In a ten-year playing career from 1955 to 1965 with hometown club Middlesbrough and local rivals Sunderland, he bagged 267 league and cup goals in just 296 appearances, an almost unbelievable strike rate which was good enough to see him earn England caps against Wales and Sweden in 1959.
A serious knee Injury ended his playing career but started Clough on the management ladder in October 1965 and the beginning of his incredible partnership with Peter Taylor at Fourth Division Hartlepools United. The pair built a reputation for themselves in the North East which earned them a move in 1967 to Second Division Derby County, where a six-year stint saw the Rams promoted to the top-flight and become Champions of England in 1971/72. Their tenure came to an end in October 1973 as the fractious relationship with the Derby Chairman saw Clough and Taylor depart the Baseball Ground.
Within a month the pair had accepted taking over at Third Division Brighton & Hove Albion. However, it proved to be a struggle for the duo and when Leeds United came calling in the summer of 1974, Cloughie departed for Elland Road with Taylor staying on at the South coast club. The 44 days that Clough was in charge have become written into football lore, spawning a book, The Damned Utd, a film, The Damned United and a stage play of the same name.
Cloughie didn’t return to management until the start of 1975, when reunited with Peter Taylor, they brought unparalleled success to Nottingham Forest, breaking Liverpool’s dominance in England, including two European Cup Final triumphs, before Clough retired from the game in May 1993, ironically with Forest being relegated from the top-flight.
That period at the City Ground though was all still to come when in September 1973 Brian Clough took up the opportunity to write a weekly column in the magazine TVTimes. Writer Graham Denton has taken many of these articles (which ran till the end of 1974), in his book, Me and My Big Mouth – When Cloughie Sounded Off in TVTimes. Interestingly, these are all from the most turbulent period of Clough’s managerial career, which saw his time end at Derby and the short-lived spells at Brighton and Leeds prove fruitless. It begs the question whether these articles were one too many distraction for Cloughie amongst his media work and times in the hot-seat as a manager?
The articles themselves hark back to a very different world. This is a time way before the existence of the Premier League, all-seater stadium and the saturation of live football on tv we have today. There was no internet or mobile phones, and newspapers, football magazines such as Shoot! and Goal, as well as the matchday programme from the ground was generally the only place you could read about your club. The terraces were dominated by males and the threat of hooliganism was a real threat when attending games. Off the pitch, the country was in the grip of strikes and power cuts during the three day week. Therefore, Denton’s expansion on some (not all) of Clough’s original articles, provide a useful context to the reader of what was happening in the game and the country in general.
Of course, some of the most common stories attached to Clough are covered, such as his criticism of Poland goalkeeper, Jan Tomaszewski, who made a number of saves to deny England at Wembley in a game which saw the Poles make it to the 1974 World Cup Finals in West Germany at the expense of the English. However, there is plenty of material offering Cloughie’s views on a range of topics, such as Muhammad Ali, Schoolboy Internationals, television, the job of management, players (such as Malcolm Macdonald and Mick Channon) and even a fans survey.
Despite Clough’s reputation by some as being a big-head or self-opinionated, in reading these articles, whether you agree with them or not, they are in the main reasoned rather than rants, and certainly not of the kind from some of the pundits today who appear only to trade in controversial statements for the sake of it.
This book doesn’t pretend to be an authoritative biography of Cloughie but is an excellent addition to the various titles written about a football figure whose legend will like another Nottingham hero, Robin Hood, endure for many years to come.
(Pitch Publishing Limited. September 2019. Paperback 320pp)