Posted: 12/28/2007
Title: ACADEMY OF FOOTBALL

Blog:                                                                                                                         

    In a house on the beachfront in Southend lives Brian Dear a former West Ham United legend and now the catering manager of Southend United. He was a long time friend of Bobby Moore, former captain of West Ham and England at World Cup 1966.  A few years ago I stayed with him and he has a shrine to pal Bobby in his living room with photos, jersey, boots, medals and press cuttings, and he will talk all day and night if you let him. However, during the daily soap opera on BBC TV, Eastenders,nobody is allowed to say a word.

    Brian also holds a goalscoring record. In a league match against West Bromwich Albion in 1965 he scored 5 goals for 'The Hammers' in less than 20 minutes. Brian is also a Freeman of the City of London.  I picked up budding young US coaches Tim Trevino and Brian Croston off The Gatwick Express at Victoria Station and took them on the District Line tube to Upton Park and strolled 150 yards down Green Street to The Academy of Football as the club is called.They have a new stand since I was last there, opened by Bobby Moore's widow and his 2 children in 2001 with Academy of Football  above the entrance. I remember meeting him and his family during the season  he played for the San Antonio Thunder of the NASL. 'There's MOORE to THUNDER Soccer' proclaimed the bumper stickers.

    Outside one corner of the stadium is a catholic church and just inside the stadium entry gates is a patch of ground where fans' ashes have been scattered, and plenty of floral tributes this Christmas time.  That end of the ground has the Bobby Moore bust in the entrance of The Bobby Moore Stand. Opposite The Boleyn Pub, 50 yards from the stadium, on Barking Road, is a magnificent statue called Champions. It has Moore lifted high on the shoulders of his West Ham and England team mates, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst, plus  full back Ray Wilson of Everton and England, with the Jules Rimet World Cup trophy held high in Moore's hand on the Wembley pitch after receiving it in 1966 from Her Majesty the Queen.  The second wife of Henry VIII,  Anne Boleyn, lived in a large house where the pub now stands, while courting her future husband.

   The Hammers nickname comes from the club's crest of 2 crossed rivet hammers, along with a castle. They started out as Thames Ironworks FC in 1895, and are also called The Irons. They won the F.A. Cup in 1964 and the next year beat 1860 Munchen at Wembley in the old UEFA Cup Winners Cup Final.  Its also appropriate that they appeared in the first ever F.A. Cup Final played at Wembley Stadium, where they lost 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers. The anogram of the club's name is in fact 'The New Stadium' !!! It is estimated that up to 240,000 fans poured into Wembley that day in 1923, made famous by P.C.George Scorey and his white horse Billie (actually a 'grey'), holding back the crowds from the touchline so that the match could kick off. 

    Well, today 35,000 all seated,  is the capacity of Boleyn Grounds, more commonly called Upton Park after the tube station. They used to have a hooligan problem in the 70's and 80's but not any more, with in stadium TV, tickets bearing the name of all fans, and police presence. I chatted with one of the policemen standing nearby me as they separated the visiting Reading fans.  He said there were very few crowd problems these days. The team came out to the tune of Forever Blowing Bubbles, sung by the fans for the last 80 years or so as theur 'club' song.  It wasn't much of a game, with a subdued family crowd on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. though there was a goal apiece and a red card for each team.  USA player Jonathan Spectre, sold by Manchester United, was in the middle of defence and was quite useful, which is more than can be said of overweight striker Dean Ashton, who would look more at home as a Macy's Thanksgiving Parade balloon. 

    New coach Alan Curbishley has done wonders recently  and Noberto Solana, Lucas Neil, Anton Ferdinand and Matthew Upson, along with Scott Parker have talent. Craig Bellamy and Lee Bowyer were absent due to injury.  Reading have done well to stay in the Premiership and they have a couple of USA players including Marcus Hahnemann, and Bobby Convey, and their fans were chanting USA,! USA! and  half a dozen stars and stripes flags were being waved. At the end of the contest the big, bald goalie took off his jersey and handed it to one of the young fans.

   We went looking for a pub in the West End to watch the later match, Portsmouth vs Arsenal but we first had dinner at an old pub called The Crown which, according to a plaque on the wall, a couple of centuries ago had hosted a recital from a young 7 year old  prodigy called Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The pub showing the 0-0 draw, Portsmouth vs Arsenal was The Olde Coffee House on Beak Street, in Soho, with a wonderful array of old boxing prints, theatre prgrammes and bills, engraved glass mirrors with beer and whisky advertising, and a large frame with some autographed photos of  David Beckam and a couple of hand written letters sent to his pal Lee in London while he started his Old Trafford career and was living in  a boarding house on Stockport Road in Salford

   He bragged of going out with team mates Lee Sharpe and Ryan Giggs, and 'pulling' (picking up girls in pubs and clubs), and having success with different ones on a nightly basis.   In another letter he was excited about earning 125.00 the previous week, with some bonuses,  and was excited at now having a bank account as large as 250.00.  I think he is a little better off financially these days.

Back