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English football under threat

By James Pearce
BBC sports news correspondent

Last week I spent a day with Sir Trevor Brooking for the new series of BBC1's Inside Sport.

We went to Romford in Essex to watch dozens of young children take part in a Football Association Skills session.

Sir Trevor Brooking
Brooking was a Hammer his entire career, making 636 appearances
The kids, aged 5-11, loved it. But the highlight for them was not the sport. It was the chance to talk to Sir Trevor.

This is West Ham heartland. The name Brooking is synonymous with success here.

Just to see the queue of parents and children, scrap paper in hand, waiting patiently for the chance to grab an autograph, is to realise the regard in which this man is held in these parts.

And it's not just the children who are smiling. There is a broad grin across Sir Trevor's face. This is what he loves. This is what his job is all about. Helping youngsters to get high-quality coaching.

I have known Brooking for the past 10 years. What comes across more than anything else when you speak to him is his passion for sport.

Whether it be as a player, broadcaster, chairman of Sport England or now as the FA's director of football development, nobody could accuse him of not giving his all.


And here lies the problem. When that passion is combined with his natural honesty, he finds it hard to keep his mouth closed.

When Brooking believes that more needs to be done to improve the standard of coaching, he says so.

When he has concerns about the amount of foreigners playing in England, he voices them.

Sir Trevor Brooking
Brooking's love for attractive, entertaining football is evident
When he feels that the Premier League and Football League need to give him more of a say in the running of their academies, he makes his frustrations public.

This is a sure way to win admirers, but also to lose friends, at the top of the game anyway.

English football is awash with money, and with money comes self-interest. Those who are investing such vast sums in clubs have other priorities, and it is hard to blame them for that.

If you are a club chairman then the most important objective has to be winning. If it takes 11 foreigners to do that, then few fans are going to be complaining as the trophy is held aloft.

Brooking has a tough challenge ahead but all those who care about the future of the England national team should wish him well.

British sport needs people with his passion, and the next generation of English footballers needs somebody who is prepared to speak out in defence of its development.

Brooking fears for England future
03 Sep 07 |  Football
England call up defender Lescott
03 Sep 07 |  Internationals
FA combats English lack of skill
29 Jun 07 |  Football
Brooking demands coaching changes
02 Dec 06 |  Football
Burns wants clarity for Brooking
29 Oct 06 |  Football
Brooking insists he will not quit
01 Aug 06 |  Football
Brooking 'outbursts' under attack
31 Jul 06 |  Football
Grassroots issues worry Brooking
16 Mar 05 |  Football
Football's quiet knight
11 Jun 04 |  Football
Brooking to take FA role
27 Nov 03 |  England


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