Mark Phillips

Academy coach Mark Phillips set for charity Three Peaks Challenge

West Ham United Academy coach Mark Phillips is set to embark on the Three Peaks challenge with a team of dedicated Hammers supporters this Saturday, 8 June, to raise funds for a whole array of local charities and organisations. 

The challenge, led by lifelong Hammer Neil Taylor, co-founder of the Hammers for Work and Support group, will see a group of West Ham fans, including ex-Irons goalkeeper and cult hero Jimmy Walker, attempt to conquer the formidable challenge of climbing the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales - Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, and Snowdon. This means visiting the three countries, covering over 23 miles of trails with 3,064 meters of vertical ascent, all while navigating 450 miles of driving between peaks. 

The group’s motivation comes via the impactful work of the charities they are supporting and the support of the West Ham community, having raised an incredible £20,000 ahead of the challenge. The idea was discussed at a local pub after a Hammers home game last season, and after confirming preparations and pulling a 16-strong team together, they are now ready to attempt to conquer the Three Peaks Challenge. 

Phillips said: “Me and Jimmy Walker, who I used to work with at the U18s, used to discuss different challenges that we could do, and it came up in a conversation that we don’t have a lot on this summer, so we started chatting about the potential of the Three Peaks challenge about a year ago. 

“I got involved with a person called Neil Taylor, who runs Hammers for Work and Support and does a lot of work for West Ham fans, and he was keen about the idea, so we have gone ahead with it and are doing it for a lot of different charities.

“I have known Neil [Taylor] for years, and the platform he has set up (Hammers for Work and Support) has taken off.

"There are 16 of us doing the challenge and we are all doing it for our own individual charities. I am doing it for a charity called Frontline, which is for autistic adults in Brentwood, and it is something that is close to my heart and is personal for me. 

“We have raised £20,000 so far between us, so it all goes into a pot, and we will share it for our chosen charity. 

“I’ve done the London Marathon twice and the Great North Run, but I don’t mind a challenge and like raising money for charities. I’m the second oldest person taking on the challenge, so I know it will be a massive challenge, but it is all for a great cause. 

“We’ve got a few people with us who have done it a few times before and are a guide for us. They have told us what kit to take, what not to take and how bad the weather can be and how quickly it can change. I’ve known a lot of people on the challenge for years, so there is a massive West Ham connection between us all. 

“I’ve had video messages from Mark Noble and Carlton Cole, so it has been fantastic to have their support and they are all fully behind me.”

When many businesses and individuals struggled to make ends meet during the periods of lockdown as closures and reduced custom led to companies closing - and many people either finding their jobs no longer existed or being made redundant - Neil and fellow Hammers supporter Danny Panrucker decided to step in and take action.  

The duo, who are both from Newham and have supported the Club for many decades, set up the Hammers for Work and Support Facebook group to provide support and employment for their fellow Hammers and their families across east London and beyond.

The group has grown rapidly and now has over 24,000 members, helping hundreds, if not thousands of Hammers secure employment through their page, forging links with businesses of all shapes and sizes, in a range of industries, offering everything from full and part-time roles to apprenticeships.

Having helped over 30 charities since the page's creation in 2020, Taylor admits he is more than ready to take on his biggest challenge yet. 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 is when it all came together. I used to run another West Ham United group and another lad Danny got in touch with me. The idea was to set up a group for Hammers fans to enable them to get jobs and that kept people in work throughout those times of uncertainty.

“The group took off very quickly and we soon got more numbers, and more and more people were getting employment from it. I’ve always done my best to help and offer support to everyone, organisations within the Newham area, or just people who are struggling a bit. 

“It has really taken off, but it’s been a great experience and being able to help so many people is rewarding. West Ham have been very kind since the start of our journey and have donated tickets for games which we have given to different organisations and to people who can’t normally afford to go. 

“We’ve helped so many charities – I can name at least 30 – but they are all smaller charities. 

“I raised £11,000 for a half marathon last year, and shortly after that I was standing in a pub after a West Ham home game and said it would be good to get another challenge going, so we banded it around and decided on the Three Peaks Challenge. 

“We set sail on Friday and have the support of the 24,000 people in the group and the community as well. We’ve raised £20,000 so far which is going to help at least 20 different organisations.

“I once did a run while working in the fire service over the South Downs, but I’ve never done anything like the Three Peaks Challenge before. I’m 64 now, but I’ll be giving it a good go. I’m really looking forward to standing at the top of Ben Nevis with a West Ham flag on Saturday evening.

“At my age, and for everyone else who is doing it, it’s a great achievement and the main thing is that we are looking to raise a lot of money for so many different causes."

You can donate to the GoFundMe page to support Mark, Neil and everyone else ahead of their journey!