FA Cup final hero: Sir Trevor Brooking

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 stadium ourselves.
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.