Tuesday, 8 May 2007

My God, What Sort Of Place Have You Brought Me To?

There's nowt much happening around E13 today so it gives me the opportunity to post a curious interview with Sir Trevor Brooking that I stumbled across. I have no idea where it comes from but it makes amusing reading nonetheless.

Hello Trevor, how are you?
Very well, thanks. And you?

Marvellous, as it were. Now, before we get into the fun stuff, perhaps you'd like to tell us about FA Learning...
Basically, we want to improve coaching skills right across the country and so we're running online courses for coaches. A lot of people who run local teams don't want to go on coaching courses either because they don't have the time or because they worry they might be out of their depth. FA Learning gives them the chance to learn about all aspects of coaching - from exercises to psychology - in their own time and at their own pace.

Good stuff. How do you rate the current standard of coaching in England?
We have good coaches, of course, but generally we're still behind places like France and the Netherlands at most levels. One of the goals of FA Learning is to improve our kids' technique. I watch matches all over the country and sometimes I'm just appalled by what I see.

Strong words, Sir Trevor, don't forget that people like to think of you as a fence-sitter ...
[Exasperated] Sometimes it's unbelievable. A kid can run down the line and get himself into a good position for a cross, only to shank it wide every time - and the parents and coaches just shout: "Oh, hard luck Johnny." Well I'm sorry, it's not hard luck: if he keeps doing it, it's because his crossing technique is bad. If someone can show him, for example, where to put his standing foot when he's crossing, then he'll get better. It's simple, but when players feel they're getting better, their confidence increases and maybe they won't leave the game when they leave school.

Any chance of you getting back into management?
No. My family didn't like it when I was doing it so I've decided that's a challenge I'm not going to pursue any further.

Everyone at West Ham raves about Bobby Moore. Was he really that good?
I was a West Ham fan who watched him from the terraces and then played with him after I joined as an apprentice in 1965. He had such an aura. He had supposed weaknesses of heading, pace and tackling, and yet strikers never seemed to get the better of him because of his reading of the game. He was one of the earliest thinking defenders: he liked to pass the ball out rather than hoof it in the air. When I was a schoolboy at West Ham, you used to go down to the training ground on a Sunday morning if you had an injury. Every single time I saw Bobby training there on his own. The physio told me it was because he liked a night out after a game on the Saturday, so he always came in to sweat it out the next morning. He was the only one in the whole squad to do it. That is a great lesson: you have to train hard as well as play hard.

Who was the best manager you ever worked under?
I'd have to say Ron Greenwood. Technically he was excellent and training was always something we looked forward to; he constantly introduced new things and it was never boring. It really is a shame that when he stopped managing England, the FA didn't find another role for him. It's the same with John Lyall, who of course was Ron's No2 for many years and was also an excellent coach. When he left Ipswich a few years ago, he went out of the game forever.

We can think of a few pundits we would like to see out of the game. Who do you think's the best of a bad bunch?
I suppose I'd better say a BBC one! [Hearty laugh] Seriously though, I think Alan Hansen is great. I have to admit I bumped into him a few weeks ago and asked him to go easy on West Ham's defenders this season! That must be one of the things newer promoted teams dread the most, having to watch Hansen analysing their defences to pieces on a Saturday night.

Does Hansen feel inadequate when talking to you? After all, he doesn't have a road named after him?

[Laughs] It was really very nice of Newham Council to do that. And just beside Brooking Road is Bobby Moore Walk.

Do you monitor developments there? It wouldn't do for the street that bears your names to turn into, for example, a red light district?
[Shocked laughter] No, no, nothing like that will happen there. Touch wood!

Have you bought a house there? Sir Trevor Brooking of Brooking Road is a mightily impressive address ...
[Helpfully] No, but if you're looking to settle in London, that might be the place. I was chatting to an estate agent the other day and he was saying that property values in that whole area will skyrocket in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.

What was the nearest you came to leaving West Ham?
When Brian Clough was manager at Derby County, they bid for Bobby Moore and I was part of the deal too. The directors accepted the offer for us, but our manager Ron Greenwood said he would resign if we went and the deal collapsed. When I was with England there were about seven Liverpool players in the squad and they told me on a couple of occasions that Liverpool were keen on me. They wanted to know if I was interested before they made an official approach. But I said no, because West Ham was my team and I was happy in London. My little girl was starting school and I didn't want to uproot the family. When people found out later they thought I had no ambition, but I had other priorities.

Did you sing on England's 1982 World Cup song, This Time (We'll Get it Right)? Who acquitted themselves best in the studio?
There were about three or four players who fancied themselves as the lead singer, but I certainly wasn't one of them. I was more of a backing singer. Little Kevin [Keegan] had already released a solo single, so he wasn't shy of leading the lads. He was joined by Paul Mariner, Peter Shilton, Ray Clemence and, of course, Terry McDermott, the loose cannon of the squad. A few bottles of beer were laid on to help the lads relax, but as I'm teetotal it made no difference to me.

What's the last CD you bought?
The last time I was asked a question like that I happened to mention that I had an iPod - and the next day my staff here at the FA greeted me with total disbelief! I was quite annoyed, they seemed to think that once you're past 50 you're just some doddery old man who knows nothing about technology or pop music! The fact is I'm a bit of a weeniebopper ...

A weeniebopper?
Yes, the last album I bought was probably Dido's 'Life for Rent'. I'll be picking up The Eagles Greatest Hits soon too. I even like to go to concerts from time to time.

Iron Maiden are big West Ham fans; presumably you can be found near the front whenever they're in town?
[Laughs] No, I'm not much of a rocker. Not a rapper either. There was a festival in Kent recently with Van Morrison, Will Young and Ronan Keating and I would have certainly enjoyed that. I said to my wife that we should go but I was only joking because I knew that after what happened that last time we went to see Van, there was no way she'd have agreed.

What happened?
Well, Van attracts a very diverse crowd and we found ourselves parked right behind a group of guys who were smoking stuff that, shall we say, wasn't legal. Then they started passing it around and it was wafting up into our faces. Just as my wife said we should probably move, one of the hippies came over and tried to coax her into dancing with him on the stage! It had been my idea to go to the show and she looked at me as if to say: "My god, what sort of place have you brought me to?"

If somebody were to make a movie of your life, who should play you?
[Chuckles at the very notion] I suppose it would have to be someone quite old for a start! [Racks his brains] Maybe Sean Connery?

Not Roger Moore, a quintessential English gentleman like yourself?
Actually, now that you mention it, I did prefer Moore as James Bond, partially because I remember him as Simon Templar in The Saint, but also because I thought he was more tongue-in-cheek. He took the highs and lows with the sort of blasé humour West Ham fans need!

You appear to have always had the same hairstyle. Have you ever thought of going for something new?
[Large laugh] Have you got any suggestions? I've always been loathe to change it as you worry about how anything new would look. I'm not sure the spikey look which is fashionable at the moment would suit me. Funnily enough, my hairdresser is a punk, Ashley from Barnsley. She has bleached spikey hair and says if I ever doze off in the chair I'm going to wake up looking like her!

When you were around West Ham, did Rio Ferdinand strike you as a person with a bad memory?
I can't remember [huge laugh]! It's a shame how that whole scenario developed for Rio. I'm sure he was only too glad to get back to playing again. At West Ham, I remember a young lad who was always willing to learn. You knew he was going to be a big player. Every now and again you need a lesson in life - this has been a harsh one, but hopefully Rio can really focus and let his football do the talking when he returns.

Do you still scratch your head about how a team with Joe Cole, David James, Paolo di Canio and Jermain Defoe could get relegated from the Premiership?
We were hurt by the first season of the transfer window. In the summer we had three strikers, Frederic Kanoute, Paolo di Canio and Jermain Defoe, and we still considered getting another one. However, we thought they would be fourth in the pecking order and it would be easier to keep just three happy. But within a couple of months Kanoute got a groin injury and was out for four months. Then Paolo did his knee in November and was out for a while. We were without our two main strikers for an overlapping two months and couldn't buy a new one. We then had the farce of playing Ian Pearce as a striker for the whole of December. We had to wait until the transfer window to bring in Les Ferdinand from Spurs. If we'd got him earlier, we would have stayed up. With Les, Jermain and the other two returning from injury we had more of a goal threat and began to win games. We actually finished with 42 points, and no one is likely to go down with as many points as that ever again.

You must have had some uncomfortable requests in your time. What's the strangest thing a fan ever asked you to do?
[Nervous laugh] Probably to sign something that players today wouldn't do for fear of it making it into the papers and getting twisted out of context.

Such as?
All kinds of odd things. Ladies' items and all that.

Finally then Sir Trevor, could you tell us a joke?
A joke! Blimey. How about if I tell you the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me instead?

Why, that's even better. Spill them beans.
Whenever we had throw-ins, I used to walk away from the touchline and pretend I wasn't interested ...

[Slightly disappointed] This story doesn't have anything to do with those ladies items, then?
No! Anyway, this particular time, as I trotted away from the throw-in, the ref had walked right behind me, so unfortunately when I suddenly turned to dash back, my elbow caught him right in the eye and he was knocked unconscious! But Bobby Moore showed why he was such a great captain by running over, grabbing the ref's whistle and blowing up to stop play!

Did he send you off too?
No, I'm one of the few footballers to have knocked out the referee and gotten away with it! Though afterwards, when the ref had recovered, his wife came over to me and joked that she was going to call the police and make sure I get at least 25 years!

Don't do the crime if you can't to the time, Sir Trevor. And speaking of time, we'd best finish up here. Thanks for the chat.
And thank you too.

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