NIALL Quinn joined fellow SAFC colleague David Miliband to mark the launch of a new school.
The pair were special guests at the official re-opening of the refurbished Harton Technology College, in South Tyneside.
Former Black Cats chairman Quinn, who has now taken on an international ambassador role at the club, spoke of the importance of further education.
He said: “It’s a wonderful honour for me to be asked here today – especially as someone who doesn’t have an exam to his name.
“I have to say that of all the schools I’ve visited over the years, this one is one of the best. It’s not just the fantastic new building and the beautiful old building but also the atmosphere you feel when you walk in.”
The school had a new sixth-form building added to it as part of the Building Schools for the Future scheme.
Quinn added: “To have a sixth form is fantastic because if it wasn’t for people up there pushing students to go further, they might think that school finishes at 16 and that shouldn’t be the case.”
David Miliband, MP for South Shields and non-executive vice chairman at SAFC, said: “It’s a real pleasure that Niall is here today.
“I feel really proud to be here and as I came through the doors I realised why.
“When I first came to Harton School 10 years ago, it was a school with a fantastic past and what I see today is a school with a fantastic future.
“One of my favourite poems is called Roots and Wings, and I think it really applies to this. When you walk into the school and look to the left, you see the old building which is the real roots of the school, and one that has educated people for generations.
“When you look to the right, you see the new sixth form building, which is the wings. Talking to pupils earlier they told me of their plans with some going to university, and some taking other routes, and those pupils really are the wings going out to see the world.”
Headteacher Ken Gibson said: “This was a fantastic event enhanced by the presence of David Miliband and Niall Quinn.
“We are delighted the old building is back in use and we have been able to retain some of its original features.”