Portsmouth's England goalkeeper David James has leapt to the defence of Sir Trevor Brooking, the Football Association's under-fire director of football development, branding treatment of him as "disgraceful" - following his criticism of the level of funding for youth football schemes.
Brooking's future has become a matter of speculation since FA chairman Lord Triesman revealed restructuring plans that would include appointing a high-profile performance director. And now Football League chairman Sir Brian Mawhinney, also joint-chairman of the FA's Professional Game Board, has joined the debate by claiming "we are running out of patience" with him.
But veteran James, 38, who Pompey side travel to Brooking's former club West Ham this weekend, said: "Sir Trevor is a class act. His knowledge of football is wonderful but even now he's under-used and, questionably, under-valued with his role in the FA."
James added: "Talk about fire-fighting. It's what he seems to be doing at the moment, trying to get his initiatives in place and not getting the support. That's disgraceful."
James gained enormous respect for Brooking when he took over as West Ham's caretaker-manager in the closing weeks of the 2002-3 season as they battled against relegation from the Premier League, after boss Glenn Roeder was taken seriously ill.
Ex-Hammer James recalled: "We didn't make it in the end and the relegation has to be one of the biggest down points in my career.
"But our run-in to the season with Sir Trevor in charge was top drawer. We won eight or nine of the last 11 games with a really capable side that wasn't performing up until that point.
"It wasn't quite enough but the most profound event of that season for me was when Sir Trevor came in for his first training session and showed his ideology on training practice was spot-on. If he had come in maybe a month earlier I think we would have stayed up.
"He did what Harry Redknapp seems to be doing now at Tottenham.
"Sir Trevor is in the record books as West Ham's most successful manager, albeit over only a limited number of games, and he made major decisions which time and again paid off. He was so well organised and made people know exactly what they had to do."
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