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James Murphy / Contributor

It’s been a little over a year since I left home to begin my professional soccer career in England. When I started out I didn’t know what to expect, and to be honest, last season was kind of like a roller coaster ride.


There were many ups and downs throughout the season. I started off really well and made my professional debut playing in the first round of the League Cup. Just before the season’s end I found myself on crutches with torn ankle ligaments, unable to play in the national final, which my team won.


While those experiences were impactful, it’s what happened in the middle of the season that really taught me what I needed to know.


At times I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing, I let the lows outweigh the highs, and I lost sight of the bigger picture. There were definitely times where I felt very challenged. A bad day at practice would sometimes turn into a bad mood for a week and, after a few consecutive tough days, I would start to feel really negatively. It was frustrating and it was definitely even harder being so far away from everyone important to me. But I knew that was a risk going into it and that I would be able to get through whatever came my way. I just didn’t realize that there would be more obstacles on the way to the top than I could’ve ever imagined. The important thing is that the lows from year one taught me a lot and helped prepare me for what’s ahead.


There were also plenty of great times and great moments during my first season that certainly will be remembered forever. My team won both the league and the national final, and although I missed out on the final through injury, I still know I was a big part of the team. I also have some great teammates who have become good friends. It was positives like these that kept me looking forward to the future and excited to keep going. Overall, my first season really taught me a lot and gave me great experiences to carry on with me.


Once the first year was over, I was definitely looking forward to getting home for the summer to see all my friends and family. And I had a great summer. I worked extremely hard rehabbing my ankle in order to be fit for preseason, but I was also able to relax and to catch up with a lot of people.


Now, I am back in Sheffield, at the beginning of my second season, and it already has a completely different feel to it. I started last season just wanting to get settled in and make a good impression on everyone that I could. This season I’ve set big goals for myself and I know it is going to take a lot for me to reach them. It’s time for me to break out and to gain more recognition. I know what I am capable of and I now need to show that to more people.


It’s the second week of the season and things are going well. I’m finally healthy, feeling good, and I enjoyed a great preseason. I spent a majority of preseason with the first team, including a weeklong trip to Portugal which was the first the first goal I had set for myself. The trip was fantastic and I proved that I fit in with that group and could play at that level. Now, I have to keep working hard until I’ve reached the rest of my goals. I’m ready to face this season head on and I know that there are big things ahead for me.


James Murphy / Contributor

About a month prior to my 19th birthday I packed a few bags and hopped on a flight to England to basically start a new life.

The hardest part about moving away from home, without a doubt, is no longer living with my mom. For a lot of reasons.

For the past 18 years the only meal I ever made was toast and cereal in the morning, and I only did that occasionally. Here I am now, with my own apartment in another country, cooking my-self dinner every night. She’s not here to clean up my messes, wake me up in the morning or, most importantly, keep me in check like she always has. That’s all up to me now. They seem like such small tasks, but when you relied on your mother for everything, living without her seems like a new world.

It’s also weird waking up every morning and not hearing five other people scattering around the house. Over here it’s just me, waking up and heading off to my job every day.

Then there are my friends. Months have passed and I haven’t hung out with my closest friends, who I’d typically see every day. It’s tough spending so much time away from people who mean so much to me. My friendships and relationships are getting lived out through hours of text messaging and occasional FaceTime calls.

Over the past few years I’ve done a lot of traveling, spending a few weeks or months at a time away from home, but I have never been one to get homesick. That remains true, but I’d be lying if I said moving to a different country was easy.


I didn’t know anybody when I first got here, I don’t have my family around, my entire routine is changed and even the time zone is different. I’m literally living 5 hours ahead of everybody I know. I’m a seven hour plane ride across the Atlantic Ocean away from home.

When I first arrived in England it was important that I constantly reminded myself why I really moved here. Having that mindset made the move easier. I’m a professional footballer trying to make a name for myself in the game.

The way I look at it, it’s like I’m starting at a new school. I’ve had to meet new people, make friends, impress the teachers, and get good grades. The best part is that instead of going to school I play soccer, my friends are my teammates, my teachers are actually coaches and get-ting good grades means playing well.

I can now say, from my personal experience, that the best way to come into a new place and become respected is to let your presence be known to everyone. Making a good first impres-sion can go a long way. I walked into the locker room and I shook every one of my new team-mates’ hands and introduced myself. It was important not to just sit in the corner and be quiet. I wanted to make sure that I would be a real part of the team, and not just another player.

Then I had to make my presence known on the field. From the very first whistle, on the first day of preseason, I worked hard. I showed that I wasn’t just satisfied with being there but that I wanted to become an important player.

During the first couple of weeks everything was going very smoothly. I enjoyed the soccer side of it so I was happy to be here, settling into this life, and making England my new home.

But, as with everything in life, there have been ups and downs since moving here. I made a mistake that I couldn’t make right straight away and I’ve had a few performances in games that are not up to the standard I hold for myself. Things like that can be extremely difficult to deal with.

All my life my mom has been there whenever I’ve made a mistake, but obviously this time she wasn’t physically here to help me through it. And for as long as I can remember I’ve gone to my dad after every game I’ve played and asked him his opinions. I’d ask how I could do better and what I could fix. Without him here to watch every game I can’t go to him for advice like I always have. I’ve had to learn to deal with those situations on my own.

Years and years from now I’ll look back on my career and recognize those tough times as being just as important as the good ones. Every setback or struggle is something to learn from. I’ve embraced these tougher times and realized that they are part of this journey I’m on and the best way to get through them is by learning from them.

The last few months have been nothing short of incredible. I have had to adapt to an entirely new life away from everything I know and everyone that I love. With that being said, there is nowhere I’d rather be and nothing I’d rather be doing. This is what I’ve always wanted and I’m lucky to actually be in this position living my dream.




Ryan Peterson / Contributor

I lied to my boys. The night before we took the field in our last game, the state championship game, I told them if they play with enough passion and focus the scoreboard will take care of itself. If we work for each other, we will leave the field victorious.


But the next day after 80 minutes of fighting, I stood there looking at the scoreboard with the most pain and sorrow I have ever felt. Next I would have to look each and every teammate in the eye and say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry you are going through as much pain as I am. I’m sorry every minute of work we’ve been through since our first days of playing this game has lead to tears.” But sometimes that is how the game works.


This season has been a struggle. We had expectations higher than any team I have ever been on. Our team had all the assets for greatness, but the most difficult task was configuring our team; putting together the puzzle. We’ve experimented and failed multiple times. At our lowest times we knew the season was heading for a bust. All that being said, in the end I think our struggles did not go unrecognized. We failed to accept defeat and played our best in the final games of the season. Our last performance is something I’m proud to say I was a part of. That’s what makes my reflection of the season that much more difficult to contemplate. We were the better team, but we left the field silently and I had to explain to my guys that the game has an ugly side too.


Please know that all 26 guys on this year’s Raiders team put everything they had into this season. We made constant adjustments to our mental and physical preparation so that we could reach our best playing ability. Everyone put their heart and soul into the fitness sessions, technical drills, and inter-squad scrimmages. I was challenged by guys to be a better player and a better leader everyday. Out of all my years as a player I can honestly say this team had the most personality out of any team I’ve been a member of. We fooled around and worked, laughed and sweat, together. Every guy was important to our team and our end goal and I’m proud to call each one of them my brother.

My time as a player at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School has been the most gratifying experience I have ever had. I’ve traveled the world, played in front of thousands of people, experienced great triumph, and been humbled by devastating defeat. I’ve played with many players who will or did go on to play at the next level. Most importantly, playing soccer for my school and town has taught me how to be passionate about something. Taught me how to endeavor not for personal accolades, but for the love I have for others. I’ve found a new dimension to myself that I will carry with me throughout my entire life.

I’m truly grateful for the time I’ve spent as part of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School soccer team.

Special thanks to…
Patrick Ellman and Sean Murray, two guys that I have experienced so much with throughout our high school soccer careers.
The rest of this year’s senior class, Andrew Borik, Robert Devine-Gelling, Parker Dvorin, Max More, Andrew Murray, Stephen Scarcella, Robbie Viglione, and David Walker, for all we’ve accomplished together from u8 up to now.
Coach Breznitsky, Coach Mortarulo, and Coach Stiffler for all you’ve taught me as a player and person.
The whole Scotch Plains-Fanwood Community, for all the support in the high times and low.



Sabrina Di Lollo / Contributor

Earlier this season, (against New Providence) I injured myself and later found out that I have a bone contusion. It was almost impossible for me to walk on it the day after and continued to bother me. After icing and elevating it as much as I could, the swelling went down and it started to feel a lot better. I missed a few games and had to sit out for about a week before I could start running again. I hated sitting out and watching my team warm up and not being a part of it. With counties coming up, I really wanted to get back on the field as soon as possible. I took baby steps and I started off running, and eventually going through a full practice. Now, it is feeling much better, and I am 100% back!

This time of the year is always extremely exciting for our team. We know what our job is; it’s to win and advance. The amount of intensity we bring to every single game is incredible.

This year’s county tournament was such a great experience. Every year, we look forward to playing under the lights at the ALJ field, and then to the field at Kean University for the finals. This year was no different as we accomplished our goal of winning counties…our 7th straight Union County Title! What a great feeling.

I know that my team is capable reaching all of our goals.