Book Review: Provided You Don’t Kiss Me – 20 Years with Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton

Ghost-writing and writing about ghosts

Duncan Hamilton is haunted by the ghost of Brian Clough and it permeates much of his writing. He is fascinated not just by famous sporting characters but by relationships, especially between the living and the dead. A case in point is the book he was the ghost writer of, Johnny Bairstow’s autobiography A Clear Blue Sky. Hamilton understood so well the influence David Bairstow still exerted over his son, years after his death, because of how father-figure Clough continued to affect him in a similar way.

In his own name, Hamilton has written a number of acclaimed books but his breakthrough one was Provided You Don’t Kiss Me – 20 Years with Brian Clough. It could be said that he has done very well out of Clough. Apart from anything else, he won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award for it in 2007. And, despite its imperfections, the book deserved that award, he had great subject matter but did an excellent job of it.

His journalistic career flourished, in no small part thanks to the access Clough allowed him into his crazy, zany and utterly distinctive world. That was where Hamilton developed his skills as a ghost writer and many of the newspaper pieces we believed were written by Clough himself were in reality Hamilton’s work.

In the following years, he followed up his success with a number of fine books including another William Hill winner, in 2009, on cricketer Harold Larwood. He had promised in a section at the end of 20 Years called ‘Provided You Do Kiss Me’, “I won’t be writing about Brian again.” That promise kind of held true for two whole years. Only kind of, as it can be argued that Old Big ‘ead: The Wit and Wisdom of Brian Clough is not written by Hamilton, only compiled by him. But I wonder if some of that ‘wit and wisdom’ had been ghosted by him in any case?

There is no doubt whatsoever that Hamilton was hugely fond of Clough but there are a number of things that catch the attention on (re)visiting the book. First of all, there is the nature of the relationship between Clough and the author. Hamilton was much younger and admits that he felt in some ways like a son. Then there is the relationship between Clough and Peter Taylor which Hamilton describes as being virtually like a marriage, even so far as the way it led to a messy divorce when they fell out permanently. It’s all very macho, like the relationship between Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. And there is a funny yet touching moment in the book where Clough admits that he does not know how to cope with Justin Fashanu, whose homosexuality made his manager feel uncomfortable. Such was Fashanu’s fear of him and need to win his approval that Clough commented, “If I say, ‘Good morning’ to him, he bursts into tears.”

But in this very male world described by the author, two things stand out in particular; Brian Clough was married, to Barbara, from 1959 till his death 45 years later and yet she plays a much less significant and no more real role in the book than Norman Bates’s mother does in Psycho. Her total absence is very surprising and most noticeable during Clough’s descent into alcoholism. The great manager is depicted by the author as a totally isolated individual and there are strong hints that Hamilton became much closer to him after Clough’s friendship ended with Taylor than either his actual wife or children, including Nigel who played for him at Nottingham Forest.

This leads to the second point. Duncan Hamilton was clearly very fond of Clough and in many ways idolised him. Perhaps this reason, alongside his journalistic objectivity, is why he did nothing to try to help Clough out of the chronic alcoholism that destroyed him. This idol seems to have been so daunting when alive that he separated himself from other people, a bitter irony for a self-confessed champagne socialist but then, after death, his ghost began its haunting. He was abandoned by people as his face blotched with all the alcohol, his reputation suffered as his bung-rumoured corruption started to mirror that of his nemesis Don Revie and a second liver was given a severe bashing. Once safely dead, people could then begin to sorely miss Old Big ‘Ead.

Graeme Garvey

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Book Review: Brian Clough – Fifty Defining Fixtures by Marcus Alton

In other books within this Amberley series the subject has either been a legendary player or a manager, but in this edition the focus is on Brian Clough who it could be argued is a rarity in having an extraordinary career in both areas of the game.

As a player Clough had an unbelievable strike rate playing for Middlesbrough and Sunderland, scoring 251 league goals from 274 games and also picked up two England caps, both in 1959. However, he had to retire following a serious knee injury sustained on Boxing Day 1962 and turned to management. Clough was in charge at Hartlepools United, Derby County, Leeds United, Brighton and Nottingham Forest, in a management career which stretched from 1965 to 1993, collecting most famously two European Cups in 1978/79 and 1979/80 with Forest.

Given this, author Marcus Alton acknowledges the mammoth task he had in bringing the book together: “It has certainly been a very tough task and this compilation contains by no means the only games that define his (Clough’s) playing and managerial career. But I hope you agree it focuses on some of the key matches…and at least, opens up debate.” And to be fair that is what is achieved by Alton. Within his selected fifty games, Alton manages to cover both Clough’s playing and management career taking in all the clubs he was at, even squeezing in games capturing his brief and unsuccessful stints at Elland Road and the Goldstone Ground.

In the style of the other books in the Amberley series, games are briefly covered using old match reports and analysis. This doesn’t provide the author with a great deal of scope to provide an in-depth exploration of Clough, but Alton still manages to convey some aspects of the antics and characteristics of ‘the best manager England never had’.

This series of books doesn’t pretend that the reader will find an in depth exploration of a player or manager, but is a starting point for wanting to find out more about the subject matter. Therefore, whilst the triumphs at Derby County and Nottingham Forest are detailed through a number of fixtures, this book isn’t one where you will find for instance a detailed analysis of the breakdown in the Taylor-Clough relationship or the health issues that he suffered during the back end of his management career at the City Ground.

If you know very little and or not read a great deal about ‘Cloughie’ this book is a useful starting point for an exploration of an incredible football figure.


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Book Review: Forever Forest – The Official 150th Anniversary History of the Original Reds by Don Wright

When writing about the history of Nottingham Forest, it is easy to focus on the period of success experienced under the management of Brian Clough; a time when you would seemingly wait a couple of seasons for an open-top bus tour of the Market Square then two would come along in quick succession. But there is more to Nottingham Forest than this – a history of otherwise infrequent success and near misses, along with early innovation, proceeded Clough’s appointment and that fateful day of 6 January 1975 is not reached until page 164 of this book.

Before that time, the involvement of early innovators like Sam Weller Widdowson and Tinsley Lindley in both the establishment of the Club and the development of football as it is recognised today, is interesting. But there is much to cover, with Forest being the second (or third, if you ask a supporter of Stoke City) oldest League club, they have influenced many aspects of the game. Be it the introduction of shin-guards, whistles, floodlights, crossbars or Arsenal FC’s red shirts, Nottingham Forest were there.

Don Wright is the Official Historian of the Club and he has dug deeply into the archives for this enthralling history of the ‘Garibaldi’, from the early days of an itinerant existence playing at sites around the city to the recent period with its seemingly endless turnover of Managers in an attempt to recover the success of the late 70s and 80s.

The Club’s previous most successful period, where a team out of the top division between 1925 and 1957, went on to win the FA Cup and finish runner’s-up Division One to Matt Busby’s Manchester United within a decade under managers Billy Walker, Andy Beattie and Johnny Carey, is given the prominence it deserves over that which proceeded it.

Clearly the period under Clough is covered, but is within proportion for a book about the history of the Club as a whole (the double European Cup winning side is looked at in depth in Daniel Taylor’s 2015 book, I believe in Miracles). He inherited a club struggling in the second tier of English football and left a team relegated back there. Overall, within the context of the Club’s existence, the feeling left is that the period of success, whilst glorious, was out of character with its history.

As with the supporters of many teams outside the Premier League, Forest fans await their return to the top tier, and as every season passes the level of expectation and frustration grows. This book provides a sobering reminder that the ongoing seventeen-year absence is not without precedent, the current generation of Forest young fans have a lot in common with their great-grandparents.

Despite the sobering reality of the twenty-first century Nottingham Forest, there is much to enjoy here. The amount of information is impressive, exposing nuggets that were unfamiliar to the Reviewer and the narrative is, nonpartisan and well structured. The book will clearly appeal to Forest fans but non-fans should also consider it, just remember never to call them Notts Forest (even the spellchecker doesn’t like it).


by Andy Walton

2010/11: FA Cup 4th Round – Where were you in ’85?

The 1984/85 season brought about to Fulham one of those oddities that seem to happen in football. In the League Cup, the men from SW6 who were then in the old Second Division, got drawn against First Division Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. Despite being a tier lower than their opponents, Fulham weren’t disgraced in a 3-2 loss at the Third Round stage.

Come the New Year and the FA Cup Third Round draw, fate dictated that Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday once again locked horns, although this time the fixture was at Craven Cottage. With Sheffield Wednesday bringing a good away following, a crowd of 11,434 gathered to see if Fulham could gain revenge for the defeat earlier in the season. Just as in October The Owls were victorious 3-2. Ray Houghton scored Fulham’s goals, whilst Mel Sterland and Lee Chapman with two, ensured the South Yorkshire team progressed to the Fourth Round. Wednesday were a robust team back in the eighties and they were certainly too strong physically for Fulham on the day.

Now for most fans, once their team is knocked out of the FA Cup, their interest pretty much ends, possibly until Cup Final day. Yes Fulham were out, but that didn’t mean that was the end of my Cup adventure that year. One of the advantages of living in London at that time was that there were plenty of options in terms of watching other clubs – and I use the term watching as opposed to supporting deliberately.

1984/85 was Wimbledon’s first ever season in the old Second Division and they more than held their own to finish in a respectable 12th position. Having overcome Burnley 3-1 at Plough Lane in the FA Cup Third Round, the Dons got a very tricky tie against one of the teams of the eighties, Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. At the City Ground the underdogs from South London earned a replay after a 0-0 draw. Back then replays were arranged for the following week, with the game at Plough Lane set for the following Wednesday night. Given that Brian Clough’s team were one of the big attractions then, the replay was made all ticket.

The lure of seeing Old Big ‘Ead (as my nan loved to call the incomparable Mr Clough), in the flesh and a possible Cup upset proved too strong a temptation to resist and so I took my place amongst a bumper crowd to see if the Dons could beat the twice European Champions. On a night of great tension and nervous moments, Wimbledon caused a Cup upset with a Paul Fishenden goal enough to see off Forest. It was an evening when you couldn’t but help get caught up in the emotion of the occasion. That is what the FA Cup can do.

26 years later and what does the Fourth Round hold for the teams. My beloved Fulham have the misfortune to once again draw Tottenham. I say misfortune as Spurs knocked us out after a replay in the Quarter Final last year and in the seven meetings in the competition Fulham have yet to win. Sheffield Wednesday have battled through wins over Southport, Northampton Town and Bristol City to a Fourth Round tie at Hillsborough against Hereford United, in which the Owls will fancy their chances of making progress to the Fifth Round. AFC Wimbledon came through in the First Round after a replay against Ebbsfleet, but fell in the Second Round against Stevenage. Forest overcame Preston at Deepdale in the Third Round and face an interesting game at Premier League West Ham. How times have changed.

Whoever your team enjoy the Fourth Round this weekend and may it provide some more Cup Magic!