Friday, March 4, 2011

Day 7 - West Ham Forever

Parting is such sweet sorrow - all good things come to an end.
This Sunday I'll have a new look for blog - check it out.

A cold wet Monday morning was a sobering reminder that a 'trip of a lifetime' was over.  I decided to get up at the crack of dawn, grab one last 'Hammers' breakfast and hit the Barking Road. Personally I think I came with and achieved three objectives:

1) To learn as much as possible from some of England's outstanding youth academy coaches, especially my friend Paul Heffer.

2) To live the boyhood dream of sitting in the Upton Park dressing room, kiss the pitch, be part of the West Ham 'family'.

And finally, a far more personal aim. To go back to my family's roots and walk the walk.

So, let's begin...

The bronze statue on the corner of Green Street and the Barking Road. The stuff of legends - oh and the pub!

John Robert Self lived at 120 Wakefield Street. He was married to Violet Mary Cheeseman - my grandparents. It's a ten minute walk to Upton Park from Grandad's house, a '2 up 2' down terrace house he rented. The place had an outside toilet and a greenhouse on the spot the Anderson Shelter sat during the war. My dad spent nights down there with Nan during the Blitz. Grandad was a mechanic in the army and in life. I remember sitting in old buses in his garage as a young boy just before he retired. I can still smell the diesel oil. Nanny Self's brother, George, was a goalkeeper in the Army. I think some of my football skills came from him.

My Dad went to school across the road. His name is still carved in the brick wall outside. 

Dad would come home for lunch and Nan would cook him a plate of food. It was hard to run in PE with a bellyful of spotted dick.

Wakefield Street has lines of terraced housing. Every now and then there is a gap.

That was 250 yards away from Grandad's house. My Dad and Nan were probably down the Anderson Shelter at the time. Dad remembers playing in the rubble that lay on this spot above.

Under the flats...

You better make sure your business is claret and blue - oh, an 'off license' is the English term for a liquor store. We call them 'offys'

Round the back of the stadium...

Maybe that spot will be mine one day..?

And so.....

Well, there you have it. Here are the gang who completed the Diploma:
Kareem Sheta - Northern Virginia Soccer
James Meara - Arsenal Soccer Club of PA
JB Brooks - Newport Mesa Soccer Club
Eric Ingram - Arsenal Soccer Club of PA
Eric Kump - CJSO (Jackson, MS)
Harry Triana - SABA (NJ)
Silviu Telespan - SABA (NJ)
Merrill Winpenny - Sports Concepts, Mexico City
Mark Taylor - Arsenal Soccer Club of PA

Thanks to Paul Heffer and all the coaching staff at the West Ham Academy for such an outstanding window into one of the world's best coaching families.

Thanks to Ben Illingworth for making us feel part of West Ham United and giving us the unique perspective of life behind a Premier League Club.

Thanks to Mike Kelleher for making the whole trip possible.

Some of you coaches out there may want to make the trip one day. I challenge you to do so. Regardless of how many years you have done the job - just go and see for yourself. You never stop learning and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

If I hoped for one thing it would be this - football is like life. What you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts. It's as much about winning as it is about losing. Understanding that supporting a team like West Ham United is exactly that. It's a family - in for a penny in for a pound. And luckily, you get two teams for the price of one - the first team and the 'academy of football'.

We are forever West Ham.


  1. Love it! I didn't know you remembered when Grandad was still working? I just remember his little steam engine he built in the lean-to. Remember? And the little garden gnome on a swing -hidden- all the way at the back of the garden, on the other side of the greenhouse.
    Kyler was asking about Grandad John Robert yesterday. He saw the photo of him with me. Grandad's like a legend in our house!
    Oh, and my God-daughter Anabella's middle name is Violet, and even though there is no connection between her and Nanny, I like to smile when I hear it and think about a couple who were so unbelievably in love, that it even transcended death.
    Oh....and the stuff about the Hammers was really cool too!

  2. I think Grandad was still working - maybe he was visiting but he stuck me up in the drivers seat of an old bus and I was in heaven steering, pressing buttons etc. The thing on this trip that really hit me was the bomb site on Wakefield Street, it was 200 odd yards from the house. That's us not even existing. I wonder who never got to be born - whose family tree ended that night.

  3. Hi Mathew.I remember the house your dad lived in,when he first started courting your mom(Laurie) I was only about 16 years old or maybe younger,your dad decided to have a party at his house and I went with Laurie.I wore a off white dress(us girls didn't wear pants in those days it wasn't ladylike)anyway I had my first drink of gin & tonic in fact I had quite a few of them and of course I got rather drunk so your mom & dad walked me arround the block a few times to try and sober me up because Laurie got mad at your dad and said "I can't take her home like this my dad will kill me" I surpose I couldn't have been that drunk if I can still remember it some 50 years later.I'm surprised it hase not changed that much.Great pictures makes me feel homesick even after 37 years in Canada.