"A gentleman in a rough game, an authentic English sporting hero" is how Trevor Brooking was once described, and to anyone who saw the graceful midfielder play during his illustrious 17-year career, those words are an apt summary of one of West Ham United's finest players.
Brooking, the son of a Police Officer, was born in Barking in 1948, and signed as an apprentice with West Ham in 1965. He made his debut in a 3-3 draw with Burnley in 1967 when the scorers were England and Hammers legends Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. Learning his trade alongside these greats at the Academy of Football, Brooking became known for his intelligent play and skilful feet. Brooking epitomised the Irons' tradition of attractive football played the right way and was famed for his disciplinary record, never being sent off in his entire career.
International recognition arrived relatively late, aged 26 in 1974, but he went on to amass an impressive 47 caps and five goals for England. But it was for West Ham that Brooking's finest moments came. Winner of the FA Cup in 1975, it was in 1980 that he met his date with destiny.
The Hammers had been relegated from the top flight in 1978, and fans and pundits alike predicted that a fairy-tale run in the FA Cup was going to end in disappointment when they lined up against the mighty Arsenal at Wembley in the final. But in the 13th minute a deflected shot arrowed low across the penalty area where Brooking stooped to direct a superb diving header into the net. Incredibly it was only the third headed goal of his career. The Hammers clung on under a fearsome assault from the Gunners in the second half to cause one of the biggest upsets in FA Cup history. Brooking's goal remains an all-time favourite moment for many a Hammers fan.
Four years later Brooking hung up his boots having made 636 appearances and scored 103 goals for the Upton Park club. He remains one of West Ham's favourite sons.