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Born: Thursday 21 March 1935, Middlesbrough, England
Died: Monday 20 September 2004, Derby, England (aged 69)
Position: Centre Forward/Manager
After his playing career was cut short by injury before he turned 30, Brian Clough went on to become one of the most successful managers the English game has ever seen. Twice he turned second tier clubs into champions of England, winning two European Cups with Nottingham Forest. An outspoken character who was often openly critical of the game's authorities, he was repeatedly overlooked for the England job despite his success at club level.
Clough was born in Middlesbrough on 21 March 1935 and during his childhood was a keen cricketer as well as a promising footballer. He left school at the age of 15 with no qualifications and a year later joined his local team, Second Division side Middlesbrough, as an amateur. On turning 17 he signed a professional contract, although his national service in the RAF disrupted the beginning of his football career.
Clough finally broke into the first team at Middlesbrough in the 1955-56 season. Although the club was often stuck in mid-table, Clough was prolific at centre-forward. Twice he was leading scorer in the Second Division, his 42 goals in 1958-59 making him top scorer in the whole of the Football League. In the autumn of 1959 he got two opportunities in the England team, but did not score in either game. Not capped again, he was left feeling that he had never got that chance at international level that his record deserved.
Clough was not afraid to speak his mind even as a player, sometimes falling out with team-mates as a result. Once the maximum wage was abolished in English football and players were given more control to negotiate contracts, Clough moved to Second Division rivals Sunderland in 1961. In his first season the club came close to promotion, finishing in third place, but on Boxing Day 1962 he suffered a serious injury to his knee in a collision with the opposing goalkeeper.
After 18 months out of action, he attempted a comeback but was only able to play three matches before he was forced to retire at the age of just 29. Clough ended his playing career with 251 league goals to his name, having reached the 200 and 250 marks in fewer games than any player before or since. On retirement he immediately moved into coaching, first with the Sunderland youth team and then as manager of Hartlepools United in October 1965.
Taking charge of a struggling club on the verge of bankruptcy, Clough saw his team stuck in the bottom half of the Fourth Division and was sacked in November 1966, although following a boardroom takeover was soon reinstated. He led Hartlepools to an eighth place finish in 1966-67, after which he and assistant Peter Taylor were offered the chance to take over at Second Division Derby County.
It would be for turning around the fortunes of struggling clubs that Clough became famous. He saw great potential at Derby and having strengthened his squad with several signings, led them to the Second Division title in 1969. Their first season back at the top level was impressive, finishing fourth with only a poor run in mid-season costing them a real chance at the title. Hard but fair as a manager, he commanded great respect from his players although he made no secret of his contempt for chairmen and directors.
In 1972, Clough led Derby to the greatest achievement in their history. After an incredibly close title race, Derby finished their league campaign top of the table but with not all games completed, could still have been passed by either Leeds United or Liverpool. With Clough and his players on holiday (separately), both failed to get the results they needed and along with Manchester City, finished one point behind Derby. Clough heard news of the title win over the telephone.
Derby finished only seventh in 1972-73 but did reach the semi-finals of the European Cup, where they controversially lost 3-1 on aggregate to Juventus amid allegations that the match officials had been bribed. Through 1973, Clough's relationship with the Derby board deteriorated as he made a number of controversial public comments. In October, both he and Taylor resigned to the fury of fans, who demanded their reinstatement and a change in the boardroom. There was however to be no return and a couple of weeks later both joined Third Division Brighton and Hove Albion.
Clough remained manager of Brighton until the end of the 1973-74 season, when he was somewhat surprisingly appointed manager of league champions Leeds, leaving Taylor behind. Clough had been openly critical of Leeds' style of play during his time at Derby and failed to win the players over, leading to an unhappy time in charge. His team won just one of their opening six league games and Clough was sacked after just 44 days in charge.
After a few months out of the game, he was appointed manager of Derby's fierce rivals Nottingham Forest in January 1975, being joined once again by Taylor 18 months later. Like Derby, Forest were in the Second Division when Clough took over but their fortunes were soon transformed. In 1977, Forest finished in third place and won promotion to the First Division, leading Clough to be linked with the vacant England job. However, amid suggestions that the FA did not want to appoint such an outspoken figure, he was not appointed.
In their first season in the top flight, Forest won their first ever league title by seven points from European champions Liverpool, who they also beat in the final of the League Cup. Across that season and the beginning of the next, Clough's team went unbeaten for 42 league games, a total which remained an English professional record for more than 25 years. Although his team finished second to Liverpool in the league in 1978-79, they retained the League Cup and achieved even greater success by beating Malmö FF 1-0 in the European Cup final.
Remarkably, Forest went on to retain their European title in 1980 by beating Hamburger SV. In just five years, Clough had turned a mid-table second tier club into double European champions. He was again linked with the England job in 1982, but again was overlooked. Although his European Cup winning team gradually broke up and assistant Taylor retired, Clough managed regularly to keep his club in the top half of the table throughout the decade. They finished third in 1984, also reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup where they lost to Anderlecht after winning the first leg 2-0.
Clough led Forest to another period of success in the late 1980s. They finished third in 1988 and repeated the feat 12 months later, as well as winning another League Cup with victory over Luton Town. They also reached the semi-final of the FA Cup, but lost to Liverpool in an emotional replayed match after the original game was abandoned because of the Hillsborough stadium disaster.
Clough led Forest to a fourth League Cup win in 1990, before reaching the FA Cup final for the first time in his career a year later. Although his team led, they were ultimately beaten after extra-time by Tottenham Hotspur and Clough was destined to retire without ever having won that competition. Personal problems also began to take their toll on his life. He was drinking heavily and had been devastated by the death of Taylor in 1990. The two men had fallen out some years before and never fully reconciled.
Although Forest reached another League Cup final in 1992, Clough's team were in decline and his time as manager was to have a very disappointing end. In the inaugural season of the Premier League in 1992-93, Forest struggled all season and ended up being relegated having finished bottom of the table. After eighteen years in charge, Clough stepped down and retired from management at the age of 58.
In retirement, heavy drinking began to take its toll on his health and in 2003 he underwent a liver transplant. Clough later suffered from stomach cancer, from which he died aged 69 in September 2004. Fans of Derby and Nottingham Forest remain united in admiration for him, with a trophy having been commissioned in his honour which is awarded to the winner of every match between the two clubs.
References (all accessed 20 October 2012):
- Published on Saturday, 20 October 2012 21:36