Thursday, 20 August 2009

Icon #22 Brian Clough

Brian Clough was a one off.  Mad as a badger, an ego the size of a house and an utterly brilliant inspirer of men.  Just the kind of man you'd want managing your football team.

Unless you're Leeds.

Maybe Clough was just to big a personality for a big club, maybe they just couldn't handle the man's ego, but his 44 days in charge of Leeds don't really matter in the grand scheme of things.  What matters is Derby and Forest.

Winning the English League Title with those two teams was miraculous.  Look at the stats if you don't believe me.  It doesn't make sense.  Two small clubs, that had never won the League before and he took them both to the top of the game.  Not to mention Forest winning the European Cup twice.

He built those Derby and Forest sides in his own image.  Fiercely competitive, direct, and full of energy.

However, as you may have realised by now, I got into football around the 1985/86 season so my memories of Clough are not of the glory years, although obviously I'm aware of them.  My memories are of that mid to late 80's Forest side that played such glorious football.  Psycho at the back, Neil Webb (before his stint at United) and Nigel Clough scoring beautiful goals.  Clough also brought Roy Keane through at Forest, they had, at times, a wonderful side that never quite threatened to win the league.  There were League Cups won in that period though, and back in those days (I can't believe I just typed that like it was fifty years ago) that trophy mattered because of the European ban.

But plenty of managers have won trophies so why is Clough iconic?

His personality was just so different to everyone else's.  He didn't hold any truck with the establishment and he didn't care who he upset.  But there was always this twinkle in his eyes.  A twinkle that said, 'I know I'm winding you up, I know you think I might be, but I know you're not sure.'  He just loved using the press and he took no truck from them either.  You just didn't mess with Cloughie, ask the guy that got his ear clipped for running on the pitch.

I think that sometimes it's difficult when you support another side to appreciate anything about another team, let alone their manager.  Brian Clough was different to that.  Sure, I never actually wanted Forest to win anything and there were probably times when I hated Clough and his side but his last game as Manager of Forest on the day they slipped into Division 1 from the Premier League in 1993 was genuinely emotional.  It was the end of an era.  He'd been in charge for 18 years.  18 years?!!  How few managers achieve a statistic like that?  He was undoubtedly troubled by alcohol addiction by the end but Forest have never really recovered from losing him.  His sheer weight of personality carried Forest as a club for a long time.  No man has done that before or since.  Certainly not over that kind of period.  So while success, in retrospect, looks modest when you compare it to the likes of Paisley or Ferguson, you have to balance it up with clubs he was in charge of.  Look at where those clubs are now.

Forest will always have those two European Cups though from 1979 and 1980.  It was a different tournament back then.  Lose a tie and you were out.  No seeded draw or League section either and you only qualified for it if you won your respective domestic league.  It was a different era, before money ran football.  We will not see the like of that achievement again because football isn't the same sport any more.

Clough took on the football establishment and briefly won but he never got the job he truly coveted.  England Manager.  Would he have been good at it?  Yes, undoubtedly but the FA would have never coped with him.

Clough was a maverick and a flawed genius.  But his achievements at Derby and Nottingham Forest should never be understated.  A great man.  Sadly missed by all.

'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.'

Tonight's post is dedicated to @TraceySpacey, @Fernandomando, @twosoups and @jeemie1970.