The Lee Clayton Column

He was a great player and is a smashing fella, but who would have thought it... Trevor Brooking, the most important man in English football?

Okay, he scaled those heights when he scored twice in the Nep Stadium (including the one that famously stuck in the corner between post and bar) but that was for one match only. Now he has the job for keeps.

Brooking, who has graced this club on the pitch, off the pitch, in the dug-out and up in the directors box, is to leave his post as non executive director to join the FA as the Director of Football Development, with responsibility for every aspect of coaching in the English game.

Okay, that might sound like a job for a man with a clipboard  but we all know that Brooking is better than that.

The Football Association have taken a real battering, recently. Whether it be missed drugs tests, player revolts or their lack of action on the general indiscipline of footballers, they have taken a real kicking.Yet this is an act of genius. Okay, it's a massive loss to West Ham. After the exit of so many players in the summer as an inevitable result of relegation, losing Brooking is another kick in the teeth.
But how could the club keep him and how could he resist the call of the FA?

Rumours of Sven Goran Eriksson's departure after Euro 2004 (to Stamford Bridge.. or any other job in club football) persist and for those who want an English manager to manage the England team, the cupboard was bare.

Beyond Alan Curbishley and Steve Bruce, Steve McClaren was high on the FA wish list (and the jury is still out on the job he is doing at Middlesbrough) and Sir Bobby Robson remains a popular figure.
And other than the ageing Robson, none of the others played international football, which leaves their credentials a little shy. Plus the fact that each is under contract with his club and the FA are short of a few bob.

Now, by appointing 'the world's best caretaker manager' to their staff, they have a ready-made, if short-term stand-in, should the Swede go chasing a return to club management. Perfect. Ask David James about Brooking and the respect he instantly commanded when he took charge of a West Ham team hurtling towards relegation without so much of a kick out in anger.

The players were amazed by his attention to detail, his knowledge of the opposition, his advice at countering their strengths and the way in which he put his information across. Brooking wasn't just good at the job, he was a revelation.

Not only did he almost salvage the impossible, he restored pride to the club and didn;t do a bad job during his second stint, this season.I have been lucky enough (and it was an absolute privilege) to share a pitch on a dozen or so occasions with Trev, playing for the England press team.
What he had as a player for West Ham and England, he still had as he crept towards 50. Great balance, vision and an ability to do the simple things simply, but with style.

That is the same approach he adopted to his caretaker stints. Nothing flash or fancy, just good at his job. The players knew he could play a bit and, unlike Glenn Hoddle who often embarrassed his young stars by grabbing the ball and informing them "that's not how you do it, this is how it's done" before sending a free kick screaming into the top corner, Brooking applied the gentle touch.

He encouraged them and, when he addressed them, they listened and learned.Unlike so many of his colleagues, the man from the commentary box actually proved he could practice what he preached. John Motson's sidekick could actually walk the walk as well as talk the talk. It commanded the awe and respect of young players such as Joe Cole and Glenn Johnson and it would have the same effect on the Beckhams and the Owens.

Now, why would he want the England job when he didn't want to be West Ham manager?
The answer is, he doesn't.But now the FA have a man there, in place, should they need him. Just in case. In an emergency. And all that. I can't see him saying no to his country, if they asked, can you?
Trevor Brooking, England coach. Not yet...but don't rule it out in the future.

Good luck old friend. And remember everything I taught you in those press games.