Brian Clough – Part One

There could be no better way to launch a summer of football management articles than this marvellous film of Brian Clough.


Clough’s complete happiness in that moment comes across, but also his intelligence. There was an intellectual force to Clough that is vanishingly rare in his profession, which shows well here:

11 Replies to “Brian Clough – Part One”

  1. Just a question James about Clough- I look back on the whole period as someone that wasn’t born when they won the cup in 1980. But one thing intrigues me about Clough- the early career looks meteoric- Derby to the Championship, the illfated stay at Leeds, and then Forest to the European Cup twice. Then the later career post 80 Forest were a good side which won League Cups and got to the FA Cup Final but what happened in the eighties? Was it Peter Taylor leaving? Was it that other clubs could beat them financially? Or am I just completely mistaken about what I’m writing about.

  2. I’m going to be covering all of this in excruciating detail over the summer, but I agree with the majority of what you say here. A relatively swift rise, culminating in Derby County’s European Cup semi-final (I still find it odd to type that, despite my familiarity with it), then a brief and unsuccessful period at Brighton and Leeds (the latter place, significantly without Taylor)before five more successful years at Forest. After ’82, and, yes, Taylor’s departure, it’s never quite the same again. I’d also note that ’82 was the year in which Clough discovered definitively that he would never be England manager, and I’d also note the change in distributing gate money in the Football League, a change that favoured bigger clubs against the likes of Forest, who were never able to attract the crowds of the Liverpool, Manchester or London teams. The buying power of ’77, ’78 and ’79 that brought them Francis and Shilton would never come again for Forest.

    It’s also the common opinion that Forest rebuilt too soon, too fast and with inferior players, in and around ’82, that Taylor’s part in that helped precipitate his split with Clough, and that Forest never totally recovered. Thereafter they’d always be a player or two short of a true championship-winning side, but nevertheless remained an excellent footballing team able to acquit itself well in cups and in Europe.

    It has to be said for Clough that his life and career offer an unusual amount of material for the counter-historian. His early career came at a time when English managers – largely for sentimental reasons – were still desirable abroad, and he might, had he decided otherwise, continued that tradition into the ’70s. And there’s a theme in his life of constant dissatisfaction and grass-is-greener thinking that belies his apparent “loyalty” to Derby and to Forest, a loyalty that cements only when the alternatives finally die away.

    Definitely a man to look on with wild surmise, which is my cue to say that I’ll be talking about Chapman quite a lot as well.

  3. Interesting- could I add something that I just thought about this morning- I don’t know if the League Cup got you into Europe- if it did though of course Forest were denied by the ban because they won it twice in 89 and 90 and could have used that money to turn around the advantage in cash for Liverpool and the rest.

    Fascinating answer though: Clough was obviously amongst the greats but it does make one think about how he was part of his era as well. Also about the way that managerial reputations work that its not just whether you can manage (Clough obviously could) but also about your reputation for working with people- I suspect that Clough would have had difficulties moving in the English game because of the episode at Leeds as to moving abroad- I don’t know but I suspect his xenophobia might have been to blame there- this brief Youtube thing is pretty interesting from that point of view.

  4. The League Cup – if I remember rightly – came with UEFA Cup qualification, but even with that, it’s unlikely that the financial gap would have been closed. I note in passing the comment made here recently about the close correlation between club success and club spending – Clough’s Derby and Clough’s Forest being the only two positive exceptions to the rule in living memory.

    Clough’s reputation also has to do with his relationship with the media, his highly unusual and prescient attitude to it right from the start, and, not least, the huge help certain friends of his in the media provided at crucial moments in his career.

    In terms of his attitude to “abroad”, Clough was something of a homebody in the UK, let alone anywhere else. Clough wasn’t a xenophobe, but that’s a big, complex subject that I’m going to cover in depth – it doesn’t condense down. But I think it has to be remembered that football was one of the relatively few ways in which the lives of normal British people interfaced with Europe at the time, and that continental football culture was far more different then than it is now, as Derby, Leeds, Liverpool and co. found to their cost far too often.

  5. “the close correlation between club success and club spending – Clough’s Derby and Clough’s Forest being the only two positive exceptions to the rule in living memory”: who would you nominate as the principal negative exceptions, James?

  6. I’ve simply been told this, but apparently the negative outlier is Leeds United, presumably during their last two Premiership seasons.

  7. Clough did it with two teams and, like all great managers, was certainly intelligent, articulate, quick-witted and brave. It is rather fascinating to think of those managers who rose to a peak for a year or two then disappeared, or who worked well with one club and seemed set, then went elsewhere and sank. Brian Little and John Gregory at Villa for example, Bob Stokoe and Peter Reid at Sunderland, Alan Dicks at Bristol City…

  8. And Tony Barton, the only Sutton, indeed Sutton United, alumnus to have managed a team to victory in the European Cup Final. He’s by a huge chalk the southernmost-born Englishman to have done so (his next rival is Jimmy Armfield – get well soon, Jimmy – who hails from the Manchester area).

  9. I didn’t know Tony Barton was a U. Fantastic! I will walk a little taller tonight.

  10. I don’t know how I missed this lot of posts James – I’ve been avoiding blogs for a few weeks – but this looks like a treasure trove. Thanks for finding the Cologne match on YouTube btw. I have to say that the season in question had four massive highlights. Holding Liverpool at Anfield to take the first round (I was there – you can have my autograph if you like?), the 3-3 draw at ours in the first leg of that Cologne match (the most exciting and gut-wrenching tie I’ve ever been at), the return leg that you’ve found the clips of, and – of course – the final.

    But the final was an anticlimax. And I think that watching that return tie – and Ian Bowyer’s goal – may be the single happiest moment of my life. I’m not sure, but I think it was.

    So thanks again for finding it.

  11. I think that there was a swift decline in Forest’s fortunes in the early eighties due to the previously expressed over-zealous plan to replenish the squad. The important factor was that Clough and Taylor spent and self-admittedly wasted quite a lot of money with some ill-judged signings such as Justin Fashanu, Ian Wallace and Peter Ward. This set Forest back for many years.

    Regarding Clough’s wandering eye for other positions, it’s well established that (particularly by author Duncan Hamilton) that much of the proposed new jobs such as the Wales job in particular and Scotland team boss jobs were a wedge to lever more money out of the Forest board towards his salary!

    Great manager and an interesting discussion.


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