Top 5 managers in England: Gil Prescott’s 3rd choice

To say Brian Clough was different is a massive understatement, controversial throughout his career even in his playing days. Reputedly falling out with his teammates at his first club Middlesbrough, Brian’s goal scoring record is 2nd to none, 204 goals in 222 league games at Middlesbrough, scoring 40 goals or more in four consecutive seasons.

Relationships with Middlesbrough were tetchy to say the least, reputedly he put in loads of transfer requests often stating the clubs defence didn’t match his achievements in attack. Brian eventually had a transfer request accepted in 1961 and move for Sunderland for what was then an eye watering £55,000. With Sunderland he only managed 63 goals in 74 games, that in an era where centre backs kicked lumps out of you and pitches could be knee deep in mud.

His Sunderland manager was Alan Brown, a renowned disciplinarian who had a strong effect on the young Brian Clough, taking Brown’s aggressive style into management wherever he went. After a knee injury against Bury finished his career, Brian was eventually offered the Hartlepool job in 1965, taking Peter Taylor and ex-goalkeeper and personal friend with him. Aged thirty, Brian was the youngest manager in any league taking on a club who at to reapply for election to the football league virtually annually. Among his players at Hartlepool were a young John McGovern then sixteen years of age.

Brian moved to Derby County 1967 taking Peter Taylor with him, after a slow start at Derby Brian was bringing in players like Roy McFarland, John O’Hare Alan Hinton, John McGovern, to Alan Durban who was already at Derby, Brian brought in the colossus that was Dave Mackay and Willie Carlin in 1968, the Derby team took the Division II championship. Difficult relationships with the press were continual, Brian didn’t suffer fools gladly and at times refused to answer questions. On the field Brian and Peter took Derby to the fourth place in their first season back in the First Division in over twenty years. Colin Todd was added to the squad in 1971 further then record £175,000.

The 1971-72 season had finished for Derby, always near the top and one point in front after playing their final match, Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester City were their main rivals. Both Leeds and Liverpool had chances to go over Derby but failed, Derby became First Division League Champions for the first time in their long history. 1972 brought David Nish who came from Leicester for a record at the time £225,000, Brian allegedly did this without consulting the Derby board of directors. No surprises there then.

Derby County, League Champions 1971-72

Brian Clough is on the back row, extreme left, Peter Taylor, back row 2nd from right.

After rows with the board and chairman Sam Longson in particular Brian and Peter joined Nottingham Forest in January 1975. I remember him bringing his Forest team to Blackpool with a 1-1 draw the result, they showed very little of what was to come in the near future that day. Brian was interviewed for the England job, couldn’t see him getting many votes from the buffoons at the FA, despite the public wanting him to do the job. Brian and Peter turned Forest round quickly, winning promotion in 1976-77, winning the League Cup beating Liverpool at Old Trafford, and eventually won the First Division League Title making Brian second manager after Herbert Chapman to win the English First Division with two different clubs, only four have ever done that, Tom Watson, Kenny Dalglish, Herbert Chapman and Brian. 1978-79 Brian made Trevor Francis England’s first ever £1 million transfer. Forest finished runners-up to Liverpool, but retained the League Cup and getting to the European Cup final, knocking out Liverpool who were the holders. Brian and Forest won the European Cup beating Swedish team Malmo FF 1-0 with Trevor Francis scoring the winning goal.

Between November 1977 and December 1978 Forest were unbeaten. Sadly, Brian and Peter had fallen out and Peter resigned from Nottingham Forest in 1982. 1983-84 Forest were third, reaching the UEFA Cup semi-finals. Brian signed Stuart Pearce from Coventry in the 1985-86 season and also took Neil Webb from Portsmouth. By this time his son Nigel Clough was in the team, scoring 15 goals in his first season, Des Walker was also a permanent fixture. Forest beat Luton that season in the Football League Cup Final, and also won the Full Members Cup.

Controversial as ever Brian selected a strange team to play in the 1991 FA Cup final, selecting a young Roy Keane, Lee Glover and Ian Woan, none of which had a great deal of experience. At full-time with the score at 1-1 Brian unusually did not go out to talk to his team before extra time, they eventually lost 2-1 to Spurs.

Brian’s last season with Forest was the 1992-93 season, by this time he was not in good health and several players had left the club whose fortunes were in decline, they were bottom of the league virtually all that season and were eventually relegated after sixteen years in the top flight. Brian had well documented problems with Justin Fashanu, but still generally retained the goodwill of the football public with a few exceptions they would all have loved him to been the England football manager. Peter Taylor died in October 1990, sadly his relationship with Brian Clough was never healed this is a sad indictment for a pair who had done so much together over the years, life’s too short.

Brian Clough died of stomach cancer on the 20th September 2004, aged 69. There are statues of Brian in both Nottingham and Middlesbrough, Brian was a man who divided opinions but few could argue about the impact he made in football.

Nottingham Forest manager, Brian Clough, holding the European Cup, 1979

© Soccer Nostalgia

Design: David Ainsworth