Me Owd Duck on Clough

by , November 17, 2008

Now then.

There is a gentleman that deserves some consideration this week. Brian Howard Clough had a special statue raised to him in the Old Market Square. He was a manager of Forest and a former England player.

There are some moments in life when an individual steps forward and creates a moment of personal heroism that becomes historic. I think of Churchill in the second world war, or Atlee building the welfare state. They do something they were born to do. They change the world and our expectations of it.

Against all odds, Cloughie took Derby to the top of division one. His team was not particularly good, but he did it. Then Derby fell out with him and he moved on. There were rumours linking him with Forest for a long time. I’d reached the point of believing it would never happen. Then in 1975, I think, he became our manager. Or maybe it was the hot summer of 1976 or maybe it was 77. It doesn’t really matter. Cloughie came to Forest.

These were special days. Punk music burst upon youth culture and that would never be the same again. Mohammed Ali was on Mike Parkinson’s show or was that Rod Hull and Emu? It started quietly. Forest got promoted from Division Two almost by accident; they won the Anglo Scottish cup. The final was against Oldham I think in 1976 or maybe it was 77 or 78, who knows? It doesn’t matter, we won something. Peter Taylor arrived at the City Ground. That was it. They were a real team. Taylor chose the players and Cloughie motivated them enough, somehow, to win.

We had Peter Shilton in goal, the England keeper. He had been understudy to the great Gordon Banks who had played in the 1966 world cup final. Clough built from the back and Shilton truly was a legendary keeper.

At right back we had Viv Anderson. He was a product of the Forest youth team and he went on to play for England. I vaguely recall that he was the first black player to play for England. He came from nowhere at Forest to get on to the International stage.

Cloughie took two thugs, Kenny Burns and Larry Lloyd and turned them into the best defence in the football league. Burns was a striker at Birmingham, almost and forever suspended. I think Lloyd came from Liverpool, I am fairly sure we got him on a free. Then there was John McGovern. He played in the holding role. No one ever knew why Cloughie believed in him so much but he played in all Cloughie’s winning teams. The fans frequently booed him at the City Ground, even when we were top of Division One.

I cannot help but feel that these players were ordinary players that did great things because of the manager. The thing that always amazes me was the ordinariness of it; the wingers, O Neill and Robertson were both in the team when Clough arrived. It is the equivalent of Matt Thornhill scoring to win us the European Cup final next year. I can remember several open top bus tours of Nottingham by the team.

The odd thing was that for a year or so nothing happened. Then for eighteen years we were a Premiership club, always challenging at the top. Clough rebuilt the side several times. But somehow during those years, he gave into his own dark side. He let the drink get the better of him. He became known as a manager that was willing to take a bung. Transferring Teddy Sheringham caused us to be relegated; Cloughie admitted this was his own mistake. I have often wondered if it was to do with personal gain.

I haven’t mentioned the fall out with Taylor and Robbo going to Derby but those events certainly took their toll. Cloughie died wishing he had not allowed Taylor to slip away from him.

I am delighted that the statue was unveiled last week. No one has done more to put Nottingham on the map than Brian Clough since Robin Hood was alive. There will never be another manager who takes an ordinary second division side and makes them European champions. Money rules now.

‘Brain Clough and Peter Taylor’.

I’ll see thee.