The Brian Clough Way…

19 03 2012

The Brian Clough Way:

‘If God had wanted us to play football in the sky, he’d have put grass up there.’

‘If I had an argument with a player we would sit down for twenty minutes, talk about it then decide I was right!’

“I gave my players a version of the same message at ten to three every Saturday: ‘I would shoot my granny right now for three points this afternoon.’ They knew how important it was to give everything in the cause for victory. That’s why my granny enjoyed more lives than my cat.”

‘I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one.’

Brian Clough (1935-2004)


Last Tuesday I drove the a stretch of A52 that links Nottingham and Derby, the ‘Brian Clough Way’ – named in honour of  the controversial, outspoken, football genius who managed clubs in both cities. 

It was my first visit to Derby’s Pride Park Stadium. The match, originally scheduled for February, had been called off due to heavy snowfall. In previous years I had never been able to secure a, highly sought after, ticket for this away fixture between fierce East Midlands rivals. That I had managed to do so, this season, says a lot about Forest’s current dire predicament. 

As a spectacle, it will not live long in the memory. Whole hearted hoof ball, with neither side able to put together the type of fluent passing move that would have had Old Big ‘Ead purring. There were precious few attempts on goal and the game had nil-nil written all over it.

That is until the fifth minute of time added on, following a serious looking leg injury suffered by Derby’s Nottingham born captain, centre-back Shaun Barker.   

Forest, down to ten men, following the 90th minute dismissal of striker Marcus Tudgay for a second yellow-card offence, were harshly penalised for ‘foot up’ against Jonathan Greening, as Ben Davies ducked into the ball.

Derby substitute Jake Buxton, climbed highest to get a head on the resulting free-kick and, somewhat fortuitously, the Rams found themselves celebrating a first double over the Reds since the 1971-72 league championship winning season, under Clough senior, 40 years ago.      

In his match report, ‘The Independent’ sports correspondent, Phil Shaw, referred to ‘bad blood’ that exists between the Tricky Trees and their woolly backed local rivals.

Certainly red-blooded fans were left harbouring further grudges following a string of totally inappropriate chants from a, not insignificant, minority of home supporters, about the recently deceased Forest chairman, Nigel Doughty.

The Pride Park club was somewhat less than proud of those ‘black sheep’ who had forced them into making an official apology for the, ‘Where’s your chairman gone?’ and, ‘You’re going down with your chairman,’ taunts directed at visiting players and supporters.

Disappointingly, ‘our Nigel’, Clough the younger , chose to sling a deaf-un, shepherding his Derby flock from any criticism with the derisive post-match claim that he had not heard any offensive chanting.

Increasingly, it seems, the former Forest ‘number 9’, who ran out for the Reds on 403 occasions – scoring 131 goals, shows no regard or respect at all for his old club, since taking charge at Pride Park.         

It’s a pity the ‘young man’ didn’t see fit to chastise the offenders in a way his old Dad would undoubtedly have done. BC wasn’t averse to clipping a few ears, as I recall!

It is certainly not overstating the case to say that the current enmity existing between the two sets of supporters has never been quite so so pronounced. But it wasn’t always the case…

Back in the early/mid ‘60s Derby were a lowly, second-rate, second division outfit (some would say they still are) before a certain brash upstart of a young manager, one Brian Howard Clough, and his trusty assistant, Peter Taylor, set about assembling a Rolls Royce team out of spare parts. It was to become something of a specialism.

At that time Forest were flying relatively high in the old first division and local bragging rights were all centred on derby games against the Filbert Street Foxes, Leicester City.

I well remember the weekly letters page in the Nottingham Football Post of that time (sadly a casualty of the electronic media age) published regular correspondence from the mysterious ALF (‘Ardent Leicester Fan’) winding up his Trent-side adversaries.

I watched my first ever local derby from the old Popular Side terrace (now the lower Brian Clough Stand), wedged against the white-washed perimeter wall, as Forest took on Leicester in front of 47,188 City Ground fans. It was 1966-7, the Reds were marching towards European qualification (for the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup) as League runners-up – their highest ever finish, at that time.

There was no Tricky Tree on the shirt in those days, but two Royal Stags, taken from the city’s coat of arms. Forest won 1-0 thanks to a cheeky opportunistic goal from my boyhood hero Ian Storey-Moore, who cleverly headed a low bouncing ball beneath the advancing figure of Leicester’s World Cup winning keeper Gordon Banks.   

By the 1969-70 season Forest’s bubble was not flying quite so high and ‘Cloughy’ was becoming an increasingly noisy and irritating neighbour, the bleating Sheep having gained promotion and, very much, a team in the ascendency.

When I took up my position alongside the mud heap that was the old Baseball Ground pitch, it was more in hope than anticipation that Forest could cause an upset in the first top flight meeting between the two clubs since 1906.                                

But for once Old Big ‘Ead, or young big ‘ead as he was back  then, came unstuck and was made to eat his provocative pre-match words.

It was Storey-Moore again, who rose highest, in the cloying penalty area, to head an early Forest corner into the roof of the net, steadying red and white nerves, and Barry Lyons (an under-rated right-winger) late in the game, who fired low into the corner, to seal a 2-0 victory, sending hordes of black and white scarves flocking towards the exits.

The following 1970-71 season, having lost two successive City Ground derbies, Storey-Moore was the goal scoring scourge of the Baseball Ground again, along with mid-fielder Paul Richardson, as Forest pulled off a surprise 2-1 win, under floodlights.   

I would suggest, the first seeds, of the current animosity that exists amongst Forest supporters towards Derby, were sown in the 1971-72 season. The Rams were in their pomp, winning the League Championship. The Reds were relegated. Derby completed the double over Forest, but it would be 40 years before they did so again  – hence their immense relief and joy last week.

However, what upset the Reds faithful most was how Clough and Taylor, in their inimitable fashion, set about trying to capture the jewel in Forest’s toppled crown – Ian Storey-Moore.

It was already bad enough that Alan Hinton (left-wing) Frank Wignall (centre forward), both with international caps to their name, and Terry Hennessy (a cultured Welsh centre back and inspirational Forest captain) who had all worn the Garibaldi with distinction, were now plying their trade with Derby.

Forest fans had accepted, that with relegation looming, Storey-Moore would be on his way to a top club – but please, surely not to them. However that nightmare scenario seemed to be playing out, when pictures of a smiling IS-M appeared, plastered all over the back pages of the Sunday papers, being paraded around the ring, by C&T, and introduced to Baseball Ground crowd fans, as their newly captured prize Ram.

Fortunately the Forest man had not yet put pen to paper and a last-ditch bid from Manchester United diverted him up the road to Old Trafford. It was a narrow escape. I consoled myself with the thought that my hero never really wanted to move along the A52 anyway, but was being driven in that direction by a Forest board keen to cash in wherever they could. I suppose we’ll never really know.

But how could either set of fans then, have known that three years or so down the line, the winds of fate would send Brian Clough breezing into the City Ground, hell-bent on making Direby (and Leeds United) pay for allowing what they’d once held slip through their fingers.  

Having stepped away from the dark-side, born again Brian took up the mantle of Messiah, bringing with him his faithful disciple Peter. BC, seemingly, could walk on the Trent. He certainly resurrected Forest, raising them to heights that will never be revisited and re-igniting the flames of rivalry with his former club which still rage to this day.

So much of that ‘bad blood’, which Phil Shaw referred to, can be traced back to BC, the greatest manager that both teams and sets of supporters have ever known. When he was against you – you hated him. When he was for you – you adored him. Simple as that really.

And which of his teams did BC love the best? Well I think we know the answer to that one – don’t we? 

Derby was a brief infatuation that promised much but ended, in bitter acrimony, with a walk out and a slamming of the door. 

Forest was an enduring, eighteen year, love affair which bore two European Cups and countless Wembley occasions, before fizzing out and drowning in tears – ending in a whimper not a bang.       

Cloughy, a huge Sinatra fan, just like Ol’ Blue Eyes, always did it his way. Football won’t see his like again. Thanks for the memories.        




4 responses

20 03 2012

Thanks for the memories Phil. The Derby County 0 Forest 2 was my first away game. I went with my dad on the football special bus from Ogle Street. My mum had packed enough sandwiches for a week but the other bus passengers helped out on the way home. It was a great game and,the icing on the cake, I saw you and Bob in the crowd at the Baseballl Ground.

22 03 2012
Phil Aldridge

Never go anywhere wiithout a packed lunch! Glad my meandering prose brought back a few memories. What a result on Tuesday – it was one of those where the old teleprinter would have put (seven) in brackets just to show it wasn’t a typo! Hope the men in suits were ok the other week? Take care.

4 05 2012
Phil Kirkland

Could not agree more with your comments about Nigel Clough. One of my all time favourite Forest players, superbly balanced, brave as a lion and what he lacked in pace of foot was compensated by a pace of thought unmatched in the late 80’s / early 90’s.
He seems to bristle at the mention of Nottingham Forest FC these days and only he really knows why, maybe the way his father left the club or that he has never been given the chance to follow in his fathers footsteps as Manager of Forest? His family have made no secret that Derby County were Brian’s first love and I think most Forest fans would accept that but this rewriting of history that emanates from the Clough family and Derby County is demeaning of them and the club.
I was around at the time Brain Clough & Peter Taylor were sacked by Derby County and whatever circumstances happened during their time at Forest there was never any chance of them being sacked!
I have met Nigel Clough on may occasions and he is a really nice man but he does seem to let himself down with his dealings with Forest, the unseemly touchline exchanges with Billy Davies, his blind eye towards the antics of the pantomime villain Robbie Savage spring to mind.
He needs to take a leaf from his dads book over the disgusting chanting that came from the Derby fans at the latest fixture, whatever any one thought of Brian, he was universally admired for trying to play and respect the game in the right manner.
So, come on Nigel embrace your past, like it or not, you are and always will be a Forest legend.

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