Hammers fan's legacy to youngsters

The Thames Gateway Youth Football Project is a unique partnership involving the government, the private sector and four London football clubs: West Ham United, Charlton Athletic, Chelsea and Millwall. The project aims to assist the personal development of local young people, both boys and girls, with emphasis on those absent from school and those at risk of offending. One lifelong Hammers fan, who sadly passed away earlier this year, left a generous legacy to those young people…

Former West Ham United season ticket holder Alex McFarlane was born in the East End of London in 1933 and moved to Dagenham with his family in 1938. He spent much of his leisure time participating in sport and watching his beloved West Ham United, the team he supported through thick and thin over 60 years.

Alex sadly passed away in early March 2006. One of the last things he asked was if West Ham United were still in the FA Cup following the game with Bolton. He would have been proud of the achievement of the team in Cardiff.

Alex's daughter, Dee, was present at Upton Park for our match against Everton at that time, when Sir Trevor Brooking received a cheque for £38,000 on behalf of The Thames Gateway Youth Football Project, and was impressed by the good work of the project. The Thames Gateway Project runs After Schools Clubs, Fit4Life Incentive Schemes and Estates, Healthy Living, Young Women's Development and Coach Education Programmes in Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, the City of London, Greenwich, Havering, Newham, Thurrock and Tower Hamlets.

Dee and Alex's partner Margaret knew that Alex never forgot his roots and, had he been present, he would have been very taken by the work The Thames Gateway Project is doing with thousands of disadvantaged young people across East London. In his memory, Margaret and Dee decided that, rather than sending flowers, family and friends at his funeral should make a donation to The Thames Gateway Youth Football Project.

The donations, which totalled £2,100, will be spent on The Thames Gateway London Estates Leagues. The Thames Gateway Project runs two London wide leagues - for Under 16s and Under 18s. They aim to break down barriers and promote social cohesion by bringing together young people from different backgrounds and cultures in the areas of greatest need across London.

Each of the football club community schemes participating in the competition selects the best players from their particular estates programmes to represent their club, while links to club academies and development programmes ensures that any player with sufficient promise will be given an opportunity to progress to the highest level. In recognition of his support and his family's consideration, the Project decided to name the two trophies in memory of Alex.

West Ham United won the Under 16s 2006 competition whilst Charlton Athletic were the winners of the Under 18s competition. Alex's partner Margaret and daughter Dee presented the medals and trophies on the final evenings of the competitions, held at the stadiums of Dagenham & Redbridge and Millwall, and were received warmly by the players who were very appreciative of their thoughtful gesture. West Ham United's Kyel Reid presented signed footballs to the Players of the Year from each team at the Under 16s event.

Margaret said: "We enjoyed our visits to Dagenham and Millwall stadiums so much and we were very impressed with the young footballers - not just their football, but their general demeanour. We are so thrilled that Alex's name will live on in such a worthy cause."