Brian Clough: The great Derby County and Nottingham Forest manager profiled

Brian Clough Peter Taylor
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The greatest manager that England never had achieved remarkable things with two fierce Midlands rivals, including two European Cup wins

Brian Clough, widely regarded as the greatest manager England never had, stands in history as one of the most captivating men ever to grace the national game.

He is a two-time European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest - winning the competition in back-to-back years - and also won a First Division title and four League Cups at the City Ground, in addition to the league championship he had previously earned at Derby County.

Both Derby and Forest had never been as successful before, and neither have been since. A larger-than-life personality, Clough was often controversial and completely unafraid to speak his mind and stir the pot.

This is the story of the highs and lows of his incredible career as a player and manager.


Brian Clough Peter Taylor

Clough played for non-league side Billingham Synthonia as a teenager and then joined Middlesbrough in 1955 after his national service. He was an instant hit with the Second Division side, netting 40 goals in 44 games in his first full season and going on to score 204 times in 222 games over six campaigns in total.

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In 1961 he moved on to Sunderland, where he was similarly prolific over two seasons before suffering a serious knee injury. He made a brief return before deciding to call it quits at age 29 and, to this day, still has the highest goals-to-games ratio among players to score 200 goals in the English leagues. He represented England twice.

It was during his time at Middlesbrough that Clough struck up a friendship with Peter Taylor, who was then a goalkeeper for the club. That was despite the fact that Clough would regularly ridicule Boro's defenders, sarcastically asking after one 6-6 draw how many goals he would have to score in order for the team to win.


Brian Clough Peter Taylor

Hartlepools United

After coaching Sunderland's youth team, Clough was appointed manager of Hartlepools (now Hartlepool) United in October 1965. He was the youngest manager in the Football League at age 30 and asked Taylor, then managing non-league Burton Albion, to be his assistant.

The job was an unenviable one - Hartlepools had finished in the bottom two of the Fourth Division in five of the prior six seasons and had to continually apply for re-election to the league - and just over a year after taking the job, Clough was sacked. A boardroom coup, however, saw him reinstated and after guiding Hartlepools to an eighth-place finish, he landed the Derby County job in May 1967. Pools would win promotion for the first time ever the season after he left.

Derby County

It was at Hartlepools that Clough discovered John McGovern who, along with goalkeeper Les Green, he brought with him to Derby. Clough and Taylor spent their first season at the club rebuilding but went on to win the Second Division title in 1968-69, going 22 matches unbeaten.

After fourth and ninth-placed finishes in the First Division, Derby won the title in 1971-72. The Rams had already played their final game of the season by the time the vital fixtures involving Liverpool and Leeds United took place, so Clough was on holiday in the Isles of Scilly with his family when he found out he was an English champion.

Derby finished seventh the following season but did reach the semi-finals of the European Cup, losing to Juventus. The campaign was, however, plagued by incidences of Clough falling out with the Rams' board - particularly the chairman, Sam Longson. Clough agreed a record deal to sign David Nish for £225,000 without actually consulting his superiors, and his frequent - and often inflammatory - appearances as a newspaper columnist and television pundit also aggravated Longson. In one article, he called for Leeds United to be relegated to Division Two for their poor disciplinary record.

Clough and Taylor eventually resigned in October 1973, with fans reacting by demanding the board step down instead so that the pair could be reinstated. Derby would eventually appoint Dave Mackay, one of Clough's key players, and won the league again before a demise that ended with relegation to the Third Division in the 1984.

Brighton & Hove Albion

As only Clough could do, he decided his next challenge after winning the title would be to go down to the Third Division to manage Brighton. He ended up spending just one season on the south coast and was not particularly successful, aside from ensuring his struggling side stayed clear of relegation.

Clough and Taylor did, however, strike up a very good relationship with Brighton chairman Mike Bamber, who Clough would later describe as the best he ever worked with. Taylor liked him, too, and when Leeds United came calling for Clough his assistant decided to stay behind to take the top job at the Goldstone Ground. The split ended up working out for neither and proving they were far more effective as a duo.

Leeds United

Clough's appointment as Leeds manager was shocking given the comments he had made about the team, who he regarded as cheats. Don Revie had won two First Division titles and the FA Cup with the Whites, and Clough had developed a deep disdain for his success and style of play.

Revie left Leeds to become England manager but Clough, without Taylor, struggled badly to win over a squad of players who had adored his predecessor. He did not help himself, by all accounts, with the manner in which he attempted to do so.

According to Leeds midfielder Johnny Giles, Clough opened a team meeting three days into his disastrous reign by telling the squad: "Right you f***ing lot, as far as I'm concerned you can take all the medals you have won and throw them in that bin over there."

Clough never got Giles, Norman Hunter and Billy Bremner, in particular, on his side and Leeds lost five of the six matches for which he was in charge. His time at the club ended after 44 days with a massive - for the time - pay-off of £98,000.

Nottingham Forest

With his reputation having taken a hit, Clough was back down in Division Two for his next job at Nottingham Forest. Eighteen months later, after a mid-table finish in his first full season at the helm, he would be reunited with Taylor.

The results were remarkable. Taylor had brought in some of the players who would eventually help Brighton from the Third Division to the top flight but found he struggled to get the best out of them without Clough, while Clough had signed poorly at Leeds and missed his partner's softer approach to man management. At Forest, once again, the combination of their skills proved a recipe for astonishing success.

After securing promotion in their first season back together, Forest took Division One by storm and won the English championship and the League Cup immediately after returning to the first tier. A year later - having set a transfer record by signing Trevor Francis for £1 million - they were, incredibly, champions of Europe, beating Malmo in the European Cup final.

GFX Nottingham Forest

Clough and Taylor were not done there. The following season they defended the continent's most prestigious trophy, defeating Hamburg and European Footballer of the Year Kevin Keegan at the Santiago Bernabeu.

It is a rise the likes of which had never been seen before in English football and will never be repeated. Clough was never afraid to spend big - relative to the time - on the likes of Francis and goalkeeper Peter Shilton, but Forest's captain was McGovern, discovered by Clough and Taylor back at Hartlepools, and their star player was John Robertson. He had been on the transfer list when Clough took over as an uncommitted, out-of-shape central midfielder but was transformed into one of the best wingers in European football.

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Unfortunately, it could not last forever. Clough's first side was broken up in the early 1980s and the new players brought in struggled to live up to expectations, with Taylor retiring in 1982. He briefly returned to manage Derby, while Clough would stay at the City Ground for another 11 years, winning only two more League Cups and retiring when Forest were relegated from the Premier League in 1993.

Later life

Having initially parted on good terms, Clough and Taylor fell out over the deal that saw Robertson leave Forest to join Derby during Taylor's brief stint as manager. They never spoke again after that, and when Taylor passed on October 4, 1990 at age 62, Clough is said to have immediately put the phone down upon hearing the news and broken down into tears. He later dedicated his autobiography to Taylor.

Clough had battled with alcoholism for much of his managerial career and became increasingly unwell towards the end of his time with Forest. He had a liver transplant in 2003 and, though that improved his condition, died of stomach cancer on September 20, 2004. More than 14,000 people attended a memorial service at Pride Park.


Clough has been the subject of a number of books, perhaps the most famous of which is The Damned United , published in 2006 by David Peace. It is a biographical novel about Clough's time at Leeds United that is described by Peace as "fiction based on fact", and the creative liberties taken upset both Clough's family and some of the players involved, with Johnny Giles successfully suing Peace's publisher for libel.

In 2009 the book was adapted into a film, with Michael Sheen playing Clough and Timothy Spall depicting Taylor. Again, despite being acclaimed critically it did not meet favour with the Cloughs, with Brian's son Nigel stating that those who had watched it - he had not - told him it "bore no resemblance" to what actually happened. Dave Mackay sued Left Bank Pictures over the implication he had betrayed Clough by succeeding him as their manager.


Brian Clough Peter Taylor

Not one but two statues have been erected in Clough's honour.

The first was put up in Nottingham in November 2008, and stands in the city centre. It was unveiled by his widow Barbara in front of around 4,000 people and was paid for by the Brian Clough State Fund, a group of volunteers who raised nearly £70,000.

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The second (pictured above) followed two years later at Derby County's Pride Park stadium. It depicts Clough and Taylor holding the First Division championship trophy they won during their time with the Rams.

Memorably, the unveiling of the Derby statue was delayed when the canvas became caught on the head of Clough, who was known as 'Ol' Big Head'.


On his time at Nottingham Forest: "The River Trent is lovely. I know, because I have walked on it for 18 years."

"Players lose you games, not tactics. There's so much crap talked about tactics by people who barely know how to win at dominoes."

"I wouldn't say I was the best manager in the business, but I was in the top one."

"Rome wasn't built in a day. But I wasn't on that particular job."

On long-ball football: "If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he'd have put grass up there."

"I regret telling the entire world and his dog how good a manager I was. I knew I was the best but I should have said nowt and kept the pressure off, 'cos they’d have worked it out for themselves."

"I'm sure the England selectors thought if they took me on and gave me the job, I'd want to run the show. They were shrewd, because that's exactly what I would have done."

"I want no epitaphs of profound history and all that type of thing. I contributed - I would hope they would say that, and I would hope somebody liked me."