Brian Howard Clough, footballer and football manager: born Middlesborough, Yorkshire 21 March 1935; died Derby, 20 September 2004
NO ONE man is bigger than the game of football, the saying goes; yet there were times when Brian Clough seemed larger than life itself. A precociously brilliant goalscorer who became an inspirational if arrogantly idiosyncratic manager, he was a phenomenon who transcended sporting boundaries.
Brian Clough was born on a Middlesborough council estate in 1935, the sixth of nine children. The young Brian displayed a rare talent for soccer, excelling as a marksman in local teams before joining Middlesborough, turning professional in May 1952.
Two years of national service preceded Clough's senior debut in 1955, after which he grew rapidly into second division 'Boro's prime asset. In 1956-57, his first term as a regular, he scored 38 times in 41 League outings, after which his seasonal returns were 40, 43, 39 and 34.
Clough continued to score freely at club level but became increasingly keen to leave Middlesborough. He got his wish in July 1961 when he joined Sunderland, who were also in the second division.
His playing career effectively ended on St Stephen's Day 1962 after he collided with Bury goalkeeper Chris Harker at Roker Park. His astonishing goalscoring record was left at 267 goals in 296 senior matches. Despite his goalscoring rate at club level, he won only two caps for England, both in 1959.
In October 1965, Clough became a football manager, albeit with humble Hartlepools United (now Hartlepool United), and the die was cast. His first decision was his most important, ensuring that Peter Taylor, a former colleague and confidant from his Middlesborough days, was appointed as his assistant. The two men complemented each other perfectly and enjoyed a seemingly telepathic understanding: Clough, blessed with charisma, flair for publicity and a gift for psychology which allowed him to extract the best from the most unlikely of individuals, Taylor the talent-finder supreme.
Clough and Taylor departed for Derby County in June 1967, where the job was on a grander scale than at Hartlepool United, and expectations higher, but Clough proved more than equal to the challenge. He signed the ageing but still magnificent wing-half Dave Mackay from Tottenham Hotspur, and brought in other excellent if littleknown players. County won the Second Division title in 1968-69. More shrewd signings followed and in 1971-72 the Rams won the league championship for the first time in their history.
When that was capped by a rousing European Cup campaign which saw Derby beat Benfica before losing controversially to Juventus in the semi-final, it seemed that Clough and Taylor were on the verge of something special.
Yet, behind the scenes, all was not well. There had been a succession of acrimonious disputes between Clough and the directors. He fell out with the chairman, Sam Longson, and his increasing media commitments . . . he became the most acerbic and watchable of television pundits . . . exacerbated boardroom irritation.
Accordingly, outsiders but not insiders were stunned in October 1973 when Clough and Taylor announced they were leaving because of the board's attitude. Faced with the need to work, the duo then made a move which amazed many . . . they took over the reins of Third Division Brighton. Crowds doubled at the Goldstone Ground, but few observers credited that Clough would be content to operate at so low a level for long . . . and so it proved. After just over half a season, he departed, minus Taylor this time, to succeed Don Revie at Leeds.
His ill-fated interlude at Leeds lasted a mere 44 days after dismal results and a general falling out with players and staff.
In January 1975, he accepted charge of Nottingham Forest, at that time a sleepy outfit lodged in the lower reaches of the second division. Soon he had signed two of his most trusted players from his previous clubs, John McGovern and John O'Hare, and the revival was underway.
Peter Taylor arrived to assist in July 1976. Together they recruited some unlikely characters and rehabilitated under-achievers already on the staff. Most notable of these was John Robertson, a slow, overweight, undermotivated midfielder who was soon to become one of the most bewitching wingers in the world.
The results of this revolution were farreaching. In 1976-77, Forest were promoted. The following season they won the league and lifted the League Cup for good measure. In December, Forest completed a sequence of 42 League games undefeated, a topflight record which was only recently beaten by Arsenal.
Incredibly, even greater days lay ahead. After making Birmingham's gifted forward Trevor Francis Britain's first Â£1m footballer, Clough set off on the trail of the European Cup and confounded most pundits by winning it, a perfect cross from the revitalised Robertson and a lunging header from Francis being enough to defeat the Swedish side Malmo in the final. Forest retained the League Cup too, to complete a momentous season. In 1979-80, Clough and Co continued to defy the big battalions and kept hold of the European Cup, beating Hamburg in the final.
In the wake of so much glory, it was inevitable, perhaps, that the remainder of Clough's career should be something of an anticlimax, and Forest slipped from their eminent perch. There were no more titles or European trophies, and no FA Cup, although they did win the League Cup twice more, in 1989 and 1990.
As the years passed, the Forest boss appeared ever more eccentric and stories began to circulate that he was drinking too much. His years of indulgence culminated in a liver transplant in January 2003.
Sadly for such a remarkable figure, Clough was to retire on a low note after Forest were relegated from the Premier League in 1992-93.