Potts the marathon man

Steve Potts spent 17 years in the first team at West Ham United and is going to have to show similar fortitude when he runs this year's London Marathon in aid of Children with Leukaemia.

The loyal defender played 506 league and cup games for the club after making his debut against Queens Park Rangers on New Year's Day 1985. His 17 years in the first-team reckoning at the Boleyn Ground stand him in ninth place in the club's all-time appearance charts. The versatile performer was voted Hammer of the Year back in 1993 and is hoping to get similar backing from supporters for his efforts for a very worthy cause on Sunday 13 April.

"I went to watch last year's race and the atmosphere really inspired me to want to have a go myself," said the man known as Pottsy, as he prepares to pound the capital's roads in the hope that he can raise the pounds for such a deserving cause. "After starting in January, I've got my running - if you can call it that - up to 14 miles, which is a lot further than I ever had to run when I was training at West Ham United. In those days we'd come back for pre-season training and do four or five miles to blow out the cobwebs before getting on with the short, sharp drills.

"Leukaemia is a terrible illness and I've seen how it affects children, who have to endure painful chemotherapy, hair loss and all the other horrible side-effects. It's three-and-a-half years of treatment, which is very daunting and it's a very long road to recovery. This is now a great opportunity for me to try and do my little bit to raise some money to help these kids and, ultimately, to try and find a cure.

"According to my training programme, I've still got to get myself up to 20 miles and, although people keep saying to me that I'll be fine because I used to play, since I retired five years ago, I've gradually worked my way down from joining a gym and going three times per week to just a little jog around the block every now and then.

"I've never done anything like this before and although I'm really looking forward to it, I'm also dreading it, too!" continued the 40-year-old, who already knows all about those streets of London after passing the 'Knowledge' and qualifying as a fully-fledged London taxi driver last August.

"Since I got my badge, I've picked up quite a few of our fans. Some start talking football straight away, others do a double-take and there are even a few who don't recognise me - one punter even asked me which team I support! - which says a lot about the impression I made at the club," laughs the ever-likeable Steve with all the modesty that epitomised his distinguished career.

For many, the highlight of his time at the Boleyn Ground was his solitary strike from those 506 honest outings in the claret and blue. After registering in a memorable 7-1 home win against Hull City in October 1990, Pottsy has set his sights on another more important goal. "I want to raise as much money for Children with Leukaemia as I possibly can," he concluded. "And hopefully, the generosity of the West Ham United supporters can help me to achieve that."

To make a donation, please visit: www.bmycharity.com/pottsy or send donations to: Steve Potts, London Marathon c/o Children with Leukaemia, 51 Great Ormond Street, London, WC1N 3JQ. Cheques should be made payable to 'Children with Leukaemia'.