Sir Trevor Brooking brought down the curtain on his illustrious West Ham United career on 14 May 1984.
The gifted midfielder pulled on a Claret and Blue shirt for the 643rd and final time as the Hammers hosted Everton at the Boleyn Ground.
However, unlike the season just ended, West Ham failed to rise to the occasion, losing 1-0 to complete a disappointing end to the 1983/84 campaign which had begun with five consecutive First Division wins but end with John Lyall’s side losing four of their last six matches to slip to ninth in the table.
The last game of the season might have ended in defeat, but it was still an occasion to celebrate the career of Brooking, who had scored 102 goals across 17 seasons as a first-team player.
Then 35, the five-time Hammer of the Year had made just one appearance in the 1982/83 season – on the final day against Arsenal – after undergoing successful surgery to rectify a longstanding groin injury.
However, he had returned, pain-free, for the start of the 1983/84 campaign and started 35 of West Ham’s 42 First Division matches, scoring what turned out to be his final goal in a New Year’s Eve win over Tottenham Hotspur, five League Cup ties and three FA Cup matches.
The penultimate game of Brooking’s career came on Saturday 12 May, when Nottingham Forest were the visitors to Upton Park. Despite West Ham taking the lead, Forest fought back to win, but it was still an unforgettable occasion for the Barking-born playmaker.
It was an amazing and emotional experience, but what surprised me more than anything was that it seemed virtually everyone in the stadium had stayed behind to bid their farewells
Sir Trevor Brooking
“There was a surprise for me before the match when the Forest manager Brian Clough made a presentation to me on the pitch – a cut-glass bowl to mark the end of my career,” Brooking wrote in his autobiography My Life in Football. “It was a nice gesture.
“An even bigger surprise followed when my six-year-old son Warren walked out as our match-day mascot. I had no idea he’d been selected for the job.”
A little more than 48 hours later, the Hammers were beaten again by FA Cup finalists Everton, angering manager Lyall, Brooking recalled.
“John Lyall was furious in the dressing room afterwards. He launched into us and accused us of complacency and missing a great opportunity,” he wrote. “He said we should have finished in the top four, instead of which we let it slip in the last weeks of the season. He was probably right.”
Having received a dressing down, Brooking began to get changed out of his kit for the final time, but then there was a knock on the door from Chairman Len Cearns.
“He looked at John, then he looked at me. ‘Sorry John,” he said, ‘but the crowd won’t go home until Trevor goes out and says goodbye’. So I put my gear back on and went onto the pitch amid great cheering.
“I ran around the pitch, waving to the crowd and picking up the scarves they threw at me. It was an amazing and emotional experience, but what surprised me more than anything was that it seemed virtually everyone in the stadium had stayed behind to bid their farewells.
“Quite unforgettable. I was lapping it up while the rest of my teammates were getting a rollicking from the manager!”