Lucas has been accompanying me on pick ups to the airport and has also been charging around the Jungle Dome with the local kids causing mayhem. You can almost hear the silence in this picture.

I had been getting very concerned about how we were going to cope with the birth of our new baby, due to the lack of any family members to help us here in Belize. Living in a another country is exciting and never dull, but the support that most of us get from living close to family members is something that you don't appreciate until its gone.

I have been used to living on my own or just with Simone for a long time. But when you have children you really do need a lot more help.

With the Belize Jungle Dome bringing us lots of visitors every day it has been a tricky thing to juggle family and work commitments. However I am pleased to say that so far we have coped admirably. Simones mum was here for 10 days (just missed the birth) and her sister flew over from Aruba and was here to see Aidan born, which was a big help to us. Plus of course Karen has been almost running the Belize Jungle Dome in our absence.

We also see the return of Richie to Belize, who is planning on spending a few months out here again. Rich did the design for this website, and now we are going to work together on developing our main adventure travel website. We are going to re-name it Green Dragon Adventure Travel and change the look and feel of the site to a Travel Agent as opposed to our Belize Jungle Dome site. With over 1,000 hits every day it is a long overdue project.

My mum is coming soon in April and that will be great to have her with us for 1 month.

Richies brother John (the architect), has been staying with Karen at the Jungle Dome giving me time to relax in the metropolis of Belmopan with Simone, Lucas and Aidan. He has been overseeing the start of work for our new home next to the Dome. We are going to build a 3 bedroom house for our family.

It will be an interesting project as we try to make use of renewable energy to power the house. Plus catching rainwater to use for all our household needs. I have been studying renewable energy for quite sometime now and am excited about the opportunity to actually put into practice some of the techniques I have been studying. Living in the wilderness in Belize has inspired us to think about every aspect of our impact on the local environment and community. From how we work with our staff and treat them, to our power requirements, water collection, waste disposal etc etc.

It has always been my ambition to convert the Jungle Dome to using renewable energy but this will be a big project, with a substantial investment as we have to make sure that it works efficiently with the minimum of maintenance. So I guess our new house will be the testing ground for this project.

Our guests have all gone up to Caracol Mayan Temples today to visit the ancient site that sits on over 30 Sq miles of Jungle on the Belize/Guatemala border. We have 8 guests staying with us, 4 of them were the winners of our Scooby Doo Mayan Mayhem competition. They received free return flights from USA to Belize plus 8 nights and a bunch of Tours with us at the Belize Jungle Dome.

I wish I was able to write about football but as much as I try to sit down to watch a game, I just cannot find the time. I am also hoping to post part 4 of my ongoing article called "How to become a professional footballer - From Ashill to Arsenal" some time later this week. I should be able to finish off the stories of my career at Newcastle United, playing for Kevin Keegan, plus my transfer to West Bromwich Albion. I will try to be as frank as possible to give everyone an insight into what REALLY happens in a football transfer.

Adios amigos.

Lucas has been letting us know he is around. And after the birth of our second son, i couldn't let him get too jealous. So here is a great picture of him about to launch a wad of mud at the camera.

All the family back home in the afternoon, with a very curious Lucas.

My wife gave birth to an 8 1/4 lb baby boy yesterday at a clinic in Belmopan, Belize. It went so well and I am now the proud father of a second son. Great thanks to Dr Raju and his wife, plus Miriam (Simones sister) for being here and of course to my wife Simone, who did the birth naturally.

Day Dreaming on Sunday Morning

A welcome break is upon us at the Belize Jungle Dome after a fairly hectic new year with lots of guests, plus the impending birth of our son. Simone thought he was going to arrive early but he seems to have made himself very comfortable for now. Our days are now spent lazing around waiting for the birth.

Lucas is hanging out with the local Mayan kids, climbing trees, chasing chickens and dogs and destroying my carefully planted garden. If it isn't Leaf Cutter Ants eating the plants and flowers then it’s our version of the "Red Hand Gang" trampling over the flora and fauna.

Our 2 new rooms at the Jungle Dome are coming along nicely. We have been moving doors around to change the entrances and exits. Plus orders have gone in with the local Carpentry Company for new Mahogany Doors, Stairs and Rails to make our new balcony. Each of the 2 new rooms will have a king size bed, fold out futon, T/V, Wireless Internet and Private Balcony. One will have a Private Terrace overlooking the Swimming Pool and the other will have its Terrace facing the Landscaped Gardens on the other side of the Jungle Dome.

We anticipate completing the 4th Room by end of March and the 5th Room by end of April, which will enable us to accommodate up to 20 people in very comfortable surroundings in the Belize Jungle. We are already filling our rooms but with the addition of these rooms we should be able to take Groups who are interested in Adventure Trips, Archaeology, Horse Riding, Yoga Groups and any other people interested in exploring Central America.

Me and Simone have also been contemplating the idea of expanding and we are looking for more land. We have a great team here at the Dome, including our Local Belizean and Mayan Chefs and Housekeepers (Tella, Nora and Wani), Karen, our Yoga expert, Fitness instructor and Pilates Teacher, our construction team and groundsmen. Plus we have our 2 New Partners moving down soon so we will have quite a team of people here to develop the Lodge.

The Landscaped Gardens are really coming on well. We have planted a lot over the last year and the garden is starting to take shape. Once everything starts to come into bloom we should start attracting a lot more of the local wildlife including Hummingbirds and Butterflies. We have also started to feed the Toucans, Woodpeckers and other birdlife in the Garden encouraging them to pay regular visits to our Pool-Side.

Many of our guests have expressed an interest in buying pieces of land in Belize and have also been excited by the idea of something around the Belize Jungle Dome. We would like to expand on what we have with the addition of Tennis Courts and a Gym. This would supplement our existing facilities of Swimming Pool, Restaurant and Bar.

We will keep looking around for land and hopefully something will pop up to allow us to continue our ideas. I have been mulling over the prospect of the Belize Jungle Dome Sports and Adventure Resort. It has a nice ring to it and if we can continue to add facilities then over the next few years we could attract a lot of people to this region. And lets face it who wouldn’t want to spend some time in this Tropical Paradise, soaking up the sun, exploring the Mayan Sites, Caving, Horseback Riding, Scuba Diving, Snorkeling and swimming with Sharks and enjoying many of the other attractions of this beautiful country.

Another idea for our place would be to add a Soccer Training Camp. This would be a great place to bring a Team for Pre-season training, even a professional side. Its quiet and away from the distractions of city life, which would enable a club to focus on the training required and fitness programmes needed to get the players in shape. And with many other activities on and off site it could be the perfect training ground.

Its good to dream about the future and on a lazy Sunday sitting around the Jungle Dome i am inspired to do just that, until the sound of the Belize "Red Hand Gang" breaks the silence.

How to Become a Professional Footballer - Part 3 - To the Toon

Newcastle United FC. Not a bad place to start a career as a professional footballer even if it was at the ripe old age of 20. This was not my ambition or even my dream to play football. I know most young boys (and now young girls too), spend a lot of their childhoods fantasizing about running out at Old Trafford or Highbury, or scoring a diving header to win the FA Cup Final at Wembley. But I’m much more of a realist to believe that I could ever do this.

It was one of them scenarios that was just too big to believe and the amount of good fortune, determination and skill needed to rise to the top of football was something beyond my comprehension at that age. However after spending 10 years as a professional footballer, traveling much of the world, moving to Belize and setting up a Jungle Lodge in Central America, Adventure Travel Company and marrying an MTV VJ, I personally believe that you can create anything you wish and achieve anything you wish with the right mindset. Because life is ever evolving and changing around you and it’s up to you to shape it and create the things in your life that you desire.

Anyway back to the Newcastle United. Little did I realize that this was a club in turmoil. Was I ready for an extremely hardcore set of fans, a club stuck in its past reminiscing about days gone by and a team of ageing players on the edge of the play offs in the old Division 1. I don’t think I was. Still sometimes you have to push yourself beyond what you think you can cope with and hope that with the right attitude and a little bit of luck things would work out fine.

I came into a side that was a decent team but the pressure on them was enormous, although I didn’t feel it too much being a young na├»ve newbie to the world of pro footy. Of course it sooned dawned on me what a cut-throat world it was as the manager that signed me was sacked soon after my arrival!! Doh, as Homer would say. What happens next? A manager being sacked sends shivers down the spines of any club. I became used to this along my career seeing 5 different managers in my time at West Bromwich Albion and 3 at Newcastle United. It was a great relief to join Charlton Athletic several years later, who have stuck loyally with their manager Alan Curbishley for 15 years. And what a comforting feeling that is as a player to know that regardless of a few bad results the general purpose and direction of the club was heading the right way.

Jim Smith departed, which was a shame because I didn’t get to know him much. It would have been nice to have played for him for a while but this was not to be. Still I am thankful he signed me and will always remember calling him “Jim” for the first few days in training, which made the other players laugh. He called me to the side one day and explained that it would be better if I called him “boss”. I still find it hard to not use a persons first name. Even now we respond to our guests email enquiries by first name terms, which I know in America the standard “Sir” is used when dealing with customers/guests. I’m sure if I got to meet the Queen I would call her “Liz”.

Ossie Ardiles replaced “Jim” and I got to know Ossie extremely well and followed him to West Bromwich Albion a few years later. He was great fun to be around. As a manager I think he lacked a little bit on the defensive duties of a team but what an inspirational coach for attacking midfielders and strikers. We used to do so much shooting and ball skills. Ossie only ever wanted to do Ball work in training. He also wanted to play all the young players, which again was a failing on his part because there were some good experienced pros at Newcastle who were overlooked. All team sports are about balance. You cannot have all young players as you cannot have all old players. You cannot select 10 attacking players or 10 defensive players. You cannot select 10 short players or 10 tall players. It’s as simple as that really. What isn’t simple is finding that correct balance of attacking and defensive qualities, youth and experience and blending a team.

But for me Ossie was a dream to play for even if his team talks were a little hard to understand, as his English was unclear. We had a bunch of excitable youths charging around the field, scoring lots of goals and conceding lots of goals. What fun. Not for the fans of course because the results were not too promising. I played with some great players in my time at Newcastle. Gavin Peacock, Lee Clark, Robbie Elliott, Steve Watson, Alan Thompson. Wow, it seems like such a long time ago. Apart from Gavin Peacock, the others I mentioned were the cream of the youth system in Newcastle who dreamed of playing for their home town. It was amazing watching their faces as we went on to the pitch. Alan Thompson used to ‘throw up’ before every game and even at half time. He must have been so nervous playing for a team where all his heroes had come from. It was pretty gross as he turned a beautifully manicured pitch into piles of puke….

We didn’t really achieve much as a team in the first year, apart from the development of the younger players. The club was still in turmoil and lacked direction. Ossie refused to change his attacking ways, which I believe was his downfall. It was all a bit too much for the fans and the board to take and in the end they couldn’t stick with Ossie. Newcastle have just sacked there most recent manager Graeme Souness and it’s a pity they can’t find or stick with someone too really develop the club into a powerful force in the premier league and Europe. What a great stadium they have now. Although I never really clicked with Kevin Keegan (Ossie’s successor), I believe that he had the charisma to run that club and was a perfect fit for Newcastle United. Maybe he should go back there one day.

I have very fond memories of Newcastle. I left home to set up a new life there, started a career as a footballer, was introduced regretfully to the nightlife of the Big Market (my head hurts thinking about that place), froze my #$%* off practicing at the old Training Ground (the name eludes me). Of all the places to put a training ground in the North East, the top of a hill was not one of them. We get hurricane season here in Belize, but Newcastle used to have ice cold wind season for what felt like most of the year. Add the rain to this and you get a lot of unhappy faces trudging out onto the practice field every morning. Which brings me back to the hardcore fans. I still remember seeing the fans walking down the streets before and after the game, wearing little more than their short sleeved replica shirts protecting them from the biting wind. Newcastle was my initiation into the world as an independent person, away from friends and family, a place where my career started and where the generous Geordie spirit and infectious sense of humour always made me laugh. I wish them good luck in finding a successful replacement to Souness. They really are the definition of the word “Sleeping Giant”

Part 1 of How To Become a Professional Footballer - Ashill to Arsenal
Part 2 of How to Become a Professional Footballer - Kettering to Newcastle United

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