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Posted by Billy Blagg on 07/01/2010

I will admit I am an admirer of Sir Trevor David Brooking CBE - so much so that I named my only begotten Son after him. Now don't go looking for anyone called Trevor or Sir when you're trying to track me down - what type of idiot do you take me for? - no, my Son has the middle name Brooking and, believe me, you have to really admire someone to do that to the holder of the family gene pool!

As a West Ham fan of a certain age, I spent many a happy afternoon or evening watching the God-like genius glide over grass and mud, spraying accurate passes and splitting defences for fun. Brooking was a sublime footballer who could open up a defence without the opposition often able to do anything about it, at any time right up to his premature retirement, he could walk into any World Cup team then or now. Had he worn a yellow shirt instead of a white or claret and blue one, then he would be feted wherever he went. Were he German he would have run the whole England side by now.

But it wasn't only Brooking's football genius that I admired. For alone among the many morons who clog up our football fields, Brooking was a cerebral, clever and astute man possessing the type of academic qualifications that could have taken him to Oxford or Cambridge had he not decided he preferred to spend his afternoons kicking a ball around in East London.

When most footballers were buying sport cars and opening pubs, Brooking successfully opened and still runs a highly successful print finishing business. In short, Trevor Brooking knows what he is doing.

As a skilled and erudite pundit, Brooking was long admired by the upper echelons of the football fraternity and it was no surprise when the former West Ham man gave up his BBC duties to become a valued member of the Football Association where he is Director of Football Development. In this role though Brooking has been something of a lone voice crying in the wilderness having long fought for the development of Youth football in this country and, sitting amidst the ruins of another World Cup failure, the ex-England international is again calling out for English football to re-think its strategy

"We need to invest in specialised younger-age group coaching. The old days when I played around the corner with my mates, developing my skills base, are not going to happen anymore," said Brooking this week "An 11-year-old youngster in this country isn't good enough technically so we have to play more short-sided games and do more ball work."

It was these same technical deficiencies that the Germans so obviously targeted in Bloemfontein and which no manager - be he Italian or otherwise - is going to overcome without the players to compensate.

"The way the game is going is pretty clear," explains Brooking. "Teams are keeping the ball on the floor more. In the back four, you want all players to be technically comfortable. It all starts at the back and we want to encourage the grass roots this is the way to play."

Want more gloom? "World Cup 2014 will be difficult for England. I don't think there are the obvious quality players coming through who can replicate what we have currently unless we can fast-track one or two of the younger ones, which is asking a lot." says Brooking. Don't worry Sir Trev; I don't think any of us are holding out for success in Brazil 2014 anyway!

While researching - stop laughing at the back there! - Brooking's history in trying to guide the Football Association into nurturing more coaches capable of educating the 5-11 and 11-16 age-groups, teaching them the skills and tactical nous that is second nature to the likes of Xavi and Fernando Torres, Kaka and Lucio. I found some quite staggering assessments made of England's World Cup chances made back in January when Brooking attended the opening of the FA's planned National Football Centre at Burton.

Brooking spoke of the 'shallowness of England's playing resources' [this summer] and opined how much the national side depended on a fit and sharp Wayne Rooney (sic)

"We've not got the depth of talent for a country of 60 million-plus people if you look beyond the Golden Generation of Lampard and Gerrard. Can they do it at the World Cup this summer? We'll wait and see. But after them there isn't the depth. There is a concern."

If there ever criticisms - probably unjustified - of Trevor Brooking then they probably concerned his reputation for sitting on the fence and understatement when he was a TV pundit and it's amusing to see there are possible elements of that still existing when you analyse Brooking's last short sentence there. "There is a concern." For anyone remotely interested in football in this country then I'd suggest that 'concern' is an understatement of mind-boggling proportions.

That aside though much of what Sir Trevor says just sounds so sensible you wonder why everyone isn't saying it.

"We have to get England playing the way Brazil and Spain are playing. They play the ball out from the back with more intricate passing. You can't introduce that at 16. It has to be done before. For the FA not to prepare our youngsters would be stupid.

"We have to start producing top-quality coaches for the younger groups because we are not developing technical youngsters. The long-ball game has to be a thing of the past if we're going to be successful. Look at other countries' back fours. They are all comfortable on the ball."

"We need more defenders who are comfortable stepping into midfield. In the attacking area, we need to develop more players who can drop off into the hole like Peter Beardsley and Teddy Sheringham in the past and Rooney now. We need to encourage players who go one-on-one against defenders, so we create goal-scoring situations in big games."

"We have to" and "we need" come up a lot in Brooking's assessments of England. You can feel his pain and frustration, the young Brooking having played alongside Bobby Moore certainly but also players like Alvin Martin and Billy Bonds, West Ham players schooled in the old way of playing football from defence. Brooking must surely be mindful too of his incredible association with both Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson – surely along with Bonds the best player never to play for England - and the bubble-permed Kevin Keegan, both players on the end of inch-perfect passes from the England and West Ham man that he seemed to be able to make without actually looking up. Brooking understood about space and movement in a way John Terry and Gareth Barry can only dream of.

Staggeringly, the National Football Centre due to open in Burton in 2012 has been mooted since 1972. Every football playing nation in the world has a centre apart from England and it is a matter of scandal that FA funds have long been diverted from this essential requirement.

"This is much needed,'' Fabio Capello said back in January "through my own experiences in Italy, I understand the importance of the centre for England.''

Howard Wilkinson, the former technical director mainly responsible for the project, always envisaged Burton being "the Oxbridge of football education''. But the Premier League isn't quite so enthusiastic as it fears that schoolboy talent will be monopolised, it seeming not to care that youth talent in the UK as a whole is allowed to waste away while expensive imports fight it out for the right to finish 12th in the Premier League rather than 14th and so gain a few thousand pound to invest in yet another import next year.

Just this morning I was reading that West Ham United are rumoured to be investing £16m in a new Pelé. I was initially encouraged until I saw that he wasn't found on the playing fields of Hackney or Wanstead Flats but rather imported from Brazil. A thoroughly depressing story from the same club that nurtured and encouraged a young Trevor Brooking - nicknamed 'Cyril Lord' when he first broke in the first team as he was 'always on the carpet' (ask yer Granddad!) - A man destined due to hard work, natural skill and excellent coaching to turn into one of the World games finest ever talents.

Everyone in football, from kids kicking around on the park to the leading man in the FA offices via Wayne Rooney and Keiron Gibbs and Theo Walcott, would do well to listen to Sir Trevor Brooking because time is running out; indeed it may already be too late. I found another Brooking related article on the web this week. "Five years to save football in this country" screamed the headline. It was written in 2007...

Comments

Posted by Andrew H on 07/02/2010

I remember Brooking's cameo at Spain82.

Although living in Australia I still support England and Man U. What strikes me about both teams is that when they take a game to the opposition they are both at their best.

I watch United a lot (late night paytv). On the odd day it seems that we think that keeping possession is enough and that by not losing it something will surely happen (example being the dismal loss to Barca in the CL 2009). Likewise it seemed when watching Eng in SA that the desire not to lose the ball stifled us from trying to take the initiative and win. And when we did finally commit to attack we so out of character that we were inept in providing basic defensive cover.

These are not the traditional values of the English game and I think the quotes "We need more defenders who are comfortable stepping into midfield.....we need to encourage players who go one-on-one against defenders, so we create goal-scoring situations in big games" is spot-on.

Take note FA.

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