Book reviews: Nottingham Forest: On This Day, Nottingham Forest Miscellany and The Day I Met Brian Clough
Records must have broken this year as a plethora of Forest books hit the shelves – the postman serving the LTLF offices is currently taking three months off with a crippled spine from carrying all the review copies that have dropped through our letterbox in the last few months.
But aside from giving postal workers back problems, what purpose are all these books serving? Here we review three Forest-themed books that take a potted history approach to the Reds’ past to find out if they can tell us something we don’t already know…
Nottingham Forest: On This Day, by Peter Attaway
Taking a scattergun to Forest history, this book provides a daily titbit or two lifted from the annals.
Every single day of the year is covered and, as you would expect, some of the entries are a little desperate – the summer months feature such tenuous links as Neil Lennon becoming Celtic manager, and who could forget the day in City Ground history when Gareth McCleary signed a new three-year contract?*
But the author can hardly be blamed for the odd date having been consistently boring for the last 146 years. In fact Attaway, compiler of several other Forest books and former LTLF contributor, does a remarkable job of digging up points of interest from the full spectrum of Forest’s lifespan. Of course the Clough years dominate, but by jumping back and forth we are reminded that interesting things did happen ‘BC’.
Furthermore, Attaway’s lively writing keeps things interesting – the format could easily lead to repetition, consisting mostly of accounts of significant matches and transfers, but each story is told with interest, attention to detail and good humour. Never does the book get bogged down in stats or the need to be comprehensive.
The over-riding impression this book gives is that the day-to-day running of a football club was much more interesting ‘back in the day’ – nevermore we will we see reserve goalkeepers starting games at inside-right (the wonderfully named Alex Newbigging in 1902) or Forest taking on a Pantomime XI at the City Ground (1892). And, although you might think nothing new could ever be said about the glory years under Clough, this book reminds you that football is always full of highs and lows from one week to the next, for European Champions and Championship strugglers alike.
The Nottingham Forest Miscellany, by John Shipley
This hotchpotch of statistical and anecdotal gobbets seems to be neither one thing or the other.
Even at a mere 144 pages, this book gives a lot of them up to stats, fixture lists, league tables and other such hard facts. But if that is your thing you would surely be more interested in the Official Statistical History compiled by Ken Smales in 2006.
Meanwhile the written portions are sometimes interesting (such as the profiles of forgotten legends) but lack both depth and breadth. If you are prepared to sift through pages of cold, hard information and recycled Clough quotes you will find some interesting stories and facts, but the confusing editorial intentions make this harder work than it should be.
The Day I Met Brian Clough … and Other Tributes, compiled by Marcus Alton
Rough and ready production values (the cover looks great but the typesetting inside is poor) make this collection of fond memories the underdog to more heavyweight Clough literature, but The Day I Met… is somewhat of a charmer.
Consisting of anecdotes concerning the great man collected over the years by Marcus Alton, Brian Clough Statue Fund committee founder and editor of BrianClough.com, there is understandably some repetition here and sentiment takes precedence over writing standards, but that doesn’t damage its appeal as a piece of work produced by genuine fans of the subject.
Approaching Brian Clough on a purely personal level, the sheer variety of encounters related by supporters and fellow professionals are a reminder of the unpredictable genius of the man, even away from the football field. From helping stranded motorists to badgering the foreign office about players’ work permits, Clough never did anything by the book and that is the reason people remember meeting him so well.
Proceeds from this heart-warming book go towards the Brian Clough Memorial Fund and it can be ordered direct from brianclough.com or from local book shops.
*It was July 9, 2010, in case it had momentarily slipped your mind.