Mike Gapes is Labour MP for Ilford South.
How did you become a Hammer?
I grew up in Hainault on the Essex side of what later became Greater London. The nearest teams were Tottenham, Leyton Orient and West Ham. Until I was 8 in 1960 I supported both The Hammers and Spurs. That year I decided that West Ham were my team. Spurs went on to win the double but my allegiance to the claret and sky blue never wavered and was rewarded six years later when West Ham won the World Cup.
Your first game?
My first professional football game was when my dad took me to see Leyton Orient draw 1-1 with Liverpool in a top of Division
Two match in 1961. My first West Ham game was the 3-3 away draw at Highbury in 1963 which was a very satisfactory result for my neutral dad because my younger brother Barry supports Arsenal ! I became a regular on the North Bank at Upton Park from 1964 onwards and then migrated to the old Chicken Run. My first seat was to watch us throw away a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 to Stoke in 1967. (Peter Dobing v John Cushley)
How many games do you get to?
I am a season ticket holder in the Bobby Moore lower stand and only miss two or three home matches a year when Select Committee travel commitments prevent it. Nowadays I only get to a rare away game. When I was younger I tried to go to all the London away games and also followed the Hammers as far as St James’ Park.
Most memorable moment?
My most memorable moment was the Frank Lampard diving header to win the Semi Final replay in the cauldron of Elland Road in 1980 (and my resultant frightening journey back to the NUS conference in Blackpool being chased by a car full of irate Everton fans – my little mini must have been the only car driving towards Liverpool with a West Ham scarf hanging out of the window !). The 1980 final with me at one end and my Arsenal supporting brother at the other ! Also the second Cardiff play off final (I seem to have erased all memories of the first one !)
Have you met any Hammers players?
I used to deliver newspapers to Geoff Hurst who was on my regular round in Chigwell and also to Bobby Moore when I did a relief round. I met Bobby at a Labour fundraising dinner in 1991 where he was very amused to hear that his former paper boy was a would be MP. I have met Geoff Hurst several times at Conferences and events related to football. I have also met Trevor Brooking on several occasions, including when he has been helping community groups in my constituency, I met Trevor Sinclair, John Moncur, Marc Keller and Paulo Wanchope eight years ago at a Thames Gateway football match at Upton Park where I fulfilled a boyhood ambition to play on the pitch and I spoke to Ludek Miklosko, Chris Powell and Jimmy Walker at the promotion celebrations in 2005. I have also met Martin Peters, David James, Bobby Barnes, and Paul Goddard.
Favourite current player?
Favourite current player is Hayden Mullins a totally unselfish 100% team player. I also think Carlton Cole is improving game by game and working really hard for the team ,if only he could get the goals too and Mathew Upson is showing what a good player he can be, lets hope he stays fit.
What’s the football banter like in the bars of the House of Commons?
The banter in the strangers bar is pretty good but I am usually surrounded by Lancastrians who support Bolton, Wigan, Liverpool, Everton,Blackburn, Manchester United or City. Things were a bit heated last season when I put down an Early Day Motion supporting the Premier League Adjudication panel in their totally correct decision and praising our magificent achievement in winning 7 of our last 9 games. The Sheffield MPs were not amused. I even made the front page of the Sheffield Star !
Complete the sentence: West Ham fans should vote Labour because…
West Ham Fans should vote Labour for three reasons 1. because in the words of Bill Shankly “Football is socialism in practice”… 2. because it was Thatcher who tried to bring in the Football ID card scheme and ban on away supporters and 3. because “ from Stamford Bridge to Upton Park you can stick the blue flag …..”
Describe last season. How did it affect you?
Last season was the most depressing and exhilarating ever with that fantastic great escape ending but why didn’t our managers appreciate the fantastic talent of Carlos Tevez (and Mascherano too ) until it was almost too late ! Great credit to the efforts of Bobby Zamora, Robert Green, Lucas Neill and Mark Noble
What are your hopes for this season?
My hopes for this season are top six but realistically top nine and winning the FA Cup (I am an eternal optimist having just got home from the goaless FA cup third round.)
Choose your all time Hammers Eleven
Paolo di Canio
Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson
Manager John Lyall
What do your colleagues make of your support for West Ham
Many of my Parliamentary colleagues think I am completely mad in my obsessive and biased support for the Hammers. I was once during the dark 18 years of Tory rule asked whether I would prefer a Labour Government or West Ham to win the League and I had to answer “We have had Labour Government’s in the past”… My overwhelming aspiration is that we can have both simultaneously this decade !