Sir Trevor's Wembley memories

Moose on the Loose - Ian 'Moose' Abrahams talks to West Ham United legend Sir Trevor Brooking

When I was a kid my favourite West Ham player was Trevor Brooking. I wanted to be Trevor Brooking. I remember when, aged nine, I was at Charlton when we lost 1-0. Trevor didn't play that day but afterwards my uncle Roger and I were in the players' lounge, and Trevor was standing behind us.

You won't believe it but I needed encouragement to go over and ask Trevor for his autograph. In the last 20 years I've met Trevor many times, so I'm not so star-struck anymore, but I always cherish conversations we have had.

This week I went to FA HQ at Wembley and enjoyed an hour in the company of the last man to score a winning goal at Wembley for West Ham; a man who was the perfect gentleman on the pitch and remains one off it; a man who simply is Mr West Ham United.

COFFEE WITH MY CUP FINAL HERO

Over a coffee in Trevor's office, I began with 1980 and that goal against Arsenal and asked if it was the best moment of his illustrious footballing career.

"Oh yes. At the time, I scored in the 13th minute and although we were excited, I didn't think it was going to be the only goal of the game. Later, I spoke to Paul Allen and said to him 'It's lucky you didn't score and Willie Young bought you down, otherwise I wouldn't have been the hero'!"

Trevor laughed but went on: "He was only 17 and probably didn't appreciate the joke. We went into the game really confident. Arsenal were a great side and everyone thought whoever won their semi-final saga with Liverpool, which went to four games, would just turn up and beat us.

"But because late on in the season we'd become used to winning, you get that momentum and I can honestly say we fancied our chances. John Lyall changed things tactically on the day as they were quite good in midfield with the likes of Liam Brady and Graham Rix, so he dropped Stuart Pearson back into a midfield role and sacrificed David Cross up front on his own.

"I remember we kept the ball, passed it, and apart from the goal we had other chances. I never felt at any stage that we were going to lose the match. We had a terrific back four, little Pikey [Geoff Pike] was our anchor man and because of Brady and Rix, Paul Allen was bought in to help with my legs.

"He started on the right and never left Brady's side, and of course we had Dev [Alan Devonshire] on the left who was a fantastic outlet for us. Stuart Pearson dropped in deep and of course David Cross was upfront occupying their back four."

Few would argue with the statement that Trevor is one of the most elegant footballers this country has ever produced and yet the goal the won the FA Cup that sunny, warm May afternoon was as un-Brooking like as you could imagine, or was it?

"We got the ball in midfield and spread it out to Dev, and we knew that one-on-one with the defender, he'd get past the full-back and to the by-line and cross it in. Of course his cross was tipped by Pat Jennings to the far post and David Cross had a shot that hit Willie Young and rebounded to Stuart Pearson just inside the area.

"All this took place within a few seconds and I just wandered into a spot inside the area midway between the six-yard line and the penalty spot admiring the fracas when the element of luck happened because Stuart didn't pass to me - he had a shot of goal.

"As we all know most strikers don't hit the target and Stuart's wasn't on target either! He'd dragged it across goal and suddenly it starting heading towards me. I knew that if I'd stood still it would've clipped me on the right ear, so knowing the goal six yards to my left, I instinctively fell back and guided the ball towards the goal and Pat couldn't get it.

"I was left unmarked even though there were a lot of people around because they never thought I'd score with a header."

A RARE HEADER?

I'd seen Trevor score some very special goals - the one at Upton Park in the mud against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Cup Winners' Cup semi-final second leg in April 1976 when he ran onto the ball, came inside the defender and curled it into the net, and the Big Match's Goal of the Season at Derby in November 1975, when he allowed the ball to run across his body and curled it in from the edge of the box. Trevor's Wembley winner wasn't a patch on those stunning goals, but as he explains it was his most memorable goal.

"Of course it's the most memorable thing I've ever done, although of course not from a technical point of view. But over the last 32 years, genuinely not a week has gone by when someone hasn't reminded me of that goal or wanted to talk to me about that goal. Every time I get into a taxi, the cabbie seems to be an Arsenal fan and within a minute says to me 'I can't believe you got that header' and starts a debate with me about how many headers I got in my career - it's great banter!

"So technically it may not have been the best goal, but it was a life-changing goal because it's become a topic that gives hundreds of people something they can talk to me about, people that I've never met. That goal gives something which can trigger a discussion, be it when I'm at a function or in a cab. It's a conversation starter which is great.

"It was a precious moment and to get an FA Cup medal, added to the one I got in 1975, it's only when you've packed up and look back you appreciate it. That's why I always find it mystifying when managers play weakened teams in cup competitions because they want to stay in the top-flight. Ten years after you've packed up, nobody remembers that you stayed in the top division for six seasons, but they will remember a Wembley goal and sometimes players are deprived that precious moment that I had that day."

Sir Trevor Brooking

A HOME FROM HOME

I put it to Trevor that Wembley was almost his second home as a player. He played two FA Cup finals, a League Cup final, two Charity Shields and numerous England Internationals there. Wembley continues to be Trevor's home now with the FA based there, but the modern day stadium is very different to the one he knew as a player, and he quickly told me about the element of Wembley he loved which now no longer exists - that long walk from the dressing rooms to the halfway line where the players line up before the game.

"The walk was special. In fact two things were special - the first was the wait in the tunnel because the old tunnel was uphill and you were told to wait there. You could hear the noise and then when you were told to go, the eruption of the crowd as you came out was tingling, it was such a unique feeling.

"The second was the walk across which was quite long, but it was good for a player because it gave you time to settle, to look around and to really soak up the atmosphere. By the time you lined up to be presented you were really raring to go. It was a stage like no other.

"You stood there and realised that you'd worked your whole career to be here - all the training and practicing was to get you to this stage where you wanted to deliver and perform because you do have your defining moments.

"Having said that I saw the decline of the old stadium when I was a broadcaster and the new Wembley is starting to create its own atmosphere. There isn't that long a walk so the modern players wouldn't understand that, but it's a long walk to go up and get your medal!

"I'm not sure I would've made it in my day with my fitness levels. It is such a long walk up to the Royal Box now you've got to make it worthwhile and make sure you're going up to get a winner's medal and the cup!"

THE KNOCKOUT BLOW!

As we saw recently with Chelsea and their UEFA Champions League semi-final, discipline today is everything. It would be awful to get to Wembley but have some or any of our key players missing through suspension.

Now, Trevor had a disciplinary record that really was second-to-none, but as he told me there was an occasion where he knocked out a referee on the pitch and wasn't even booked.

"I suppose with my disciplinary record this is something of an ironic story. I was only booked three or four times in my career at West Ham, I was never booked during my England days, and I was never sent off, but I did once knock out the referee.

"It was 26 August 1968, quite early in my West Ham career, and we were playing Burnley at Upton Park. We eventually won the game 5-0, and although I scored twice, it was another incident in that game that I will be remembered for. It was during the game I left the referee Mr Edward David Wallace unconscious in what was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me.

"The ball had gone out of play near the halfway line and as we were preparing to take the throw I was thinking in my mind that I had to get myself into space. I walked away from the area trying to make out that I wasn't interested in getting the ball as I tried to shake off my marker.

"I turned back into the space that I had created and as I span back, unfortunately the referee was just trying to get out that particular area and as I turned, I caught him on the temple with my elbow and he collapsed and fell.

"We all froze for a second or two and, showing why he was such a great man and skipper, our captain Bobby Moore came up to the stricken referee and blew the whistle to stop play. The linesman came on and then unfortunately even with the smelling salts they couldn't bring the ref round. Eventually when he did get up he was too dazed to continue.

"So the linesman replaced him and in those days they had to put the call out over the PA system for somebody who was a qualified referee to come down and run the line, which duly happened.

"Obviously that was an accident but it does enable me to say that I am one of the few footballers to have knocked out the referee and gotten away with it - although afterwards, when the ref had recovered, his wife came over to me and joked that she was going to call the police and make sure I got at least 25 years!"

As a footnote to Sir Trevor's story, on 12 March 1977 the West Ham legend was involved in an exact same incident. In the 1-0 win over Manchester City at Upton Park, he accidently knocked out the referee Eric Read with his elbow in the second half!

Here's hoping with respect to my all-time hero this is the last interview he does as the last West Ham player to score a winning goal for the Hammers at Wembley - a sentiment he echoes.

"I hope we get to the final at Wembley. It will be a big occasion and somebody will be lucky enough to look back on that game, as I do 32 on, as it being one of the defining moments of their football career."

*This article originally appeared in the Souvenir Programme for the npower Championship semi-final second leg with Cardiff City on Monday 7 May. To order your copy now, click here.