Sir Trevor Brooking was given the Lifetime Achievement award by the Willow Foundation at the charity’s inaugural London Football Legends Dinner and Awards last Thursday evening.
Before the ceremony took place, the West Ham legend took the time to speak to Forever West Ham about Bobby Moore, the England national team and, of course, the club he served with distinction and still holds close to his heart.
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What did you make of the tributes to mark the 20th anniversary of Bobby Moore’s death?
It’s still very sad that he lost his life at 51 really. Lots of people talk about and debate when he finished playing or whatever because from a playing point of view he was legendary, whether it be England or West Ham. People say he didn’t go into coaching or he didn’t have the profile after that, and, to be fair to Bob, he was starting to do some broadcasting work with Capital, with Jonathan Pearce at the time and I was working with the Beeb, and he was starting to enjoy that side of work, so probably within the 20 years that he has, you know, been away, his profile and personality would’ve escalated away from the football. And then, of course, as each tournament cycle for England, when we haven’t won anything, the achievement of ’66 grows even stronger.
So I think it’s a shame because I’m sure he would’ve had a really important time, particularly with the FA. Like we’ve got our 150th anniversary, we’ve got a lot of the ’66 lads who are still playing a part in some of those celebrations and Bobby, as a captain, would’ve been a key person I’m sure.
Why do you think England have not had any success since Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy in 1966?
I’m obviously at the FA so we’re trying to rectify that. We’re trying to develop better quality technical young players but we’ve got to do it at a greater depth.
As we’re chatting here, it varies on the percentage, somewhere in the 30s, let’s say 35 per cent. Every weekend when the Premier League is taking place and there’s only 35 [per cent] English players in the starting elevens. Now, in Bobby’s generation it was probably 90 per cent – there were some British ones who couldn’t play for England. And in Spain at the moment – a team that have won the last two or three championships – they’ve got 70-odd per cent every week in the starting line-ups. So whoever is the senior coach – our one currently is Roy Hodgson – but the Spanish coach, [Vincent] Del Bosque, he has twice as many players who are playing regular first team football to choose from, so that will always give you a better depth in the squad. So we’ve got to try and raise that on the youth development side so that the players are in on merit.
Germany are getting closer to Spain because they’ve got a lot of young German players; 18, 19, 20 [years old] playing regular Bundesliga first team football and that’s what we’ve got to do.
Hopefully, with St George’s Park and all that, we can start to improve that. They [Germany] invested a lot of money 10 years ago. Joachim Loew, at a workshop soon after the Euros, he said they were really looking and couldn’t see where their creative attacking players were and so they – the Federation, the Bundesliga, and the government – invested something like €50m in developing a structure to develop more technical creative players, so they think they’re just getting close to being competitive now with those younger teenagers breaking into first team football. To a certain extent, I said to Roy [Hodgson], when I was listening to it, it’s probably where we are now and it’s going to take us five to 10 years to try and get more English youngsters of maybe 19/20 playing more regular first-team football in the Premier League, but it has got to be on merit not just on quotas and all that because European law won’t let you do that.
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What did you think about the West Ham vs Tottenham Hotspur game?
Well, it was a good game. Very exciting. But, like all West Ham fans, I slumped in my chair when Bale got the winner. But it was a good match.
I think the home form has been pretty good this year, we’ve had some good matches and a couple of near misses and just the away form’s been disappointing.
They’re just going through a little spell at the moment. I thought Swansea might turn it round – the previous home game – but the problem is you’ve got cup games as well, where we’re out of, and so it’s quite a lull between matches and it doesn’t help with the momentum, you know?
Kevin Nolan picked up an injury in that game and could be out for a while with a broken toe. He has been criticised by Hammers fans for poor performances recently. Do you think his absence could be a good thing?
I think it’s unfair to suggest that. Kevin has got some important goals this year. He’s obviously quite an important person to Sam [Allardyce]; from the captaincy, the dressing room, and everything else.
I saw the challenge. He was a bit lucky Dembele, wasn’t he, to get away with it as such?
Well the injury’s there now he’ll miss two or three games. But I think you can’t take it out on the individuals. I think Nolan’s been good and he’s got some good goals. He’s obviously dangerous at set pieces.
I think we missed James Collins a lot when he was out injured. Andy [Carroll] is just coming back and he played very well against Swansea. I thought the two wide lads, Joe [Cole] and Matt [Jarvis] as well, which are important to get that right supply, it just seems sometimes they don’t seem to be able to get into those attacking areas in away matches and that’s where they haven’t scored goals really, away from home, which is the secret to get the points.
Has Sam Allardyce done a good job at West Ham?
Yeah, I mean look, Sam was brought in to get us promotion. Did well. Tense play-off. Home form was a struggle funnily enough last year but the away form was great. This year, if you’d have said we’re going to be where we are now, you’d have probably taken it – we had that good start. Always the target was to stay up this year. And then really, I’m sure, having seen the games, Sam will know where he needs to strengthen the squad hopefully once that points tally is achieved.
But, you know, I think you can’t compare to past West Ham characters or teams and all that. We’re in the current world where you’ve got big clubs like Chelsea, and Man U, Man City, so clubs like West Ham have just got to make sure they keep out of that relegation struggle.
Is Sam Allardyce the person to take West Ham forward to get near those clubs you just mentioned?
Yeah, I’m supportive of Sam. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of people suggest ‘Is he?’, but I think you stay with the tried and trusted unless you’ve got some wonderful alternative finance. Sam’s as experienced as anyone. He knows who’s out there and he, hopefully, will have learnt a lot from this season and he’ll know where the side needs strengthening.
Sir Trevor Brooking was speaking at the London Football Legends Dinner and Awards, in aid of national charity, the Willow Foundation. The Willow Foundation, founded by Arsenal legend Bob Wilson and his wife Megs, is the only charity in the UK to provide positive and life-enhancing special days for seriously ill 16 to 40 year olds. For more information visit www.willowfoundation.org.uk
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