Name: Ian Bishop
Date of birth: 29 May 1965. Liverpool, England
Position:
Midfielder
Debut: Division Two, Leicester City 1-0 West Ham United, 30 December 1989
Final game: Premier League, West Ham United 2-1 Chelsea, 14 March 1998
Appearances: 304
Goals:
17

Ian Bishop talks about coaching in the way he used to pass a football - with precision, pace and poise.

The Scouser has been Stateside for several years and has fallen in love with the game again - teaching young American players to be the best they can be and to dream of competing with Europe's elite. He wants to pass on the experience of "the best game in the world, the best life in the world".

A true Hammers hero, he first left these shores in 2001 for a season with now defunct Major League Soccer club Miami Fusion. He returned to England for a couple of seasons before playing at a lower level in New Orleans and eventually settling in Boca Raton, Florida - where he lives today with his wife and children.

Bishop's latest career move is to become an ambassador for West Ham United's thriving International Academy and he is relishing again being associated with the club he served longer than any other during a career that spanned more than two decades.

In all, he played 304 matches in the claret and blue between 1989 and 1998 - signing from Manchester City and returning there afterwards. A respected captain, he was much-loved by the fans. His flowing locks at a time when short back and sides was the norm, marked him out as someone worth watching even before he took to the field.

"Nowadays lots of players have headbands and long hair," he said. "Back then I was one of the only ones. I used to get abused because I looked different. You know if you look different you have to stand out.

"I always thought if you stand out and have a good day, you have a great day and I was ready to take that chance because I was confident of myself and my ability. Managers used to say to me 'Go on, enjoy yourself and do your own stuff'.

"They had faith in my ability because they knew I had faith and it's all about the ball."

Bishop has faith in the kids he is coaching and while he urges them to take his lead when it comes to the ball, he also preaches the importance of education. "I say to kids 'don't follow my path'. I decided to leave school before my 16th birthday and go into professional soccer.

"There is no guarantee you will make it. Growing up I never believed that would never be anything else and I was really naive."

Fortunately, Bishop did make the grade and he had the time of his life. "Every boy's dream is to be a footballer and I was fortunate enough to live me dream. To go and actually do something in your life that you love, that you would do for free, and get paid for it was a bonus. Honestly it was the best life you can ever wish for.

"There was nothing better than waking up on a Sunday morning and knowing that you had shone, you'd done well and maybe you scored the winning goal."

When it came to calling time on his career, Bishop did not want any part of the English game any longer - "I didn't like the fact that friends would trample over friends to get a job" - but was never going to turn his back on football.

He added: "I just felt like getting away and it was a little bit drastic to move three or four thousand miles away. Now I am still living the game, it hard to let the game go. It is difficult enough to accept life as an ex-player. It is hard and I will never ever stop living this game.

"Whether it is with the kids or just me on a Sunday going to have a pick-up game with some mates, I will never let the game go out of my system."

The Hammers' International Academy will help Bishop to keep that fire and he is relishing the role. "I have this desire for the game to pass on. My biggest thing as a coach is to say to the kids, 'You make the choices, me as a coach I'm going to step away'.

"We emphasise to the kids, you train for yourself and you play for the team. It all happens on the training ground, that's where you put your work in. You see a golfer.
He goes around the course and he hits 70 shots? The work was done on the driving range hitting 700 shots."

Bishop has seen enough to know that the United States is on the right path - the presence of American Under-20 prodigy and International Academy graduate Sebastian Lletget in the Hammers set-up is proof of that behind current national-team regular Jonathan Spector.

"They are catching on now to the rest of the world. The MLS is trying to do it right now to the benefit of the game and the youngsters. Every club should have its own academy and the likes of West Ham coming in and emphasising their structure and how successful it can be is important.

"It is about developing players, it is about developing coaches. As coaches we succeed when the players succeed."