Friday, 27 March 2009
BRIAN CLOUGH: THE LEGEND LIVES ON
"Telling the entire world and his dog how good a manager I was. I knew I was the best but I should have said nowt and kept the pressure off 'cos they'd have worked it out for themselves"
Sky TV have the lion's share of live football, clubs charge an arm and a leg for admission to games, Man Utd splash out another £30 million on a player and once glamorous competitions like the FA Cup pale into insignificance when compared to the Champions League. Welcome to English football in 2009, where the economy is in full-blown recession and the usual suspects queue to take the piss out of the real paymasters.
On Wednesday evening, an ITV documentary took many of us back to a time where two ramshackle East Midlands clubs were transformed into champions of England. Derby County and Nottingham Forest are just 13 miles apart, and were both heading on the road to nowhere before one Brian Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor took the reins. At Derby, the club was languishing in Division Two; bereft of hope and passion.
Clough's playing career was cut short after scoring over 250 goals, and management beckoned when he became manager at Hartlepool United. Aged 30, Clough was the youngest manager in the league and guided Hartlepool to 8th position in his first full season. In May 1967, Clough and Taylor arrived at Derby, and took them to the Second Division title in 1969. Even better was to follow, as Derby would win the First Division title in the 1971/72 season. Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs, Man Utd.... all those big names came to the Baseball Ground and found that their hosts were becoming a force to be reckoned with. The disaster struck, as chairmen Sam Longson fell out with Clough; an argument which led to Clough & Taylor resigning.
ITV's wonderful documentary follows Brain's story from the beginning, moving through his resignation at Derby, and those infamous 44 days as manager at Leeds which form the basis for the newly released feature THE DAMNED UNITED. Leeds - and their manager Don Revie - were Derby's main rivals. On the field encounters were ill-tempered, tense affairs, and the rivalry between the two sets of fans invariably exploded into violent confrontations, before, during and after games. Clough had always hated Leeds and dropped his calling card the first day he set foot into Leeds' training ground, telling the players they could bin all the medals they had won through cheating. The Leeds players were stunned when Revie walked out, and became intent on driving Clough out of Elland Road. Peter Taylor was managing Brighton at the time, but the pair were re-united when Clough left Leeds and went onto Nottingham Forest where the pair won two European Cups and a succession of other trophies. ITV's documentary takes a warts and all look at this remarkable man, touching on his fight against alcoholism, his row with Peter Taylor (sadly never patched up) and the crazy situation when he attended an interview for the England manager's job, unaware that Ron Greenwood was already in line.Clearly, the FA were frightened by Clough's arrogance, his outspoken views and that he was constantly surrounded by controversy. Screw the fact that he was the best manager in the country! Ex players such as Roy Mcfarland, Johnny Giles, Martin O'Neil and John McGovern all provide valuable insight regarding Clough's totally unique man management style, along with anecdotes and observations from his widow Barbara, and son Nigel who is now manager of Derby County. This is a supremely moving, vital piece of television, retelling soccer history when two men built up a couple of no-hope clubs and made them world famous. Sadly, such a feat will never happen again. Nowadays, it's about the richest takes it all.
Brian Clough passed away from stomach cancer in September 2004. He'd gone on record as saying the biggest mistake he ever made was walking out on Derby County. If Cloughie and Taylor had stayed, Derby would indeed have won the lot, and although one of Clough's signings -Dave Mackay - became manager and won the league with Derby a couple of seasons after Clough and Taylor walked, things were soon to turn extremely rotten in Denmark.
Now, whenever I hear or see Clough's name, I think of those great games I was privileged to attend: the 3-0 against Benfica, 5-0 v Spurs, 4-0 v Liverpool, Colin Todd turning defending into an art form, Kevin Hector's goals.... great memories. I am be fairly sure that Cloughie and Taylor are up there now, looking down on us and watching the games with their expert eyes running over the leagues and formulating their own teams and tactics.
Cloughie is a legend, always will be. My sincere thanks and admiration for those golden years.