People who have seen Brian Clough on TV and the way he spoke in some of those legendary interviews he gave could be tempted to think that here is a man who was all talk and far too outspoken. However, it is amazing to see how many of the people in the football world that were close to him have stressed the fact that he was a warm and generous person.
Clough may have had an enjoyable, if not lengthy, playing career but will go down as one of the greatest managers in British football- no matter what type of personality he was. Quite rightly, his tactics, team talks, signings and, what people remember the most; his statements in front of the camera will go down in history. I suspect that fans overseas get that image of Clough as well. His fame and greatness is summed up by his name appearing in the higher regions of all of the great listings of British football and there is every chance that football’s after dinner speakers often use Clough as an example in everything.
Clough’s qualities as a manager seem to have come from his upbringing. At the age of 18 he completed his National Service and was one of eight children. For his parents to work day and night to care for their children must have been instrumental in to giving Clough the correct learning and education for what it would take to be a great manager.
For a managerial career to last approximately 30 years speaks volumes about Clough. Having seen some of the documentaries about him on the ESPN Classic channel I can see why there is such a massive appreciation and respect for what he achieved in management. If Clough was around today then a lot of these ‘flash’ players would not be able to tolerate Clough- and vice versa. What he did at Nottingham Forest and Derby County was remarkable. Despite the fact that under his guidance Forest won the European Cup twice, it is easy to forget that his team went undefeated for 42 league games.
His controversial ways, along with his entertaining ways of speaking, seem to have a reflection on the way he managed the game. I get the impression that Clough was one of those that did not like doing things by the textbook; almost to the extent that he could sit with the crowd during a game and just let the players get on with it. He could dish out the harsh treatment if needed but just seemed to be his own man. In the 1991 FA Cup final, when he took Forest to Wembley to play Tottenham, the score was 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes and for whatever reason he chose not to go on to the pitch before the start of extra-time.
Brian Clough will never be associated as an England player- it just didn’t work out, but his playing career with Middlesbrough and Sunderland was full of goals. As a striker he took finishing to another level with over 200 goals for Boro in just 222 starts and that performance carried on at Sunderland where he scored 63 goals in only 74 games.
Clough the footballer was equally as impressive as Clough the manager. With the main stories of him being to do with his words then it seems appropriate to finish with one of his legendary sayings, and one on his legacy. “I want no epitaphs of profound history and all that type of thing. I contributed. I would hope they would say that, and I would hope somebody liked me.” A genuine character that football badly misses even to this day.
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