Friday, 12 June 2009

Building For The Future

As news today is slower than a white man in slippers I thought I would feature a little interview with Trevor Brooking. I stumbled across it yesterday on Wharf.

Interview: West Ham legend Trevor Brooking
By Simon Hayes

West Ham legend Sir Trevor Brooking is urging the club's new owners to build for the future following this week's takeover.

The club changed hands on Monday when chairman Bjorgolfor Gudmundsson relinquished control to CB Holdings, in a deal believed to be worth around £100million.

CB Holdings, a company owned by Icelandic bank Straumur-Burdaras, one of Gudmundsson's major creditors, have pledged to make funds available to manager Gianfranco Zola and Sir Trevor thinks it is essential to build on last season's promising start under the Italian.

He said: "Obviously there's a bit of concern with the takeover by the new banking group but I think they have to understand, yes, they have liabilities but the side also needs to stay in the Premier League for the next few years. That's how they will get their return back.

"Hopefully Gianfranco and Steve Clarke can get on and strengthen the job that they have started very well for nine months this season."

Investment is key, according to Sir Trevor, if the Irons are to kick on and avoid the fate that befell Newcastle, who were relegated after off-the-field turmoil and on-pitch frailty. The Hammers' forward line, in particular, needs bolstering.

He said: "It's frustrating big clubs like Newcastle going down. We've all been there and done it. In December we slipped into the bottom three and everyone was worried.

"But then we had a really good run either side of Christmas, winning at Portsmouth seemed to kick-start it all, and we suddenly found ourselves in the top half, so credit to Gianfranco.

"But we probably need, even if Dean Ashton's fit, a couple of attackers, and certainly a good attacking wide player. Considering the injuries to people like Dean and then having to sell Craig Bellamy, we are a little bit lightweight from an attacking point of view.

"We struggled a little bit scoring goals late on. Everyone can see what's needed and we've just got to try and make sure the people we do bring in are the right ones. But it's easier said than done."

The Academy

One area where the Hammers are more than holding their own is producing good young players. Sir Trevor, 60, is not only pleased as a West Ham fan but also in his role as director of youth development at the FA. He singled out a couple of players who have caught his eye this season.

He said: "James Tomkins, who is away with the under-21s in the European championships in Sweden, has done really well in central defence.

"Junior Stanislas did well late in the season. We've got an eye on him for the under-20s, although we probably won't get him released early next season. He gave the side a bit of width and scored a couple of goals.

"Freddie Sears has obviously been around as a striker for a year or two, while Jordan Spence is another one. He's been with our under-19s this week and will go out to Ukraine next month for the European Championships.

"It's all a testament to the work being done by Tony Carr and his staff at the Academy and it can only be good for the club and for England."

And with three current Hammers, Rob Green, Matty Upson and Carlton Cole, in Fabio Capello's full squad the east London influence is very strong at national level.

"West Ham are obviously important for England," said Sir Trevor. "If you look throughout the team you have Rob Green, Glenn Johnson, Rio Ferdinand. John Terry was at West Ham as a youngster before he went to Chelsea. There's Jermain Defoe, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick, while Frank Lampard is another one.

"Wherever you look they have sampled the West Ham experience so it's great credit to everyone here over the last 20 or 30 years."

The captaincy

Sir Trevor is backing Matthew Upson to be West Ham's new captain if Lucas Neill leaves Upton Park this summer.

The Irons' legend believes Upson, who was on England duty this week, has all the right leadership qualities to take over should current skipper Neill, who last week rejected a new one year deal, quit the club.

He said: "Matty Upson is a great lad. He's got a good attitude, is a reliable defender and more than anything his character is fantastic. You can see his good attitude in the England set up where he trains well and is a really committed lad. He's the sort of lad you want to do well."

And Sir Trevor also thinks Scott Parker, who wore the armband for the Hammers' FA Cup trip to Hartlepool in January, should be in the frame to be skipper.

He said: "Scott Parker has had a good season and has been captain before, so him and Matty Upson are probably the two initial ones who spring to mind."


Zola has brought the style back to West Ham's football and Sir Trevor believes the Italian is a worthy successor to legendary Irons' managers Ron Greenwood and John Lyall.

Sir Trevor, who played under both Greenwood and Lyall, thinks the football played under Zola is exactly what supporters want to see.

He said: "Gianfranco Zola has got the side passing quite well this year, which is good. We've always had that style of football and you've got to give a lot of credit for that to Ron Greenwood and John Lyall.

"For the last 40 years West Ham have been known as a good footballing team and Gianfranco has kept that philosophy.

"They can beat anyone on their day but they can lose to anyone as well, which makes the experience of being a West Ham fan a little bit harder."

Sir Trevor was full of praise for those fans.

"They are demanding at times but they are also very protective if anyone criticises their team," he said. "They've had a pretty traumatic time with all the Tevez and the Icelandic bank stuff, so the support this year, 34,000 turning up for home games, has been great.

"It is unique but you mustn't take it for granted. You've got to give them the football they deserve, but it's a very strong, loyal, passionate support."

Sir Trevor played over 600 games for the Irons and has plenty of fond memories of the Boleyn.

He said: "We had some great occasions. We beat Man United 4-2 in the last game of the season in 1977 to keep us up. That was a fantastic game.

"We played a European semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt, which we won 3-1, which got us to the final in 1976. I scored and that was one of the most memorable games because it was so dramatic. Tommy Taylor kicked the ball off the line in the last minute when 3-2 would have put us out on away goals.

"Then playing with Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, then people like Bonzo and Pop Robson and Alan Devonshire.

"Over 19 years you got some really fantastic memories and I'm very lucky."

Community club

Sir Trevor spoke to The Wharf at the One Ball, One Game, One Community event at the Boleyn Ground on Monday, which brought children from all ethnic backgrounds and faiths together to enhance community cohesion. It was co-organised by Canary Wharf Group.

As someone born and brought up in the East End Sir Trevor is a strong supporter of using football as a way of bringing together the different social and ethnic groups in the area.

He said: "It's been a really great day for the kids. They've all learned a lot and I think they've also had a really fun time."

"I think the main thing is seeing all the girls playing because girls football now is escalating massively.

"What was interesting to see was the different community groups, particularly religious-wise. Moslem girls are starting to play and three or four years ago their families, even if the girls had wanted to play, would not have allowed them to play.

"The important thing now is that the mums and dads understand the youngsters can make a lot of friends and break down a lot of the barriers that were there before.

"And also physical activity is a big agenda with the health problems with obesity and the lack of activity. If football, the national sport, can play its part in that it would be great."

Grassroots football

With huge riches on offer for any player who makes it in the Premier League the pressure is often on players from a very young age. Sir Trevor feels it means the fun factor often disappears in youth football.

He said: "There are a lot of aspirations and dreams for youngsters to get spotted by a Premier League club or even play for the national team.

"But if you want to get to that level the bar is going up all the time. Lots of teams are bringing in lots of youngsters from overseas now because they want that technical quality and we've just got to make sure youngsters understand why just playing a couple of games a week is not going to be enough.

"You've got to really practice, try to work on your skills, you've got to come out of the tv channels, and dvds and gameboy - whatever's keeping them sitting around too much - because the skill factor is something that does need hours and hours of practice.

"If you are going to get a youngster to give that sort of commitment you've got to make it fun and enjoyable. We've tried to make some of that early experience of football a different one now.

"It used to happen in my generation you'd come home from school, go round the corner for two or three hours and then wander home. That was what we would term informal play.

"But mums and dads want to know where the youngsters are these days so most of it's becoming what we term structured, so there's an adult or coach or teacher there.

"What we've got to do is make sure that person understands it mustn't become too intense. It's not about winning too early, you've got to develop the youngsters. They are going to make mistakes, they've got to try things.

"When it was informal nobody was shouting and hollering and putting them under pressure. So the fun factor sometimes comes out of it too early and we've got to try and put that back in so the youngsters want to go out and practice.

"They get a lot of praise for getting a little bit better and suddenly they are turning or twisting, passing with their bad foot. Little things, which to the youngster if they get a bit of praise and a 'well done' means a lot, and that encourages them to go out and practice even more.

"If they get shouted at and criticised for doing something or trying something different then they are reluctant to do it and they start to kick the ball aimlessly up the field, get a 'well done' for that because the parent on the sideline wants them to win something.

"But early on you want them to really try to pass the ball. They will make mistakes but it's putting little seeds of understanding there for the youngster and also the coach or adult who's running the team, who might be trying to get them to do things too early and make sure they retain that fun factor."

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