Sitting back in an armchair, his hands crossed and resting on his stomach, Sir Trevor Brooking might justifiably be considered a fairly relaxed individual. Ask him a few questions, however, and his passion for the game, and particularly English football shines through. And why not? As a talented midfielder, he made 47 appearances for the Three Lions, scoring five goals in the process. His entire career was also spent at just one club, his beloved West Ham United, where he spent 19 years.
Now the FA's Director for Development, it is the 57-year-old's remit to lead a programme of skills development which makes English clubs look locally first when searching for talented and technically accomplished players. Brooking was an interested spectator at several England matches during the FIFA U-17 World Cup, as products of the nation's academy system were on display against the world's top teams. His verdict proved interesting and enlightening.
FIFA.com: Sir Trevor, how do you assess the importance of
competitions such as the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the development of
Sir Trevor Brooking: It's vital. The experience of playing in different climatic conditions, against new opposition and getting to grips with travelling and other cultures is great for boys at this age. For the coaches too, it's interesting to see who reacts well to being away from home, who the characters in the squad are, who is a team player, etc, etc. In many ways, the backroom staff learn just as much as the players themselves. That can only be a good thing.
What do you think the players have learned in Korea?
When you're up against different styles and teams who play at different tempos, especially in the humidity of countries such as this, you learn that keeping the ball is crucial. They've also gained a lot of experience, coping with triumph and disaster. This has been a great opportunity for the lads to do something they don't do regularly and that's why it's so important for their development. We're all hoping that a few will come through to the senior side eventually.
Which of the England U-17 squad do you feel has a chance?
I wouldn't rule any of them out if keep working hard and keep making progress. I like Victor Moses, he's a typical No10. Sometimes he's not the most consistent player, but he is skilful. The centre halves: Jordan Spence and Krystian Pearce aren't bad too. Then we have Michael Woods who has played for Chelsea and Henri Lansbury who is at Arsenal - they both have a lot of potential. Another midfielder, Danny Rose, who missed the tournament due to a stress fracture of the shin, is someone who I consider to be a fine talent. He played very well in the European Championships and has just joined Spurs. He is definitely one to watch.
What can you tell them about playing for England and
playing in a FIFA World Cup™?
Playing for England was something that I had always dreamed about. I made my debut against Portugal in Lisbon in April 1974 and a month later, I stepped out at Wembley for a game against Argentina. That was amazing - and even though the stadium has changed now, I hope some of the lads involved in this tournament experience it too. I felt so much pride, not only because of the reactions of my family and friends, but because I was representing my country. The World Cup in Spain was a little bit bittersweet for me. Kevin Keegan and I were injured when we went out there, so we only played in the last game. England didn't lose in that tournament, but we still went home after the second group stage. That was obviously very disappointing.
Turning to your current role, what challenges are you
facing regarding of the development of young players in England?
Well, we're going to have to change the way we nurture English talent, because they are not coming through in the numbers that they should be. Obviously the Premier League is very successful, but the big clubs are looking to sign the best 15-year-olds from all over Europe and Africa and that is filling up our academies. This obviously hinders the development of English players. In a few years time, we might be struggling to qualify for a tournament such as this, so that's a major concern at present.
But with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Aaron Lennon and Micah
Richards all doing well for England, doesn't the future look
It could also be an indication that we haven't got the strength in depth as we once had. If you look at our squad for Germany 2006, it was one of the youngest in the tournament, whereas Italy's was around 27 or 28, with players possessing more international experience. Although the players mentioned have deserved to play for England, they've definitely been fast-tracked, which is something that never used to happen. That is a little bit concerning from a development point of view.
And finally, what have you made of the tournament so far?
Well, the form book has really gone out of the window, hasn't it! We've seen Tunisia topping a group, winning all of their three games, Tajikistan have beaten the USA, Ghana shocked Brazil - it's a very open competition and I wouldn't like to predict who is going to win it. The weather has played a bit of a part, but it's a tournament where the Asian and African teams have played strongly. They seem to possess a lot of talent, which I am sure will provide a strong challenge to the European teams in the coming years.