Sir Trevor Brooking, our match-winning hero the last time
West Ham United reached the FA Cup final, against Arsenal in 1980,
and now the FA's Director of Technical Development, talks
exclusively to whufc.com about his appearance in two finals for the
club and his thoughts as he looks forward to this year's clash
against Liverpool at the Millennium Stadium...
First of all, Sir Trevor, how difficult has it been to keep a
neutral stance this week in your role as an 'impartial'
employee of the Football Association?
Well, my allegiance it's hardly a secret, so I haven't had
too many problems! I said at Villa Park for the semi-final that I
wouldn't jump up and down if we scored against Middlesbrough,
and I managed to keep it down to enthusiastic applause when Marlon
hit the winner, so I'll try to do the same for the final.
There are quite a few Liverpool fans here at the FA, including
Brian Barwick, so I'm actually outnumbered, and they let me
know about it! I've tried to play it very low key, saying that
we are just pleased to be part of occasion, but they're not
falling for it. It's all good fun, though, and the banter is
what football is all about. I'm sure some people would like to
see me on the Match of the Day sofa debating with Alan Hansen and
Mark Lawrenson on Saturday night, but I'll have to get a
recording to find out how impartial they have actually been!
What are you looking forward to most from the day?
First and foremost, I'm looking forward to what will be a
wonderful occasion, for both West Ham and Liverpool. Our fans are
so excited to be in the final for the first time in 26 years and,
from what I hear, we could have sold enough tickets to fill the
The noise is going to be phenomenal - to hear Bubbles and
You'll Never Walk Alone being sung at the top of their voices
will be a fantastic experience, and I'm sure it will bring back
memories of that afternoon at Villa Park for the 1991 semi-final,
when our supporters sang for the entire duration of the second half
after Tony Gale had been sent off. Our fans will make a lot of
noise, and all I want is for them to have a good day out, to
celebrate what has been a fantastic season.
We must also mention the fans who haven't been lucky enough to
obtain a ticket, because there are so many supporters, of all ages,
who will be a part of this wonderful occasion. I've got a
classic example with my grandson, Henry James, who is 14 months old
now. He has transformed West Ham's fortunes! When he was born,
we were outside of the play-offs and seriously worried about how
the season was going to end, but then our revival started and
I've told Pards that he should be our lucky mascot"
There was a danger he could become a Manchester United fan - his
dad Ryan is a big United fan - but we got him a little Hammers kit
and, after the way things have gone since he arrived, there
isn't any doubt at all! He's been to a couple of games and,
in all honesty, he didn't have a chance, the poor lad!
Do you see similarities between this year's final and
our last FA Cup success back in 1980?
Well, Liverpool are the favourites, and we are the underdogs, which
is how it was back in 1980 and, in a one-off game such as the FA
Cup final, there is always the feeling that anything can happen.
To be fair, the West Ham team at moment is capable of beating
anyone. It was the same with us back in 1980, although we were also
capable of losing to anyone and I don't think that applies as
much with the current side!
They can go there feeling really confident. Individually, you want
to play well yourself, and if enough individuals perform to their
potential, you've got a real chance. They are certainly capable
of winning, but really the mindset is that we want to come away
from there feeling that we've done everything we can to win the
game, and rounded off the season in a nice way.
Your connections with the FA Cup are generally dominated by the
1980 final, but do you have just as happy memories of your first
triumph in the competition back in 1975?
I think it's fair to say that the memories of the 1980 final
are greater and clearer, not only because of my own individual
experience, but also for the fact that we were underdogs, and it
was my second final.
In '75 we were the favourites, most neutrals were behind Fulham
who were underdogs and had Bobby Moore in their side. Of course,
the game and the victory was memorable, but when you're younger
it does go by in a flash.
The second time around, I was just past the 30 age mark and, being
that much older and more experience, I felt I was able to take it
all in more and savour the occasion. To get two cracks at the FA
Cup final was a massive achievement in my career, and of course
1980 was so sweet because of the fact that we weren't expected
to beat Arsenal.
And do you think you'll ever get fed-up of being
reminded about that headed goal?!
No, of course not! I was very lucky, because something like that
gives you something to be remembered for forever. Whoever I meet -
and this is the great thing about football - they ask me about the
cup final goal. The most unlikely people you could think of - old
ladies, youngsters, foreigners who don't speak any English -
they all ask about the header against Arsenal
It's the talking point that breaks any initial embarrassment or
awkwardness when first striking up a conversation. There are no
barriers - you can meet anyone from any walk or life - and talk
about football. And the FA Cup final has always captured the
essence of that.