WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Number 2 - 27 August 2008
The road to Wembley is one that Geoff Pike knows very well from his playing days with West Ham United. On 14 March 1981, the Hammers contested the League Cup final as part of a tremendous season that finished with the then FA Cup holders returning to the top flight of English football. Pike was a key figure in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool in front of 100,000 fans at Wembley and featured again in the 2-1 replay defeat at Villa Park. Despite the eventual outcome, it is a memory he holds dear from a ten-month spell during three occasions - including the Charity Shield.
From that 1980/1981 final, Pike remembers only two significant moments, although they are "massive memories". One is Alan Kennedy's controversial opener for the Reds when the failure by referee Clive Thomas to rule Sammy Lee offside incensed the normally mild-mannered manager John Lyall. The other was the last-gasp equalising penalty by spot-kick king Ray Stewart. He said: "It wasn't a great game although on a personal note I was extremely pleased with my own personal performance and that was backed up with some very complimentary newspaper reports the following day which I have still got copies of today."
Pike is well aware that the national stadium looms large in the consciousness for anyone starting out in the early stages of this country's cup competitions. "Wembley is in the back of your mind from the first rounds. It is such an honour to play there and we did it three times in the space of ten months. There were a lot of players who where much better than myself who had never had the opportunity to do it once. It was quite amazing."
The 51 year old now works for the Football association, which is striving to develop the grassroots of the sport just as much as it is the top level of football through the England team and the rebuilt Wembley Stadium. He has been with the game's guardians - working under Sir Trevor Brooking - for just over a year following a lengthy spell with the Professional Footballers' Association.
"I was at the PFA for nine years and worked with the players and ex-players to get them equipped with their coaching qualifications. My job now with the FA is more around the tutor development. So where before I was working with coaches, I am now working with the tutors that teach the coaches.
"I still do a lot of courses but a lot more with the general public rather than players and ex-players right the way up to the highest level, so I work from level 3, 2 and A licence as a tutor. It is not much different to the PFA work but it is more about developing what happens at grassroots level."
That link with Sir Trevor, the FA director of football development, recalls the midfield partnership that the pair enjoyed during their Hammers heyday. "When we were playing I used to have to run around, do all Trevor's hard work for him and then he took the glory," he added with a smile. "The same thing is happening now where I do al the running around for him and he still gets all the glory. Some things never change!"
Those Wembley occasions were the highlight of a playing career defined by his eleven years serving West Ham United as a tough-tackling, industrious midfielder between 1976 and 1987. Although nothing can replace the thrill of playing, Pike is getting plenty of satisfaction from working with aspiring coaches today acroos London and beyond.
"I have been doing it now for just over a year. I enjoy it and it is very diverse. There are lots of things going on. So we will see what transpires over the next months and years. And you never know, we might produce a player or two.
"Working in the London area there are always West Ham fans around and they are usually very complimentary. They probably weren't when I was playing, the were probably standing on the Chicken Run giving me loads of stick but that's the nature of the game!"