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Sir Trevor Brooking CBE

Filed: Thursday, 18th October 2001

By: Graeme Howlett


One of the club's favourite sons - step forward West Ham and Sport England's Trevor Brooking.

KUMB: Trevor - many thanks for taking the time to meet me. I'd like to start off with when you were a lad. Your heroes - Johnny Haynes?

Trevor Brooking: Yeah, John because he was a midfield player. I always enjoyed watching him play. As a youngster, naturally West Ham were the side I supported, but as a starting catalyst I suppose Real Madrid are the side that come to mind - anyone who watched the 7-3 against Eintracht Frankfurt at Hampden; they dominated the European Cup as it was then. A bit like the Brazilian national team.

Then there was Real Madrid, then Manchester United with the Busby Babes. I think that anyone who lived at that time was conscious of the Munich tragedy, although we all supported our own sides there was a loss to English football. So I think that was my little span at that time, and then you had your individual players that you liked to watch.

At at West Ham at that particular time - I supported them in 57/58 when they got promoted - the Bond/Cantwell pairing at the back was a top one because they scored lots of goals and actually both of them took turns at playing centre-forward sometimes. You had Vic Keeble and Johnny Dick who were the strikers.

KUMB: How influential do you think Vic Keeble coming into the side was that year?

TB: I think without a doubt the foil he became for John Dick; John then got a bit more space. Like any side you've got to have that goalscorer, and the fact that John Bond and Noel Cantwell, who actually didn't do bad as emergency centre-forwards showed there was a huge gap in the quality of that position to be filled, so certainly I think that he was critical, and scored goals. Kenny Brown, another great character within your own team. And as far as then, I suppose into the early 60's, certainly Bobby Charlton was because he was a midfield player - you tend to always look for your midfield players.

Then when you get a little bit older John Smith was a good West Ham lad and did really well who went to Spurs, he was playing in midfield and was hugely underrated. He did a good job and then Phil Woosman before him - he was the academic teacher! An then you went through a cycle; I joined the club in '65 and before that Eddie Bovington; Ronnie Boyce - who I think was one of the favourite players of that generation. Ron was 'Ticker' to all the fans; you greatly respected his contribution, but outside of East London it was never quite recognised as significantly as it was by Ron Greenwood who was managing him. He would have him as one of his most consistent players throughout his time as manager.

Of course Martin [Peters] came through later on, so you pluck out players; George Best as a youngster, I used to play against Bestie, that was something special. Because when you're young hopefully like any youngster you never envisage that you will eventually be playing professional football. It became your love and you would want to watch; go out and re-run the matches with your brother or mates or whatever. And then, as luck would have it for some of us you get the opportunity to actually do it.

But your starting point, what you're trying to make sure at school or whether it be a club base the emphasis is having a good time and enjoying a sport. If you're enjoying it you will want to get better at it and learn and practice and it goes from there. To me the sporting experience; you know I played my tennis and did athletics, played my cricket; it was just fun, involvement, I made lots of friends and that was really what it was done for.

KUMB: I'd like to come back to that a bit later if I may, especially the kids. Going back to the mid-60's Trevor, you signed for the club at 16?

TB: Yeah.

KUMB: 1965?

TB: Yeah. We could have left at 15 then, that was the school leaving age unlike now. You could have left at 15 so I could have left at the end of what was our fourth year, but then I was at one of the old Grammer schools where the academic side was quite important, so West Ham understood the problems of leaving and not finishing your GCE's as they were, not GCSE's as they are now.

So I came to an agreement with West Ham that instead of signing in '64 - which I think is when Frank [Lampard] signed a three year apprenticeship - I said I'd join them in '65 when I'd finished my GCE's. So I signed a two year apprenticeship in the summer of '65 which was a month after the Cup Winners Cup final.

KUMB: It must have been a fantastic time to join the club; '64, the FA Cup; '65, and of course we all know what happened the following year. But it was the year after that when you made your debut; at Turf Moor against Burnley?

TB: A 3-3, yeah.

KUMB: And there was a certain Moore, Peters and Hurst who scored that day; do you remember an awful lot about that?

TB: Well it's a bit of a glaze! You always remember your debut; I was really chuffed that we drew 3-3, and it was weird that they [Moore, Peters and Hurst] scored. Boycie played well; I think that I did okay, and certainly enjoyed it - it was a decent performance. It was a good result because Burnley at that particular time were probably, after the likes of Man Utd and Spurs one of the big clubs of that era.

It was a fairly tough place to get a result, so 3-3 was excellent. Although that tended to be the West Ham philosophy at the time which is something that has stuck all throughout my playing days; that we were quite capable of beating anyone on our day, but sometimes we lost to those that we shouldn't!

KUMB: But that's something that carries on today?

TB: Yeah, the consistency factor has always been a problem. Yeah, it was fantastic as a fan to then join a club that suddenly was making that transition. I think the '65 Cup Winners Cup brought the club to a different level of recognition, not only in England - we played at Wembley and naturally that was televised like the FA Cup had been the year before. So you had the FA Cup final and remembering that although we beat Preston in the final the big talking point was the semi-final when we beat Man Utd. That was fantastic; no-one gave us an earthly.

KUMB: Were you there at Hillsborough that day?

TB: No. Funnily enough I was with the England schoolboys. '64, that was the year when I was with them. We were playing a game that weekend. Although you thought we had a chance it was only when I saw the highlights - it wasn't called Match of the Day at the time - we were elated. As you remember it was pretty much a mudheap and pouring with rain ...

KUMB: A bit of a bog?

TB: Yeah. But with the likes of Law, Charlton and Best it was a fantastic upset. Boycie of course scored again as he did in the final; of course he wasn't the most prolific of goalscorers. And then I suppose that the expectancy level was that we would beat Preston; although it wasn't an easy match, again thanks to a late winner. But I think that those two games, the Cup final and knocking out Man Utd then 12 months later the actual Munich game which for many months after was reckoned to be one of the very best European footballing finals there had been.

It also brought a reaction from Europe because they said that West Ham wasn't a typical English team because we tried to pass it - and that has been the emphasis for the last 35 years. And that again was a philosophy of Ron's, a terrific coach. Anyone who worked under Ron Greenwood will tell you he was a key factor in what's there now, because he started that philosophy. John Lyall was very much his disciple to carry it on. Anyone who was under that influence - the likes of Bonzo or Harry now - couldn't have helped but be influenced by that style of football, and it has stayed with us ever since.

Although lots of clubs have their own teams, if their team isn't in contention or something they're actually quite happy when West Ham do well because it's said that they always play a good style of football.

KUMB: Everybody's second club?

TB: Yeah, they are really popular, and that stands up now. That's only because they know we try and play that style of football which people want to see replicated really.

KUMB: Talking about that semi-final in '64; obviously we've had a very similar situation recently at Old Trafford the week before last! How would you say the two compare - and what would you say was the better win of the two?

TB: Oh dear, that's tough. I've got to say that the '64 one was a massive win. The Man Utd side had recovered, it was a rebuilt team which had massive individual stars. The Law, Best, Charlton trio are the obvious ones. Paddy Crerand; Tony Dunn was one of the best full-backs around. So it was a massive achievement. They probably didn't have quite the domination that the current Man Utd side do because ... you had Liverpool, they were about to have one of the greatest dominations of European football - their side in the 60's, 70's and early 80's was massive.

Revie and Leeds came a bit later. I think the argument possibly, it's very difficult to compare the two, they were both massive upsets. The latest one was of course at Old Trafford as opposed to neutral ground like the semi-final in '64. I think that Cup games are always geared up for that, there will always be shocks. The 1980 final against Arsenal was a massive shock. Wimbledon when they beat Liverpool, Sunderland when they beat Leeds - they're games that stand out as massive shocks but the excitement of the Cup is that unexpected ...

And even although you have a certain bias, when the draw was made against Manchester United in the fourth round your initial groan then turns into the fact, 'well, on our day we can beat them'. We're one of the few sides that are capable of going to Old Trafford and winning. A lot of things had to go for us but it was a massive win. Again, it'll only stay in that context if you go on perhaps to get to the final. You have great one off Cup results but if you get knocked out of the next round you know, a couple of years later everyone's like 'yeah, we beat Man Utd but got stuffed at Sunderland'!

KUMB: You're saying there it's a one off, but it's funny - when the draw was announced everybody I spoke to via the website was saying 'oh, Man Utd away, it's all over'. But when people began to think about it it was incredible how many thought that we actually had a chance up there?

TB: I genuinely did think we had a chance - I was encouraged by the game against Charlton, I thought that we played very well there. I've seen Man Utd a couple of times where they were not quite at their best; they played really well pre-Christmas - I'm sure they weren't complacent but they were so far ahead in the Premiership that they had that little lull. I just felt 9,000 fans - we had great travelling fans. My son went up there, he said it was one of the best days of his life. He said the noise, and when the goal went in how everyone tumbled over each other! He said it was just a fantastic experience.

And we do know how to make the most of it, you know. If you're in a team and you go to Old Trafford or anywhere tough like that the crucial stage is the first half-hour. We lost there in the league, a dreadful early goal and then you're never in it. But although in the first half Manchester United had a lot of possession I thought we had good spells. I had to work for the radio on Gillingham v Chelsea, and I was sitting watching Sky because they had the only input at Gillingham; you couldn't actually get ITV so I had to go out to the gantry to watch the game!

You know, they're all sat there saying 'they're going to score in a minute' and I said 'I don't think they are!' It was different altogether to the New Years Day game where they looked as though they would score every time they went forward. We were much better organised from the point of view that Frank [Lampard] was over on Giggs' side; I think Schemmel played very well, he's done well in his early games, and the protection was much better.

When we got it the trio - Carrick, Cole and Lampard kept it better than they had, and then you had Paolo [Di Canio] as well as Kanoute - Camara didn't really get in the game last time, Paolo's always going to occupy them ; if you give them a bit of breathing space then ... I just said even though we hadn't created much ourselves I felt good, I said I think we're going to get something out of this game. Even as the game was progressing you could see we were up for it to a certain extent and very much in the game.

KUMB: I think that was the general feeling on the terraces. I was in there; it seemed the difference was whereas three weeks ago we came and defended almost on our own 18 yard box ...

TB: Yeah, you kept thinking 'they're going to score in a minute'. I never sat watching that one thinking we weren't in it all the time. And we were always liable to pinch a goal then.

KUMB: I think the difference was ... you pointed out Cole, Carrick and Lampard in the middle - I think they worked tremendously hard?

TB: Yeah.

KUMB: That was the general opinion really, that they gave Man Utd no time on the ball; as soon as Giggsy or Beckham got the ball they were onto them?

TB: Yeah.

KUMB: Moving back to your own career Trevor - it took you a couple of years to gel into the side under Ron [Greenwood]. Now, there's a story about Cloughie making a bid for you and Bobby [Moore] back in 71/72. How close was that to ever going through?

TB: It never got to me; I know Bobby's agent did some work for me and I was part of the deal. Bobby and I were going to go - they just assumed I would go as a younger person. But as it happens, it was agreed at board level and then got referred to Ron - and Ron said no. Because by then I was getting more confident and established. To me that was the difficult area in the late sixties. But of course, when you've got nine people that can play midfield it is not easy to play in your best position. As it happens Geoff Hurst started to get some back trouble at the time and most of my openings in the first few seasons were as a centre-forward.

KUMB: Is that where you played as a boy?

TB: No, I was always a midfielder - I did play a bit up front but at school you flit around; when I came to the club I was the old wing-half. Back then we had a youth team, first Team, second team, third team - we had about 60 players when we were around, but it's only about 30 now. But you had the youth team and then you broke into the third team ... it was not easy to break into the third team when you've got 60 to start. And then you had the reserves and still the first team so at times it seemed a long haul to be able to get to the first team.

But what happened was, I got into the thirds - I was playing wing half, a normal defensive player. The coach there was Jim Barrett, and Jim said 'why don't you play the holding job'? And once I became the attacking midfielder I got into the reserves and first team in about six months. It was the opening you were looking for - but unfortunately the opening came up front, so instead of playing the attacking midfielder I then played up. And of course when you're playing up you have got your back to goal - in those days when someone was marking you tight from behind they were! And normally they would kick through your heel and get away with it, so it's a totally different game to have your back to the game where you were a forward.

Although later in my career I played a more advanced role - half and half, what you call going behind the front two or whatever - but then you're more experienced, you know where to pick up your space. And so I think the problem for me in the first two or three seasons was that I did not always get to play in my best position - or which I thought was my best position - which was a frustration. If Ron had one slight weakness it was that he did not like confrontation on team selection. We got someone called Peter Eustace - the lads actually used to call him Peter the Groin because he always got groin injuries when there was a difficult game!

Anyway, that's beside the point ... So Peter played in midfield. And it used to be that if we lost a game then two places would change. It used to be between the lad Bobby Howe and myself, Jimmy Lindsay, Harry, Peter and Roger Cross, so there was about five or six of us who seemed to swap the two positions irrespective of how everyone was playing! There was a frustration for some of the youngsters you know, you think I could have had a terrific game and the slightly different game where the side didn't play well and there I was out for the next game. So Ron tended to sort of steer away from leaving out anyone he thought would complain.

But then after a little while you start getting to that stage though where you got frustrated. There was a spell in 70/71 when I was on the [transfer] list and that was about the time I got dropped. Two days after I had been man of the match on the Big Match. That doesn't mean anything, but I knew I'd played well. And then the following game I didn't play that bad but we lost, and I was dropped! There were a couple of clubs; Luton and Millwall - at the time second division clubs came in, and Ron told them I wasn't for sale. So although I was on the list the word came back to me that I wasn't being offered and they weren't accepting any bids. I was playing out of my skin this particular season I was on the transfer list, and then the club had me in and said 'we think you should come off the list' - and I said 'yeah'.

But that is where Ron's weakness was - on not really dealing with the selection issues as clinically as he should, and tending to go more with the experienced players or older players because they would have been more hassle. As a coach he was absolutely fantastic; later on he admitted that some of the things perhaps he could have done better, but as a coach he was terrific. But then 70-71, I played for the under-23's, I was really fully established and never looked back. But again, Martin [Peters] had moved on - Martin had gone to Spurs and Jimmy [Greaves] had come to us.

KUMB: So was that the real opening for you? Martin's move to Spurs?

TB: Yeah. I was then playing in the role to which I was best suited. That was it, from then on it really went well.

... continue to part two