From Wanstead to Walford
PUBLISHED: 16:11 13 March 2008 | UPDATED: 15:04 20 February 2013
From ghost-writing for David Beckham to talking to Arsenal fans about football, former EastEnders' star, Tom Watt, has enjoyed a dream career since leaving his Wanstead roots, reports Sara Wrightman
A MODEST and down-to-earth guy, Tom Watt, is most famous for playing former EastEnders' star Lofty, but there is plenty more to his career.
Since his role as a the quirky and loveable character in the award-winning soap some 20 years ago, Tom has not only ghost-written David Beckham's autobiography, My Side, but has starred in West End and fringe plays, written various other books, presented radio shows and is now working for his favourite football team, Arsenal FC.
Tom is a family man at heart and his main ambition in life is to spend as much time with his wife, Ann, and nine-year-old son, Roland. 'All of my ambitions, hopes and dreams are bound up with my family,' Tom explains.
'I love acting and have had some fantastic experiences, and hopefully there will be more. But we should not under-estimate that the reason why we are here is to pass everything on. The only thing we really know for sure is the responsibility and joy of being part of a family.'
Having been born in Wanstead, Tom then moved to Holloway where he became a loyal fan of his local football team, Arsenal. As a boy, he persuaded his father, a teacher in the local school, to join him on the terraces watching the Gunners.
Since 1971, Tom has had a season ticket for Arsenal, which is why his new job as a presenter for Arsenal TV is just an extension of what he has always done - talked about football with other fans.
'I was never any good at football, but I have always loved the game,' Tom says. 'I am so happy to be presenting the new show. Everyone was so surprised by how many people phoned in.'
Tom's passion for football meant that the opportunity to ghost-write for David's autobiography was an opportunity too good to pass up. Published in 2003, My Side, sold 103,000 copies in the first week.
'The book was written as a way for David to say to fans and supporters, "this is me". David is a fantastic bloke and it was a really good story to tell,' says Tom. 'We wrote it during his move to Real Madrid, so it was a very exciting time. The story was told from David's point-of-view. It is something David and I are very proud of.'
Tom's writing career alone has taken him from his birth-place in Wanstead around the world and he is currently writing a book telling the childhood stories of 40 top international football players. Tom is also writing for a new Star Sqaud website which interviews footballers so that fans can subscribe to find out about there favourite players.
As Lofty, Tom spent some of his most enjoyable days playing football for EastEnders' charity football team, Walford Boys' Club.
'We would get thousands of people watching us and we were raising a lot of money at the same time. Those matches were some of the best times of my life,' explains Tom. 'Lofty was a fantastic character to play. He was both funny and serious, and it was such a well-written part.'
Tom always knew that the character of Lofty would be short-lived, so he continued to get other acting roles, including playing Richard III, Scrooge and The Foreigner, while continuing with the writing he had begun as part of his touring company, Publick Spirit.
Tom also decided it would be very sad if the memories of Arsenal's stadium, Highbury, weren't preserved after its demolition in preparation for the team's move to the Emirates Stadium. So Tom put pen to paper and wrote a book documenting the memories of anyone and everyone associated with Arsenal FC. Published in 1993, The End struck a chord with Arsenal supporters and led Tom into a new role as a sports journalist for The Observer writing both match reports and features.
Tom has also been able to combine his passion for both acting and football in the one-man stand-up play, Fever Pitch. As one thing inevitably leads to another, Tom was asked to present football phone-ins for Talk Radio, before joining BBC London, where he presents the ever-popular Saturday Sport.
With Arsenal FC's strong community links, Tom decided to write educational books for the classroom to combine literacy and football. The series of three books focuses on a fictional team who play in the Premier League. Published by Rising Stars, he hopes that the books will encourage children who are reluctant to read or those with English as a second-language.