Category Archives: Neil's Thoughts

Spilled Milk

A journey that flows 
Tantalizing and Mesmerizing 

Until this tranquil karma envelops us.

Paused as I wake

Your rhythmic breathing calls me


As I am reeled back into your sphere.

Perfect symmetry awaits 

I yearn for it 

Desire it more than anything 


 A moment

A glimpse 


Suddenly we are 



Preparing for

Real life. 


A Fleeting Moment

My shallow breaths
Wishing for more.

The moon peeks through
My nakedness
Trivial now
When it wasn’t so
Shouting and yelling
Our laughter
Our Love
Overcame them all.

That moment I knew
We would be together

A gentle cough
That taste of blood on my lips
Oh I how I love you.

Fingers dig deeper, feeling the ground beneath me
The moon steps aside
Darkness beckons
Slowly but with a purpose
Enveloping my body.

I try to call you
To feel you
Loving me
To hear you

I reach out
As you float
Before me
Even though my fate
Is sealed
I hear that metallic sound
Feel that cold steel on my neck.

July 4th fireworks
Explode all around
I see you smile
As I slip
Into eternity
Finally delivered home from a foreign land
Where war resides
For future generations.

Youth Is Served a Curveball – written for Blowing Bubbles Fanzine


a ball that is pitched with a snap of the wrist and a strong downward spin, which causes the ball to drop suddenly and deceptively veer away from home plate.

The sensational goal scored by 20 year old Ravel Morrison, and the two goals scored by Manchester United’s 18 year old  Adnan Januzaj, has directed the spotlight onto youth academies in the EPL.

Even though Morrison came through the Manchester United youth academy, West Ham definitely holds its own, when compared to any other academy.

West Ham United’s youth academy is one of the most famous in England. Established by Ron Greenwood and Ted Fenton, back in the 50’s and 60’s, it produced the famous trio, which helped win England its only World Cup in 1966, namely, Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters.

The youth academy philosophy has had a major impact on how West Ham has played the game on the field. The reputation of this club playing “attractive” football has long been recognized, and producing players such as Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire, Paul Ince, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole, only reinforced this reputation.

In today’s EPL, it is vital to develop young players. Being able to promote from within allows a club like West Ham to allocate its cash resources wisely, in the hope of staying in the EPL and also competing for top ten finishes, or better. For a young player, coming through the West Ham academy can have a positive effect, possibly stardom with the home team, or at least an opportunity to play professional football. Here are some examples of academy players in the EPL, not playing for West Ham:

Chelsea: Frank Lampard, John Terry
Manchester United: Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand
Tottenham: Jermain Defoe
Liverpool: Glen Johnson

Reality however is sometimes cruel, and for every star, there is tale of broken dreams, and in the worst cases, little future in the game. Recent history provides us with plenty of examples of player’s that were highly regarded, but never quite made it.

An instant crowd favorite was Freddie Sears, who looked like a “keeper”, after his explosive debut. Who can forget him scoring on his debut……….two years later, Sears scored his second goal. Freddie left the club following promotion to the Premier league, in the hope of re-establishing himself in the lower divisions.

Another player with that “scoring potential” was Zavon Hines, who rose through the ranks in the academy. Many likened him to Carlton Cole. As it turned out he was even more like Carlton Cole than Carlton Cole, scoring only 3 goals in three years.
He left the club at the end of the 2011 season. Zavon has toiled in the lower leagues since leaving, and is still not able to score.

Junior Stanislas was a major hit during the Avram Grant days. His opportunity came late in 09/10 season, and he scored 4 goals in 28 games. His pace on the wing was a definite plus, and Junior looked like he would be a first team regular under Grant.
Unfortunately, Grant departed and Gianfranco Zola arrived. During Zola’s two year reign, Junior only played a handful of games and managed a meager 2 goals.
His departure was no real surprise.

In the cases of Sears, Stanislas and Hines, it was their on-field performance that hastened their departure from Upton Park.

In the case of Christian Montano, it was his own self inflated worth that proved his undoing. A highly thought of prospect, Christian enjoyed successful loan spells in the lower leagues, getting the game experience that he needed to develop. Unfortunately, his timetable was very different to that of the club, and so were his wage demands.
Not surprisingly, his rise to glory and international fame was only realized in his alternate universe, and he thus departed in his spaceship.

Another academy product, Bondz N’Gala signed professionally in 2008, having joined the club as a 13 year old. A regular reserve team player, N’Gala was also loaned out, so that he could get the playing experience needed. Unfortunately, he never blossomed as a player, and his only 1st team appearance was as a substitute.
His career at Upton Park ended after the 2010 season, and N’Gala has toiled since in the lower leagues.


Having let his cousin Jermaine Defoe escape to Tottenham, West Ham hoped that Anthony Edgar would be as good as Defoe, and stay at Upton park. Ironically, in July 2010 Edgar scored his first goal in a pre-season friendly when he replaced Junior Stanislas. That was the highlight of his tenure at Upton Park, and unfortunately even after leaving, Edgar has not found the consistency needed to play on a regular basis. Maybe the expectations were too high, especially as Edgar is only 5’ 6”.

Coming from the Mervyn Day and Phil Parkes era of West Ham goalies, I watched with interest when the club signed a 16 year old player from the Czech Republic, Marek Stech. He seemed poised to come through the system and be our Number 1, but it never happened. He signed a new 5 year deal in the summer of 2008. Loaned out to various clubs, Stech did feature in some 1st team appearances, as well as being named as substitute in thirteen occasions in the Premier League. His potential was never realized, and with Robert Green playing in front of him, he was released at the end of the 2011/2012 season.

My wait still continues for the next Mervyn Day….Who by the way played more games for Leeds United than he did for West Ham. A fact that is both astonishing and upsetting at the same time.

Clearly the word “potential” is just that. What a player is at 16, can be a long way from what the player becomes as a 20 year old. What is important is that the West Ham academy continue to develop player’s, and provide them with the opportunity to get better, even if this ultimately means, playing elsewhere. There is an actual person behind these decisions, which as fans we sometimes lose sight of. For every magic moment produced by Ravel Morrison, or Adnan Januzaj, there are many more tears shed, when a career ends at 20 years of age.

We Signed Who? Blowing Bubbles Fanzine Season 2 Issue 1 August 2013

We Signed Who?

I’m forever blowing bubbles,

Pretty bubbles in the air,

They fly so high,

Nearly reach the sky,

Then like my dreams,

They fade and die.

Fortune’s always hiding,

I’ve looked everywhere,

I’m forever blowing bubbles,

Pretty bubbles in the air.

The words to our club anthem have never been so apt, when I look at what Big Sam and the rest of the West Ham United Board did during this off season.

Here’s a list of the players arriving at Upton Park for this season’s campaign:

Andy Carroll,  £17.5 million for a striker that has yet to prove that he can stay healthy for longer than a month, never mind an entire season.

Razvan Rat, a free transfer for the captain of the Romanian National Team, who is 32 years of age.
There is no doubt that he will bring plenty of experience to the Hammers defense, however at 5’ 8”, he will not be dominating at set pieces.

Adrian, a goalkeeper who comes from Real Betis on a free transfer. Personally I think he will challenge Jaaskelainen for the starting spot,
even though Jaaskelainen finished last season strongly, he let in some awful goals.

Danny Whitehead from Conference North side Stockport County after he was recommended by Dietmar Hamann.
I think Big Sam best summed this up, when he said “Danny is very slight, which we’ll work on, but the question is can we create that potential into a Premier League player?”

Everyone was very happy when Carroll signed, and it seemed to be a really positive sign that the club was willing to spend money.
Unfortunately, since then the checkbook has remained firmly closed. Here are just some players that have moved in the last couple of months, and the fee involved:

Forward Clint Dempsey £6 million
Defender Steven Caulker £8 million
Defender Jordi £2.5 million
Defender Erik Pieters £3 million
Defender Dejan Lovren £8.5 million
Midfielder Etienne Capoue £9 million
Forward Carlos Tevez £12 million
Forward  Iago Aspas for £7 million

Now, I did not expect West Ham to spend the £50+ million to secure all these players, but let’s be extravagant and spend £20 -£25 million.
Now pick and choose until you reach that number, and let’s see how much better the squad would be. I understand that signing multiple means that weekly wages need to be negotiated. So, how much did West Ham receive from the Premier League for the 2013/13 season?

That would be £48,746,943, yes close to FORTY NINE MILLION POUNDS.

This amount is reached by combining revenue for the following (rounded up) –

Equal Share £14 million
Facilities Fees £6 million
Merit Payment £10 million
Overseas TV £19 million

And that Overseas money will only continue to rise and rise and rise. I know for a fact that NBC here in the States recently agreed to pay $250 million,
starting this year until the end of the 2016 season, which is a revenue record for football!
This much is certain, the money given to teams by the Premier League will ONLY increase.

Even if I ignore the £49 million elephant in the corner, why have West Ham not even considered any of these players, that all received a Free Transfer, and at least four will be playing in the Premier League this season –

Forward Roque Santa Cruz
Defender Marc Muniesa
Forward Nicolas Anelka
Defender Kolo Toure
Midfielder Andrey Ashavin
Midfielder Florent Malouda

I’m sure that the company line would be, “well we’re not sure that they would fit into our style or team concept” – never mind that all of these players are better than what we are starting the season with.

The goal should be to improve and to compete for a spot in Europe, yet I feel that with the squad as it stands on August 8th,
we will be battling to stay in the 12 – 17 position range. Our lack of team speed was very evident last season, and we have done nothing to improve this.

When I look at other Premier League teams who we will be battling and fighting for points along with us, I see this –
Swansea brought in 8 players, spent £23 million
Sunderland brought in 8 players, spent £18 million
Fulham brought in 7 players, spent £7 million
Newcastle brought in 1 player, spent £2 million
Norwich brought in 8 players, spent £29 million
Stoke brought in 2 players, spent £4 million
Aston Villa brought in 6 players, spent  £13 million
West Brom brought in 2 players, spent £0

As a West Ham fan, I live with the realization that we cannot ever hope to compete with Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea, who are in our own backyard.
But now I have to watch Norwich, Swansea and Sunderland, spend more money than us. To me that is embarrassing.

The Premier League starts in 9 days.

The Second American Revolution 1986 – 2012.

My last home game was February 2nd 1986. The 1985-86 season was magical; competing for the 1st Division and the FA Cup.

Along with my wife, I was leaving England on February 6th to start a new career and life in the U.S., specifically New York City.

That Saturday was cold and wet, and a mist seemed to be hanging over the pitch for the entire game. Inside the ground, I took up my usual position in the North Bank. I looked around, took it all in, occasionally nodding to other regulars. The opposition on that day was Manchester United. Always a difficult team to beat, and on that day I really wanted to win, and to leave happy and content.

Bryan Robson did his best to ruin my day, when he latched onto a through ball and poked it past a diving Parkesy. United led 1-0 at half-time.
The second half produced two moments that were mine to treasure, as the next time the Hammers played a league game at Upton Park, I would be 3500 miles away.

Moment #1: In my mind it was Alvin Martin who made the tackle and got the ball to Devonshire. The pitch was muddy and heavy, yet Devonshire just glided through the midfield, played a one-two and laid the ball off to Ward, whose shot beat the keeper and nestled in the far corner of the net. The crowd erupted!

Moment #2: That blond coiffed hair, yes the one and only Frank McAvennie, challenged for what seemed to be an innocuous ball, yet it took a weird bounce forward towards United’s box. I have to admit, Tony Cottee, was never one of my favorite players. Even though he was home grown, I always thought he was a bit “soft”. However, when he got to the ball first and squeezed his shot under the charging keeper, none of that mattered, the ball went in and again the crowd went bananas! Is there anything better, than experiencing that raw emotion and finding a complete stranger who shares that moment with you? Even though that hug (or bond) is for a brief moment, it is pure unadulterated joy that is shared by two people. For me it was Unforgettable. It sounded like everyone sang until the final whistle, and being selfish, I had that victory over Man United!

That day I didn’t rush out, didn’t run to the Tube station or the car. I lingered. I watched; I took with me all that is Upton Park that day, and along with the 14 years of memories, safely tucked them away in my heart.

Thursday February 6th 1986, my wife and I boarded a plant at Heathrow, bound for NYC.
Turn the Page. Do you remember 1986?

No Dual Core PC’s or Laptops
No Internet
No Wifi
No IPhone, Adroid or Blackberry
No Tablets
No LCD TV’s or Monitors
No Fanzines
No Sky Sports or Fox Sports….And I had no real idea what “Cable TV” was.

Here’s what there was for me….
Rotary Phones
Calls Home
BBC World Service.

By the end of February, we found an apartment and started to settle into our new environment. Luckily for me, the weather in the UK had been bad enough that West Ham didn’t play another league game until mid-March, when they would travel to Highbury. I knew this because my Dad was a huge Arsenal fan, and every time I called home, he would mention the upcoming game! That particular Saturday came and went, we had just been “hooked-up” with cable and I tried every single channel, but found no football news or results. On Sunday, I bought the New York Times. The Sunday edition is about 4 inches high, it’s “full” of different sections and magazines…..but sadly no English football results. My last resort was to call home and my Dad gleefully told me that Arsenal had won. I let him have his moment, but needed to read about the game. Old habits die hard.
I was working Downtown Manhattan, in the shadow of the World Trade Center complex, which housed a large shopping complex underneath the two towers. I had heard from a guy at the office that there were newsstands that had “foreign newspapers”.

Monday lunchtime, I went “Sunday Paper” hunting.
I was rewarded by finding this particular newsstand that seemed to have every newspaper from every country in the world! I grabbed the Sunday Express, Mirror and News of the World. Cost, close to $20.
An expensive addiction, especially to read three different accounts of a West ham loss. But I had discovered a way to get the footy results, in a somewhat of a timely manner.

I am going to generalize here and say that the US in 1986 was a football (soccer here of course) wasteland. In NYC there are areas of the city (spread over 5 boroughs) that were then, and are today, football enclaves. But in general it was not easy (without calling someone) to find out anything about world football, never mind what was happening with the Hammers.

This changed forever once the US was awarded the 1994 World Cup.

The US would be thrust into the world spotlight, trying to promote a sport which wasn’t even on the radar of any major television network, never mind trying to compete against American Football, Baseball, Basketball or Hockey.

The entire World Cup experience was a huge success in the US, and it started the proverbial “snowball rolling down the hill”.

Thus began a revolution that has changed the sports landscape in this country.

Let me detail my weekend last Saturday and Sunday (October 6th and 7th) –

ESPN and Fox Sports (including Plus):
Saturday 6th:
7:45am             Man City v Sunderland LIVE
10:00am           Chelsea v Norwich LIVE
12:30pm           West Ham v Arsenal LIVE
3:30pm             Swansea v reading LIVE
5:30pm             West Brom v QPR TAPED

Sunday 7th:
8:30am             Southampton v Fulham LIVE
10:00am           Liverpool v Stoke LIVE
10:00am           Tottenham v Aston Villa LIVE
11:00pm           Newcastle v Man United

Plus LIVE games from –
La Liga
Serie A
Champions League
Europa League

We now take for granted every game from the World Cup, including all England qualifying games, plus every game from the Euros. Add the obvious coverage for MLS.

I haven’t even mentioned the college games that we get too!

The transformation of the Football/Soccer Information Highway from 1986 – 2012 has been nothing short of “revolutionary”, except not a shot was fired and not a drop of tea was spilt!

I have seen it and lived it, and over the coming issues of Blowing Bubbles, I hope I can share some of my experiences.


A Moment in Time: From 1981 to 2000.

Going to Wembley is always exciting. The prospect of beating Liverpool and watching Billy Bonds raise the League Cup would make for more great Wembley memories! I already had my programs and tickets from both the Fulham and Arsenal F. A. Cup Finals; this would be my first League Cup Final.

The memory of Jimmy Neighbour scoring against Coventry in the 2nd leg of the semifinal was still fresh in my memory, and I was wondering who would be the hero today.

I love walking along Wembley Way. I always found the atmosphere electric, fans walking together, both sets dreaming of cup glory.

This time around the air was punctuated with those distinctive ‘scouse’ accents, and what I would describe as a sea of red, moving towards the stadium.
However, once inside, I was amongst the familiar claret and blue, and the countdown to the game began!

I remember it was a beautiful day, and I think both teams were wearing short sleeved shirts, and shorts that were shorter than most boxer shorts today!
Ah the singing.
It’s always the singing.
That moment when your voice is one of thousands, belting out “Bubbles”, is there anything like it?

The game itself.
I remember Liverpool being the more creative, yet the West Ham defense and Phil Parked, held the potent Reds attack at bay.

After 90 minutes, the score was 0-0. So there would be 30 minutes extra time.

As the game drifted towards a 0-0 tie and a replay ‘it’ happened.

Another Liverpool attack, saw Billy Bonds win the ball from behind, but referee Clive Thomas, blew his whistle for a foul. The initial shot was blocked and cleared, but then came the subsequent cross, that was headed away by Alvin Martin, who in the process knocked Sammy Lee to the ground. The ball looped to the top of the box. If I close my eyes, I can see the shot.
An absolute bullet from Alan Kennedy from the top of the box, almost hit Sammy Lee, who was still down and all ALONE, around the penalty spot, and he was facing Parkes. Had Sammy Lee lifted his head the ball would have taken his head into the net too.
The ball didn’t hit Sammy Lee; it just flew into the net, past Phil Parkes.

The far end of Wembley stadium exploded; a collective roar from the Liverpool supporters, while at our end nothing but silence. We were waiting for Clive Thomas to signal offside, give the free kick, and then “we” could mock those noisy scousers!

The referee didn’t do that. He took a few steps towards his Linesman, nodded and pointed to the center circle, indicating a goal. Pandemonium broke out.
West Ham players converged on both Thomas and his Linesman, a tumultuous roar of protestations from the West Ham fans, swept across the stadium.
I just remember screaming, probably nonsensical rubbish, but it was filled with passion!

Finally the game restarted. Two minutes left in extra-time. There was an air of disbelief amongst the West Ham fans, who felt that the team had been screwed, because we were West Ham and ‘they’ were the mighty, mighty Liverpool.

However, West Ham suddenly came alive and Liverpool, hacked down Devonshire at the edge of their box.
Ray Stewart stepped up and hit a bullet that found its way through the Liverpool wall, but was brilliantly saved by Clemence. From the corner Alvin Martin, majestically rose above everyone, and his header was going in, but an arm in a red shirt, tipped it onto the bar.
PENALTY…PENALTY…PENALTY…Ray Stewart equalized and the entire ground seemed to shake from the roar! West Ham had forced a replay!

Lady Luck deserted us in the replay and Liverpool added the League Cup to its trophy haul in the 80’s.

The non offside call against Sammy Lee always bothered me, but as with most bad memories, I pushed  it deep inside me.

Fast Forward to 2000; living in New York City and coaching for Silver lake Soccer Club in the famed Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League.

To enhance my coaching knowledge, I enrolled in a 2-day coaching seminar at Connecticut College; the lead instructor was Howard Wilkinson’s assistant coach at Leeds.
The second instructor was Sammy Lee!
Yes, the man I blamed for West Ham not winning the League Cup Final back in 1981.

The Friday night before the seminar started, there was a ‘Meet and Greet’. I had been eyeing Sammy all night, and eventually along with my brother, we were pulled into a question and answer session, that Sammy was directing.

I was the last person to ask him a question.  He looked at me and I said, ‘Sammy can you explain why you weren’t offside in the 1981 League Cup Final’?

He laughed and replied, ‘I knew you were going to ask me that question, and let me ask you, why was the goal Liverpool scored in the first half, ruled offside’?

I never said this to him, but I had forgotten all about Liverpool scoring in the first half, I have absolutely no recollection of it. We had a great discussion about the game and the subsequent replay, but neither of us could agree on his role in the Liverpool goal.

He was a very colorful character, and had a story or anecdote for every situation that happened during the next two days, whether it was in the classroom or out on the field.

I will never change my mind about Sammy Lee being offside back in 1981, but I do feel somewhat satiated that almost 20 years later, I was able to chat about it with the man himself!

A View from NYC September 7, 2012

West Ham in the 1980-1981 season, dominated the old 2nd Division, finishing well ahead of Notts County in the race for promotion back to the 1st Division, and we had a great League Cup run too. In particular, the two semi-final games against Coventry City.

Tuesday, January 27th, 1981.
I was sitting in the back of a Ford Granda, four of us making the trip from Billericay to Highfield Road, Coventry’s ground back then. Nothing stands out about the trip, except the distance. I remember thinking that it was a long way to travel. Google Maps tells me that the distance was about 120 miles. Funny how the concept of distance and time changes. My oldest son went to college in Boston and played on the varsity hockey team for 4 years. For each home game, I would leave the NYC area about 2pm on a Friday, drive the 210 miles to the game, watch him play and most times, drive right back to NYC. A total of about 420 miles.
But I digress…………..

As soon as we parked and started walking to the ground, the police presence was evident, along with the very friendly Alsatians! Anyone wearing Claret and Blue was stewarded towards one end of the ground, and it turned out that in the first half we were behind the goal defended by Phil Parkes.  Now, I will argue with myself that my all-time favorite goalie is Mervyn Day, but Phil Parkes is a very close second – (BTW anyone else agree that as soon as Mervyn got married his game completely fell apart?).

The ground was full and the atmosphere electric. The ground was smaller than I expected and you really felt like you could reach out and touch the players. West Ham tempered the enthusiasm of the home crowd by scoring two goals, I think that David Cross had one and I’m hoping Paul Goddard had the other. The Coventry supporters all around our “pen” were so thrilled with the score line, that they started to pass some “presents” over the police lines to us. A bevy of coins, pens and batteries rained down upon us, while they gesticulated wildly with their middle finger. Oh what a rambunctious lot they were! All we could do was sing “Bubbles” as loud as possible and wave back!

Coventry slowly got back into the game, and at some point during the second half, they equalized. That goal took the steam out of our throaty roars, and it became obvious to every Hammers fan that Coventry was now the better side, and controlling the game.
The home crowd really got behind their team, they sensed that West Ham was vulnerable and Coventry poured on the pressure, and with the ground literally shaking, Coventry took a 3-2 lead. Everywhere I looked I saw supporters of the Sky Blues celebrating, while in our pen there was only grumbling and swearing. West Ham didn’t fold, in fact they got back into the game and with a few minutes remaining got a corner.

Now it was our turn to make some noise.

I think that it was a corner or a cross…as clear as day, I see David Cross rise above the defender and head the ball into the back of the net! GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!! Pandemonium broke out. Jump and scream; Jump and scream; repeat this until exhausted….a magical moment at Highfield Road, and we would go back to Upton Park 3-3. Maybe I was the last person to notice that the ball was not back at the center circle, in fact the entire West Ham team seemed to be collected around the referee, who had disallowed the goal. Gutted, collectively gutted. The proverbial, “let the air out of the balloon”. Need I go on?

Before I could really process what had just happened, the final whistle blew.
At that precise moment the mood in the “pen” turned nasty.

The frustration of watching a 2-0 lead, turn into a 3-2 deficit and then to have an injury time goal disallowed, was too much. What should have been an orderly exit from Highfield Road was now anything but.

Personally, I have never “lost it” at a West Ham game. However, as our collective group was being herded out, I came face to face with a policeman, who said something that pushed me over the edge. The crowd was moving, so when I reacted and lunged at him, he was about 6 feet away. I didn’t touch him, but his smirk told me everything I needed to know…I was in trouble. NOT Billy Hayes in Midnight Express kinda trouble, but I was a long way from Essex and home.
I had gone to the game with my girlfriend at the time, her brother and her father, who was about 6′ 6″. He must have been behind me, because I felt a hand grab the back of my jacket and literally lift me off the ground, and pull me away from the ‘situation’. The policeman faded away, as I was stumbling backwards, away from Highfield Road.
I’m not sure that I actually took a forward step on the journey back to the car, but during my “reverse trot”, the rational me returned and I was a little embarrassed by my behavior.

My Mea Culpa lasted the entire journey back to Essex, as every time I looked up from the back seat of the Granada, her father’s eyes stared back.

All in all, a very memorable night and the good news was that her father had tickets for the 2nd leg!

By the time this edition is published, September 11th will have come and gone.
As someone who worked in that area for many years, and knew people that perished on 9/11,
this time of year is always one of reflection and profound sadness.
#9/11/01 #NeverForget