'It was looking like Chelsea or Spurs!'

West Ham United legend Sir Trevor Brooking has revealed that he came close to joining Chelsea or Tottenham Hotspur as a schoolboy.

The Club's second Lifetime Achievement Award recipient was 15 when he turned out for Ilford Boys in an English Schools Trophy tie with Oxford in front of the watching West Ham manager Ron Greenwood. Until then, the young midfielder had not been approached by the Club he supported as a boy, with an apprenticeship with one of the Hammers' two London rivals looking far more likely.

As it was, a standout performance in a 3-2 defeat caught the eye of Greenwood, who immediately dispensed chief scout Wally St Pier to visit the Brookings and convince the teenager and his family that he should join West Ham.

The rest, as Brooking revealed during an interview at the recent Player Awards in Aid of the Academy, is history.

"I was born in Barking and was a fan," he told guests. "I went along with my Dad and I can remember the 1957/58 promotion season with John Dick and Vic Keeble. That was exciting.

"I was really lucky because 1964 was when I was making the decision to join the Club and it was really bizarre because West Ham didn't come around. It was looking like it was between Chelsea and Spurs!

"I was at grammar school, so I was going to stay on for another year, but Ron Greenwood then came to watch two boys who were playing for Ilford Boys one evening and we went out 3-2 to Oxford in the English Schools Trophy, which was a big competition.

"I had a decent game and Ron told me later that he had told Wally St Pier, the chief scout, to go and see my family the next day. Ron was the one who spotted me and, to be fair, I then joined at an unbelievable time for the Club - in 1964 we won the FA Cup, in 1965 we won the Cup Winners' Cup and in 1966 we won the World Cup!

"It was great for me to learn from players like that. I always remember making my debut up at Burnley [in August 1967], who were a really strong side at that time, and the goalscorers were our three World Cup winners, which was special.

"During that period, the people who came through the youth structure benefitted from the strength of the Academy and that's why they had such quality."

Sir Trevor Brooking

Having safely signed and made his debut for West Ham, Sir Trevor went on to make 647 appearances for the Club - third in the all-time list behind Frank Lampard Sr and another contemporary, Billy Bonds MBE.

When asked about his relationship with his long-time central midfield partner, the 65-year-old said he was grateful for the protection afforded to him by Bonds.

"He was my best mate at the Club and he is a top, top man," Sir Trevor confirmed. "He played nearly 800 games and played at the age of 41 or 42, which was amazing.

"Bonzo was my protector because tackling was not my strongest part, so luckily after we signed him as a full-back we moved him into midfield and, if anyone kicked me up in the air in the first ten minutes, I used to look across at Bonzo as if to say 'Look what he is doing to me' and he would sort my marker out in the next few minutes! I suddenly had a lot more space for the next 80 minutes, so I owe Bonzo a lot.

"We're still good mates and he is a great man."

Brooking and Bonds

Bonds lifted the FA Cup twice during his own long and illustrious career at the Boleyn Ground - first in 1975 and then in 1980 after Sir Trevor's header defeated Arsenal 1-0 at Wembley.

Unsurprisingly, that moment is one that sticks out further than any other when the former England international is asked about his West Ham career.

"Everyone remembers the FA Cup goal because it was such an important moment," he explained. "It's scary to think it was 34 years ago!

"Not a week has gone by in the last 34 years when somebody hasn't reminded me about the goal. Every time I get into a cab, the driver seems to be an Arsenal fan and within a minute of me getting in, they say 'It just hit you on the head didn't it?'

"It's been a massive part of my life. I was really, really lucky because we had just two managers in my 19 years and Ron Greenwood and John Lyall were absolutely fantastic. They let us go out and express ourselves and entertain the fans and I had 19 years at the Club and enjoyed every year of it. I was playing for my team and was allowed to express myself, so we were very lucky. Ron and John were top quality coaches."