Wednesday, October 29

Trevor Brooking: My Life in Football

You don’t buy a Trevor Brooking autobiography for controversy. Brooking is such a decent man he doesn’t really want to offend anyone in the game. There are hints that he found his early career under Ron Greenwood frustrating (“Ron didn’t like to upset his big name players”), although Brooking also emphasises what a fantastic coach he thought Greenwood was.

Very little is mentioned about the boozy antics of the 1960s and 1970s players, with even Jimmy Greaves’ alcoholism described as “personal problems”. Though the normally tee-total Brooking was forced to have a whisky with Scottish centre back John Cushley to wet his baby’s head, and got so carried away he had a sip of champagne to celebrate getting to the 1976 Cup Winners’ Cup Final.

Similarly the chapters on his time as a director at West Ham don’t reveal very much new about the fall out between Billy Bonds and Harry Redknapp or why Redknapp was sacked. Though it's interesting that he is very clear that he had a major say in appointing Roy Hodgson as England boss instead of Redknapp and that he still believes Hodgson was the right choice.

The most interesting chapters are on Trevor’s spells managing West Ham. Here there’s a hint that a much steelier character lurks beneath his affable persona. He clearly finds Paolo Di Canio a bit of a prima donna, but realises his talent might keep West Ham up and so makes the trip to Chigwell to win him over. When Edouard Cisse throws his boots across the changing room after being substituted, “I laughed. I wasn’t too bothered about who I upset. I had nothing to lose. We needed to win and I had to do what I thought was right.”

When Sebastien Schemmel objects to being included in the squad for the final game when he’s already booked a ferry to France, Brooking says, “Non!” You feel Brooking might have made a good manager. As he writes: “I can be forthright and decisive when I need to be and years later as chairman of Sport England I think I surprised some important people by demonstrating that side of my nature on several occasions.”

My Life in Football often just repeats match facts without any deeper analysis, but it certainly brings back some great memories. Brooking’s goal for England in Hungary that lodged in the stanchion, a magnificent performance in Europe against Eintracht Frankfurt, that headed FA Cup Final winner against Arsenal and many a body shuffle and cross.

Brooking has some good points to make about the modern game; too few payers are comfortable receiving the ball sideways on and not enough players are two footed. Trevor’s policeman father made him practice for hours with both feet and that made him twice the player he might have been.

The book also reveals that he watched West Ham as a fan when he was a child and turned down interest from Liverpool to remain with the club after relegation. Such loyalty would be inconceivable today and rightly means that Sir Trevor remains a West Ham legend.

My Life in Football by Trevor Brooking is published by Simon and Schuster, price £20.

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