Moose Meets... Sir Trevor Brooking

West Ham United legend Sir Trevor Brooking shares his Boleyn Ground and FA Cup memories with Ian 'Moose' Abrahams
Ian ‘Moose’ Abrahams talks to a real-life West Ham United legend – five-time Hammer of the Year Sir Trevor Brooking...
When you’re a kid at school, playing football in the playground or the park, you always pretend to be your favourite player.

I was an eight-year-old growing up in North West London when my uncle Roger, a fierce critic of the game, found residing at most games in the BM6 Lounge, brought me here in 1977.

From the word go I was hooked on the whole matchday experience, the team, and Brooking and Bonds. Sadly I could never tackle like Billy, I just fouled people, so I wanted to be Trevor, elegant, graceful, with feet that could produce magic, who with an effortless air about him made playing football look so easy.

I first met Trevor in 1979 on a dank Saturday afternoon at Charlton, we lost, he was injured and my uncle, with slightly more hair at the time, but no less a sense for encouraging me to stand on my own two feet, said if I wanted Trevor’s autograph I had to go over and ask him. When I did, I realised the special footballer was also a special man. Throughout the 25 years I’ve been a journalist, I’ve got to know Trevor well but it remains very surreal to be on first name terms with one of our two footballing Knight of the Realm.

This week Trevor popped over to Upton Park for a chat about his career. Volumes could and should be written about it, so this will provide a mere snapshot for you. Let’s start at the beginning and it was pure chance a young Trevor joined West Ham.

“I came here as a boy watching in the late ‘50s, the Ted Fenton era,” he started. “We had our promotion season in 1957/58, so it was an exciting time. We all came with our stools and they’d let the little ones go down the front. I went with my brother and my Dad. I was born in Barking and they were good years and I always dreamed at that stage of one day playing for the Club, but of course I wasn’t to know that was going to happen.”
I asked Trevor if that was always his dream.

“I think you always wanted to enjoy playing football and every boy dreams of the idea of being a professional footballer, but the only time I began thinking about it was when one or two scouts started to come and watch when I was 13 or 14,” he revealed.

“I went to an old grammar school, Ilford County High, and I remember going to the careers meeting and the teacher dismissing the idea of professional football within ten or 15 seconds! ‘I don’t think that’s something you should be considering’ he said, so we quickly moved on to other discussions.”

How wrong his teachers were. Trevor told me the scouts came to watch him, but not those from West Ham, well not at first.

“Mum and Dad told me I was decent at school and they wanted me to do my exams, so we came to a family agreement that I would stay on an extra year and sign for a club at 16 and do a two-year and not a three-year apprenticeship. The weird thing was that I was going to join a club in ’65, but it wasn’t going to be West Ham, it was going to be Chelsea or Spurs.”

So, how did West Ham come into the equation?

“Ron Greenwood later told me that the scout who bought players to Club, Wally St. Pier, invited Ron to an Ilford Boys v Oxford Boys quarter-final in the English Schools Trophy,” Trevor recalled.

“I was playing for Ilford Boys and Oxford had a player that West Ham were interested in. That particular game we lost 3-2, though we played well. I thought I did OK, but I didn’t know they were there and the next morning Wally St. Pier came round to our house. I had gone to school by then.

“Mum was pretty bunt and told it how it is. Wally had said to my parents he didn’t want to come round before and disturb me during the English Schools run, but as we’d been knocked out he thought he’d come round. My Mum told Wally that eleven or 12 other clubs had come round and it didn’t stop them coming. She didn’t believe him.

“Later on Ron told me he watched the game and asked Wally why he hadn’t seen the number four from Ilford (me) and Wally came round and we had the discussion. Of course, once the team you support surfaced and I liked Ron, I decided instead of joining Chelsea, who had a good youth structure under Tommy Docherty, I’d join West Ham on a two-year apprenticeship.” 
At first, Trevor was intimidated by joining a team he’d watched from the stands and training alongside the likes of Moore, Hurst and Peters.

“Ron was great someone who didn’t like confrontation and the younger players like myself felt there were two places in the team up for grabs, but if we lost, the younger ones got rested,” he remembers, 50 years on.

“It was frustrating and there was a spell when I went on the transfer list, believe it or not! One or two Second Division (Championship now) clubs came in but were told by the Club they weren’t going to let me go.

“The lucky thing happened in 1970, when Alan Stephenson played centre half and they bought Tommy Taylor from Orient and tried to play Tommy in midfield. It didn’t work, so they pushed Tommy back to centre-half, left out Alan and I got my chance in midfield and had a run in the team where we went unbeaten and that was it, and I never looked back.

“Those little margins are pretty scary, that I’d have been willing to take a move in order to get first-team football...”

Saturday is Brooking and Bonds Day, reuniting two old teammates and friends of half a century.

“Bonzo came along as a right-back, but had great engery and moved into midfield with myself and Graham Paddon,” Trevor recalls. “Bill was fantastic, he had his socks down by his boots, in the ‘70s we all had our long hair and beards.

“Actually, I didn’t have a beard but long sideburns! We all thought we looked great and Bonzo was our buccaneer as well as a great captain.

“I always remember, as a creative player, the opposition used to have a man-mark me and they’d kick me up in the air a couple of times just to see if I fancied joining in for the remaining 75 minutes.

“I used to pick myself up and look across to Bill and he would put in one or two meaty challenges on my man-marker and I suddenly realised then I would a bit more space!

“Bonzo was great for me in midfield and I did learn a lot of things from him. The defence of Phil Parkes in goal, Ray Stewart, Bill, Alvin Martin and Frank Lampard in the early ‘80s was the best I ever played with.”

I could and did speak to Trevor for hours – about that goal at Derby County, remaining loyal after relegation in 1978, his England career and that goal in Hungary, playing under Ron Greenwood and his header in the 1980 FA Cup final.

Actually, since we’re playing Arsenal on Saturday, let’s touch on that header!

“Stuart Pearson dragged his shot across the face of the goal, and if I’d stood still it would’ve clipped me on the ear, but I knew I just had to direct it towards goal,” he recalled. “I did that and fell backwards and I knew the power of it would beat Pat Jennnings and the two defenders on the line – and it did!”