Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Brooking interview

The Brooking interview
I spoke to Trevor Brooking (who was in Chicago with the England national team as they prepared for Saturday's friendly against the United States at Soldier Field) on Friday afternoon, May 27th, 2005.

Following the opening game of their tour the England squad then travels to New York ahead of Tuesday's friendly vs. Colombia in East Rutherford, N.J.
Brooking will be watching the West Ham vs. Preston match live on satellite television on Monday at an undisclosed location in New York City.
The following interview lasted approximately 10 minutes.
James Clark: Mr. Brooking, thank you for allowing me the time for this interview. It's much appreciated.
Brooking: It's not a problem. I'm delighted.
Clark: Sir Trevor, you have such an emotional connection to West Ham United. How will it feel to watch the club play one of the most important games in its history on television from an ocean away?
Brooking: It will be very tough. I do take a little glimmer of hope from the fact that I missed the two play-off legs against Ipswich due to work considerations. For the first leg on the Saturday, I was in Northern Ireland for the FA. For the second leg on the Wednesday, I was in Lisbon for a UEFA committee meeting and to watch the UEFA Cup final. I was relying on the dreaded text message on my mobile phone to keep abreast of our game. You get that little bleep and it's a bit worrying at first, but then I saw that we were 1-nil up. My son actually telephoned me after the second goal. He said he didn't think I would believe a text message saying we were 2-nil up. After that, I was able to relax and enjoy the last 15 minutes of the UEFA Cup final. We have a saying in England that things come in threes. I'm hoping that since I've missed being at the two play-off games in person, the fact that I won't be at the final in Cardiff on Monday will be to our benefit. Maybe I'm the one who messed it up for us last year!
Clark: Trevor, you command a universal respect from Hammers fans. You truly are a club icon, having served as a player, a caretaker manager on two occasions, and a board member. My sons and I attended the home match at Upton Park vs. Reading the season after we were relegated, and the fans sang "Trevor Brooking's done all this!" on many occasions that day. My sons still sing that around the house! Do you find your status with the West Ham fans to be daunting in any way?
Brooking: I've been very lucky. I played 19 years for the club I supported from the terraces as a youngster. It never surprises me how loyal West Ham supporters are. Of course, I've served on the board and was the caretaker manager on both occasions, which was a bit strange. Especially the second time, my family were not keen for me to continue managing on a permanent basis. They were afraid that if something went wrong, I would jeopardise the affinity the fans feel toward me. Everywhere I go, I run into West Ham fans who have kind words for me. Today, there were four of them, wearing their shirts, who came up to me. We were sharing our anxieties regarding Monday's match!
Clark: This might be a tough question for you to answer. Do you feel Alan Pardew has been treated fairly by the supporters and the press over the course of the last two seasons?
Brooking: If you look back on the history of our club, we have a tradition of giving the managerial position to an ex-West Ham player. I think Alan, not being a West Ham man ...
Clark: Like Lou Macari?
Brooking: Exactly. I think that has affected the way Alan has been viewed by the fans. As you know, we also have a style of playing that relies on the technical and creative side of football. We have a bit of a reputation over the last 25 years or so as being able to beat anyone on our day, as well as lose to anyone on the day! We're not always as good as we should be defensively, but that entertaining style is what the supporters are used to seeing. Being relegated as we did at the time that we did, it's difficult to find that bit of quality. In this division, everybody works hard and there's not always that extra dimension in a player.
Clark: Is that why someone like Matty Etherington, when he's playing well, can stand out so much?
Brooking: Yes. On his day, Matty shows the ability of being able to make the jump up to the Premiership. We have two or three other players who are in a similar situation. That's actually the conundrum we face if we do go up. Do you stick with the players who got you there, or do you change the playing squad dramatically? West Brom have had to make that decision twice in the last few seasons. It's a nice problem to have, however. As everyone knows, going up to the Premiership will be worth 25 to 30 million pounds to the club, factoring in television money and two seasons of parachute payments if we do go straight back down. That's what makes Monday's match so vital.
Clark: When you were caretaker manager, especially the second time around, you favoured out-and-out attacking formations, much to the pleasure of the supporters. I remember you playing David Connolly, Jermain Defoe and Neil Mellor in the same lineup. With Teddy Sheringham being fit for Monday, should Alan Pardew find a way to get him, Marlon Harewood and Bobby Zamora on the pitch from the start
Brooking: I don't think Alan will start that way. He most likely will stick with the same 11 that started the second leg against Ipswich, with Etherington on the left, Harewood wide right and Bobby Zamora alone up front, where he seems to be happiest. We'll probably play three across the centre of midfield. Preston are strong defensively and can keep things quite tight. I feel if we go too gung-ho for the goal and happen to concede, Preston are more than capable of shutting up shop to defend a one-nil lead. I don't think Alan will want to give them a man advantage in the centre of midfield for the first half-hour, so he most likely will keep Sheringham on the bench. Looking back to when I was managing the team, Connolly and Defoe were great goalscorers, but they lacked that physical presence you need in the box. That's why I sacrificed a midfielder to get Mellor in the starting 11. The team Alan has at his disposal now is more balanced.
Clark: Trevor, on your travels does it ever surprise you that a West Ham supporter is always relatively easy to find?
Brooking: No, but I suppose I've got used to it by now. I've been as far away as Australia, and you see the same passion and loyalty for the club. I know there will be people in all corners of the world making an effort to watch Monday's game, as well as 35,000 dedicated supporters in Cardiff. We hope to avoid the deflation we felt after last year's final. I mean, you moan and groan about West Ham, but that's the attraction, isn't it? You never quite know what we will produce on a given day. Hopefully Monday, we'll give the supporters a reason to smile.
Clark: Thank you so very much, Trevor. Cheers.
Brooking: Cheers James.
*This interview was originally published on