Truly great managers break every rule perceived as ‘conventional wisdom’. It’s what makes them stand out from the crowd whilst propelling them towards extraordinary achievement.
Like all historic legends in football management, Cloughie’s achievements continue to reverberate around the clubs he took from relative obscurity right up to the pinnacle of English and European football.
Although the likes of Bob Paisley, Bill Shankly, Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson can undisputedly boast more silverware to their names, the late Brian Clough’s claim to greatness is uniquely that of football’s most wondrous alchemist by making champions of deeply unfashionable sides Derby County and Nottingham Forest.
His remarkable portfolio of success began by winning Second and First division titles with Derby in the early 1970s before leading them to a European Cup semi-final. By the end of the decade he had led their East Midlands rivals Forest to the Division One title, successive League Cup victories and back-to-back European Cup wins. His record of 42 unbeaten matches at Forest between November 1977 and December 1978 stood for 25 years before being overtaken by Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.
Considering the short space of time it took and the limited resources he had at his to disposal to win these trophies, his achievements are nothing short of miraculous. It is unlikely that we will ever see another side of such small stature rise to similar heights considering the eye-watering level of spending required to succeed in the 21st century.
He built great teams with ordinary players. His sides played skillful, entertaining football and had exemplary disciplinary records. This was all made possible because of one word and his greatest managerial facet – MOTIVATION. He possessed a supreme confidence in his own abilities demonstrated by his brash, outspoken and arrogant demeanor. Cloughie captivated his players earning loyalty and their utmost respect. Master of imaginative motivational techniques which always got the best out of his players, the week before the 1980 European Cup Final against Kevin Keegan’s Hamburg, Clough took the squad to Majorca for a week telling them to concentrate on sunshine and beer. This unusual concentration on creating a relaxed mood frequently paid dividends.
His methods were unique and often dictatorial, “Have you ever been punched in the stomach, young man?” he once asked a centre-forward, Nigel Jenson, in the dressing room. When the answer was no, Clough suited the action to the word, remarking, “Well, now you have.”
Clough knew failure as well as success, most spectacularly at Leeds, but his teams were never boring; he eschewed the long-ball game because, “If the game was meant to be played in the air, God would have put grass in the sky”.
Clough was never quite as successful without his assistant Peter Taylor, who left Forest in 1982, although his team did win the League Cup in 1989 and 1990. The latter victory was slightly overshadowed by the hefty fine Clough received for having punched some pitch invaders after the quarter-final. The blows were witnessed by television, as were the kisses Clough subsequently planted on the cheeks of his victims. He was a noted kisser.
In 1991 Forest reached the FA Cup Final against Spurs but lost in the extra time. It proved to be the only piece of domestic silverware to continually elude Clough throughout the whole of his long and successful career. The end finally came two years later when Forest were relegated after 16 illustrious seasons in the top flight. It is perhaps further testament to the great man’s achievements that the Nottingham side has failed to make a similar impression on the Premiership or reach another Wembley final in the 17 years that have elapsed since his retirement.
Always controversial, the last years of his life were no different and marred by accusations of taking bungs and alcoholism before he succumbed to stomach cancer in 2004.
The name of Brian Clough will live on forever more though for giving the game so much that was good and uplifting. His larger than life persona and his idiosyncrasies have not been diminished by time and he will never be forgotten for putting two small time and sleepy outfits on to such an eminent perch.
Clough’s Classic Quotes
“I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one.” Looking back at his success.
“Manchester United in Brazil? I hope they all get bloody diarrhea.” On Man Utd opting-out of the FA Cup to play in the World Club Championship.
“I can’t even spell spaghetti never mind talk Italian. How could I tell an Italian to get the ball – he might grab mine.” On the influx of foreign players.
“I bet their dressing room will smell of garlic rather than liniment over the next few months.” On the number of French players at Arsenal.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day. But I wasn’t on that particular job.” On getting things done.
“At last England have appointed a manager who speaks English better than the players.” On the appointment of Sven Goran Eriksson as England manager.
“Anybody who can do anything in Leicester but make a jumper has got to be a genius.” A tribute to Martin O’Neill.
“I only ever hit Roy the once. He got up so I couldn’t have hit him very hard.” On dealing with Roy Keane.