Sir Trevor Brooking – The Ultimate (almost) one-club Man


When West Ham’s favourite son, Bobby Moore, died in 1993, amidst the understandable grieving for the loss of one of the true giants of the game, was the resounding condemnation of West Ham and the FA for the perceived way Moore was ostracized from the East London club and the sport in general in his twilight years.

Moving to try a posthumously right a two-decade wrong, the FA commissioned a statute of Moore which now stands outside the New Wembley, while West Ham named one of the Boylen Ground’s stands after him. Too little too late, was the cry heard not only in East London but resoundingly throughout the entire football fraternity.

Not taking any chances on history repeating itself, West Ham then gazed inwardly and took steps to ensure their other truly great icon wouldn’t be required to die in advance of a lasting legacy being established at the club.

Hence the unveiling of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand in August 2009.

When the club moved to the Olympic Stadium in the summer of 2016, the gesture was repeated.

Trevor David Brooking was born in Barking, Essex in 1948, the son of a policeman. A studious child, he left school with 11 “O” Levels and 2 “A” Levels as business awaited.

West Ham beat off the challenge from Tottenham and Chelsea, managed by Tommy Docherty at the time, and so Brooking joined the Hammers on an apprenticeship.

Buy this high-quality iconic Trevor Brooking t-shirt from the Football Bloody Hell shop
Buy this high-quality iconic Trevor Brooking t-shirt from the Football Bloody Hell shop

Making his debut in 1967, Brooking went on to play 647 times for West Ham, scoring 102 goals in a seventeen-year career and becoming one of the most widely-recognised players in the modern game.

Never sent off in his career and only booked a handful of times, Brooking was seen as the arch-typical English Gentleman on the pitch, but beneath the grace with which he glided across the pitch there lay a steely determination. Playing at the game’s top level in the centre of the park amongst the sometimes primitive tackling of the 1970s and 1980s, so-called hard men, a grit and a tenacity was essential and for all the silkiness of Brooking’s undoubted skills, he had a cuteness and an inbuilt self-protection radar that meant he rarely fell foul of the bully boys.

However, following his initial breakthrough in the team, Brooking actually struggled to establish himself early in his career. A long-standing injury caused by a chipped bone in his ankle took a long time to clear up and Brooking actually considered retiring from the game in his early ‘twenties.

This injury proved to be an anomaly though, and upon Martin Peters’ transfer to Tottenham Hotspur in 1970 Brooking was able to secure a starting spot in the West Ham side. Things were looking up for Brooking but just a year later he was moved to seriously consider his Upton Park future. During the 1970-71 season, Brooking found himself in and out of the side once more, and so he went on the transfer list at the end of the season at his own request.

In the close season of 1971, manager Ron Greenwood signed central defender, Tommy Taylor, from Orient and immediately handed him the number 10 shirt and played him in the centre of midfield. So miffed by this was Brooking that he seriously considered that not only his time at Upton Park might be up, but maybe also his time in football altogether.

However, West Ham started the season poorly and Brooking was recalled. He was to stay in the team for the next 13 seasons and was never dropped again. So impressive was his form that season that at its end he was voted Hammer of the Year for the first time.

West Ham had a reputation for playing attractive football, and although there is a slight feeling in some quarters that this reputation has been over-hyped across the years, it is true that some of their football was easy on the eye during this period.

However, as pleasing as the football may have been, honours and trophies were not abundant in their forthcoming. In 1972 Brooking and West Ham missed out on a place in the League Cup Final following a marathon four-game semi-final defeat to eventual winners, Stoke City – a tie made famous by Bobby Moore going in goal and saving a Geoff Hurst penalty before being beaten by the rebound.

In 1975 Brooking finally succeeded in walking out at Wembley with West Ham when the Hammers won through to an all-London FA Cup Final clash with Fulham. Despite the presence of Bobby Moore in their ranks, Fulham were overcome by a 2-0 scoreline and so Brooking had his first medal in football.

By this point in his career, Brooking had already been capped by England, making his debut in 1974 in a scoreless draw with Portugal in what turned out to be Sir Alf Ramsey’s last match in charge.

West Ham and Brooking together made it to the final of the 1976 European Cup Winners’ Cup, where they were defeated 4-2 by Belgian side, Anderlecht. However, 1976 saw the start of a slide at West Ham which finally culminated tin relegation in 1978 after two narrow escapes. The spring of 1978 then saw the second time in Brooking’s career when he seriously pondered a move away from Upton Park.

By now firmly part of Ron Greenwood’s plans as England manager, Brooking pondered whether or not playing in the second division would affect his England place. Assured that it would not, Brooking remained a Hammer.

May 1980 saw the pinnacle of Brooking’s career as the still second division Hammers battled through to the FA Cup Final where they met hot favourites and London rivals, Arsenal. Arsenal had had a great season, finishing fourth in the league and reaching the finals of both the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup, and yet ended the season not only empty-handed but also not even qualifying for Europe.

10 May 1980 is a date etched in the consciousness of every West Ham fan as the day Trevor Brooking scored the only goal of the second-ever all-London FA Cup Final. Stooping to deflect a Stuart Pearson shot that was going across the face of the goal, Brooking managed to divert the ball via his forehead to the back of Pat Jennings’ net for the only goal of the game.

Promotion was achieved the following season at a canter, as well as the final of the League Cup being reached. Brooking then played out the final three seasons of his career in the top flight for a much-improved West Ham side that still occasionally flattered to deceive. Such was West Ham at this time that the club would often be amongst the early leaders and still be looking strong into the new year before trailing away in the last third of the season.

In May 1984, Brooking made his last appearance in West Ham colours in a 1-0 home defeat to Everton.

Brooking’s 47th and final England appearance had come two years earlier when he made a late substitute appearance in England’s final game at the 1982 World Cup against the host nation, Spain.

Retiring at the age of 35, Brooking moved seamlessly into media work. Initially working as a summarizer on BBC Radio, Brooking’s knowledgeable and yet relaxed approach seemed to strike a chord with listeners, and so when the BBC branched out with its extended television coverage it seemed natural for Brooking to make the move onto the box.

Said by some to have retired too early, Brooking was the subject of some offers to pick up his boots again. A serious offer from Chelsea in the 1984-85 season failed to persuade him, but he was tempted out of retirement to play two competitive matches for Cork City in Ireland, and one game for Newcastle Blue Star in the Wearside League, thus ruining his record as a ‘one-club man’.

Brooking retained his connections with West Ham after his retirement as a player and was rewarded with a place on the board. Almost twenty years after last pulling on the claret and blue of West Ham, Brooking was twice called upon to step into the breach as caretaker manager for the Irons. The first time came towards the end of the 2002-03 season when, when the incumbent Glenn Roeder fell ill with a brain tumour with three games remaining.

Although Brooking guided the club to two wins and a draw, the seven points gained were insufficient to prevent West Ham being relegated.

Upon Roeder’s successful and complete recovery he was given the opportunity to try and secure promotion at the first attempt. After just three games of the new season, however, Roeder was sacked and Brooking again took over as caretaker. His tenure this time lasted 11 matches during which Brooking tasted defeat just once before being replaced by Alan Pardew.

At the same time as working in the media, Brooking was building up a career in administration, holding a variety of posts. In 2004 he was appointed the FA’s Director of Football Development, and it was in this role that he held a lot of sway in the development of the game at all levels and also in the appointment of successive England managers.

Knighted in 2004 and now aged 70, Brooking’s dulcet tones can still be heard on both television and radio summaries.