williams, who was at our school and went on to become a professional footballer,” said John.

“I enjoyed playing football, my first club was Carisbrooke, and my last club was Carisbrooke.

“I never got injured. I played centre half initially and latterly centre forward.

“In the Island League, it was like shooting fish in a barrel at times ­— I enjoyed scoring goals.”

John has served in the IWSFA for more than 50 years and is the chairman ­— a post he has held for almost three decades.

During his teaching career, John taught, coached and managed numerous sports teams at what is now Carisbrooke College, passing on his many life skills to hundreds of students.

He was a central and integral part in the successful U-18 international match between England and Finland at St George’s Park in 2005, and the ground’s record for attendance was broken on that day, with more than 3,000 people present.

Since retiring, John has continued to work tirelessly for the association, chairing meetings and helping to solve any problems.

He continues to attend the various IWSFA finals, presenting medals and trophies.

IWSFA secretary, Pete Giles said: “Many former students, now parents themselves, regularly come up and speak to John at these finals.

“He is always warmly greeted by these former students ­— and former colleagues ­— wherever he goes, which I think speaks volumes about him.

“There is very little John hasn’t done, or won’t do for the IWSFA.

“He is an excellent chairman, leader and continues to lead and support the association in a very positive manner.

“Although a formal party has yet to be held due to Covid-19 and the numbers who would like to attend, it is hoped in the Spring, once the situation improves, a fitting celebration and presentation can be held.”