West-minster Ham United

Glasgow-born Poplar and Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick adopted West Ham United 40 years ago.

One of a host of Hammers to be found in Parliament, Fitzpatrick was initially elected as MP for the since abolished constituency of Poplar and Canning Town in 1997.

The Labour Party member has held a number of political offices since his arrival in Westminster, serving as Minister for London under Prime Minister Tony Blair and later as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport and Minister of State for Farming and the Environment under Gordon Brown.

In the first of an occasional series of interviews with Westminster-based Hammers, the 61-year-old discusses his love for the Club.

"I came to London in 1973 and one of the first things I did as a Londoner was go around the football clubs - I went to Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal, but the place I felt most comfortable was at Upton Park, even though I was living in south west London.

"I've been going to the Boleyn Ground for 40 years now. I joined London Fire Brigade in 1974 and was a firefighter for 23 years and got elected to Parliament in 1997, so I've been here for 16 years now.

"It was a transition. Through being a firefighter, I got involved with the Fire Brigades Union and through the Union I got involved with the Labour Party. Over the course of 23 years I moved from putting out fires to political firefighting, but it's less dramatic than it sounds.

"I played for the Parliamentary football team at Wembley, Celtic, Newcastle and at Old Trafford, as well as at the Boleyn Ground three times! As a West Ham supporter, it was dream stuff, raising money for charities.

"Apart from scoring at both ends at Upton Park, my biggest achievements in Parliament have been representing Poplar and Limehouse - it used to be Poplar and Canning Town, which included the area where Thames Ironworks used to be - which contains the Canary Wharf business district, as well as communities with lots of unemployment, large chunks of poverty, and people striving to make their way in the world.

"It's hugely exciting, because the area has changed so much over the last 30 years, as anybody living in the East End has seen. To be part of that is really rewarding.

"I've got 75,000 constituents and I get a couple of hundred emails every day asking to support certain causes, just as I'm sure Sam Allardyce gets emails and letters telling him to pick certain players. It's impossible to satisfy everybody, so all you can do is give it your best shot, work as hard as you can and my experience is that people are very forgiving and generous as long as you've tried your best.

"As for my own personal ambitions, there are policies that I would like to see followed. River crossings are a big issue for east London and would help all those Hammers in north Kent to get to matches more easily.

"East London has been the engine for this great capital city and that will continue, so things like the Jubilee line, the extension of the Docklands Light Railway and Crossrail coming in are positives.

"We're going to keep this capital city going and West Ham is very much a big part of that.

"I've always been a supporter of the Olympic bid and West Ham being the main tenants of the Stadium after the Games. From a fan point of view, we all know how difficult it is to get in and out of the Boleyn Ground.

"I was lucky enough to go to the Olympic Games last year it was easy for 80,000 people to get in and out - five Tube lines, Docklands Light Railway, City Airport and soon the Eurostar stopping at Stratford. For accessibility, it's going to be so much better.

"It's got to be good for Stratford, for the Club and for us who go to watch matches.

"I've been to so many great games myself but, as every West Ham fan knows, it's been a rollercoaster! Some of those great games will be ones we've lost, like one I remember when we were 3-0 up against Wimbledon and lost 4-3.

"I remember the FA Cup finals in 1975 and 1980. In 1975, I was serving in Battersea fire station on Cup final day and managed to get my seat in front of the TV. On my watch there was a guy called Bob Barrett, whose brother Les was playing outside left for Fulham that day.

"I was in south west London with my West Ham rosette, scarf and socks on and, just before kick-off, they jumped on me and threw my stuff out of the window! I went down to get it and they locked me out of the TV room, so I missed the first half and Alan Taylor's first goal.

"Those cup victories were great but we want to do even better. We want to be up there challenging for Europe and I think the Olympic Stadium gives us the platform to get the revenue and support to move the Club on to a new phase."