A mixture of arrogance, initiative, bombast and generosity, Brian Clough was one of the biggest and most memorable characters in the history of football.
As a manager, he won the European Cup in successive years with Nottingham Forest and turned Derby County into a title winning team. At the same time, he is well renowned for his inability to win the coveted England role he craved and his spectacular high profile failure at Leeds United, which has recently been adapted into a film called The Damned United.
Many great managers have come and gone over the past century yet none are remembered in the same breath as Clough. A major reason for this is due to the unique methods that he employed on and off the football pitch. No one will ever forget the iconic images of Clough clipping various Nottingham Forest supporters round the head as they invaded the City Ground pitch after a cup match. His famous comments such as claiming his OBE stood for “Old Big ‘Ead” and that he wasn’t the best manager in the business but he was in the top one made him an instantly recognisable favourite with the public.
Unfortunately, his abrasive and outspoken manner was his downfall when applying for the England job at the peak of his career. The charismatic manager is widely considered to be the greatest English manager to have not managed the National team. Whether or not Clough would have been a success in charge of England is highly debated. Many think that his eccentric antics would have alienated several of his best players but a large majority believe that he would have inspired the team to better fortunes than eventually occurred during the 1970s.
“I’m sure the England selectors thought if they took me on and gave me the job, I’d want to run the show. They were shrewd because that’s exactly what I would have done.” – Brian Clough
Despite Clough receiving all of the plaudits during his near thirty year managerial career, it was clear that there was another man who was critical to his success. Peter Taylor, a goalkeeper with most notably Coventry City and Middlesbrough in the 1950’s, joined Hartlepool United as Clough’s assistant manager in 1965 beginning one of the most successful partnerships in football. Evidently, Clough was not as successful when Taylor wasn’t by his side as seen in the Leeds United debacle where he lasted only 44 days. His initial spell after at Nottingham Forest was average by comparison as to when Taylor joined him a year after taking the role.
Even so, their relationship deteriorated over the years and came to an explosive climax in 1984 as Taylor, who had returned to Derby as sole manager, purchased Nottingham Forest winger John Robertson without telling Clough. A public row ensued and unfortunately their feud was not resolved by the time Taylor died in 1990. Clough dedicated his autobiography to his underrated assistant and paid tribute to him in numerous public appearances.
Although famed for his successful managerial career, Clough was unlucky not to have had more success in a playing career that saw him score 251 goals in 274 games. A cruciate ligament injury at the age of 27 eventually forced him to retire and take up the role that he is best known for.
Off the pitch, Clough’s heavy drinking and personal issues eventually caught up with him as he died of Stomach Cancer on 20th September 2004. As a man and a manager, he was far from perfect. However, no one can deny the inspirational qualities and extravagant personality Clough exuded that made him simply one of a kind.
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