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2013-02-05T12:50:00 Updated 2015-02-19T01:20:55

Middle East Ender

The Greedy Goose Restaurant in Beirut is not exactly the first place you would expect to find a West Ham United supporter cheering on his team.

HM Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher is that supporter.

When he is not working with the UK's Lebanese partners to promote democracy, stability and human rights or to increase trade and British investment in the Middle East country, Fletcher is keeping an eye on his beloved Hammers.

Born in Kent, Fletcher graduated from Oxford University before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1994. The young diplomat served in across Africa, the United States and Europe before becoming the Foreign Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister in 2007, giving informed advice to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

In 2010, he was awarded the Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) - awarded to individuals who render extraordinary or important non-military service in a foreign country - for services to the Prime Minister, before being appointed to his current role in August 2011.

While some people might see being an ambassador as little more than chauffeur-driven cars and dinner parties, Fletcher says the reality is rather different. Indeed, he says the role is akin to that of a football manager working out his tactics, man-management and best approach to each particular issue.

"I became a British diplomat immediately after leaving university and have worked all over the world, including postings in Nairobi, Paris and now Lebanon," he explained. "You have to work very hard, but I'm proud to be representing Britain. Unlike the cliche, there is no Ferrero Rocher!"

"I worked in No 10 Downing Street for the last three Prime Ministers. I guess that you learn - and this applies even more to football management - that judgement is more important than intellect. You need to be clear about what you stand for, and know who you can rely on. I was always a sweeper when I played football, and I'm still in some ways still playing that role."

There may be similarities in terms of the role, but the working environment certainly differs from a cold Wednesday night at Old Trafford, for example.

Lebanon is a small Eastern Mediterranean country that borders conflict-torn Syria and Israel that, between 1975 and 1990, was subject to a horrific civil war that resulted in an estimated 120,000 deaths in a country of a little more than four million.

After two decades of relative peace, a civil war in neighbouring Syria is threatening to spill over into Lebanon. Despite the prospect of renewed unrest, Fletcher is confident the future is bright for the country and its picturesque capital.

"It is a tough neighbourhood, but the Lebanese are incredibly resilient. I have a big security team, given the potential threats against me, and spend a lot of time trying to influence the politics in the right direction. Like taking a penalty away from home, you have to block out the distractions and focus on what you're there to do. But now and again you still smack it into the top row of the stands

"I think that after No 10, someone concluded that I had learnt something about raw politics and resilience. Every week is different. As well as the politics, I work hard on delivering commercial deals that will bring jobs and growth to the UK. For example, we sell more Jaguars and Bentleys per capita in Lebanon than anywhere in the world, and we've opened up a new British brand here every month in 2012."

Fletcher said Britain's amazing sporting year, in particular the London 2012 Olympic Games, and even the new James Bond film had boosted this country's profile in Lebanon.

"The Jubilee, Skyfall and London 2012 gave us a massive boost. I do a lot of media, including using social media - you can follow me on twitter @hmatomfletcher - to promote the UK: music, sport, creativity, business, innovation. And we aim to support Brits in Lebanon, whether they're in trouble, or doing business. I don't get much time off, but Lebanon is an amazing country - you can ski and swim in the sea in the same day!"

When he is not working or watching West Ham, Fletcher spends his free time with his wife Louise and two sons. It may be a long way from home, but the ambassador says his family have settled into their new lives well.

"I'm lucky that my family are all here in Lebanon with me. Six-year-old Charlie wants to be a goalkeeper - in the Phil Parkes mould, I reckon - and my one-year-old Theodor has a good engine."

It is heartening to hear that Charles and Theodor are both West Ham fans like their Dad, but when Fletcher recalls his family's football history, it is hardly surprising!

"My brothers Luke and John are also keen West Ham fans, so I guess my DNA is claret and blue. I also follow my local team, Folkestone Town, but they're a long way from the Premier League!

"For me, 1985/86 was the most amazing year. I still have the Panini sticker books and scrapbooks of all the West Ham matches, with Frank McAvennie and Tony Cottee at their peak. My all-time favourite match was the 8-1 thrashing of Newcastle, when Peter Beardsley ended up in goal. Those were happy days!"

Nowadays, Fletcher's opportunities to watch his team in person are few and far between, but he is still able to watch Hammers matches live on television when time allows. When he has been down to the Greedy Goose, he has largely been impressed with what he has seen this season.

"There are a few keen Hammers who gather in the Greedy Goose pub for key matches, and we camped out there for the Play-Offs in May!"

"I would definitely take the last four months. I'm a big fan of youth-team products Mark Noble and Jack Collison, and of course the newer ex-Bolton contingent. The Chelsea match was obviously the highlight. I watched it at home, but you could probably have heard me in the East End!"

Fletcher's one wish is for his favourite team to emulate Manchester City - not by winning the Barclays Premier League title but by visiting Lebanon. In April 2012, the champions opened the International School of Football in Lebanon, with the club's coaches visiting the country to deliver the latest training techniques to aspiring youngsters.

As it is in many parts of the world, English football is hugely popular in Lebanon, while the country's Premier League has attracted players from South America and Africa and continues to grow.

"The Lebanese are crazy about the Premier League. Most support Manchester United or Liverpool, but I'm working on converting them to The Academy. The national team is doing pretty well - just as we found in London 2012, sport is a great force for unity.

"Manchester City visited last year and, fingers crossed that we get the Irons out here soon. That would be a great diplomatic result - Moore than an ambassador could hope for!"

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