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Hunty's Column: There's Only One Brian Clough

Hunty explains why Brian Clough has had such a lasting impact on football.

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Nottingham Forest Manager Brian Clough

After the recent death of Graham Taylor & the continued spoilt brat antics of Arsene Wenger & Jose Mourinho, let's go back to when football management was all so different.

Going back to the 70's and 80's, it was an era of the tracksuit manager, a choice of fashion that admittedly some fitted better than others.

Malcolm Allison would be there in his trilby hat & smoking cigars during a game, something that would cause the health & safety officer to do his nut if he saw that today!

It was a time where we saw Sheepskin coats worn by Big Ron Atkinson & commentary legend John Matson. Perhaps Mr Wenger should invest in one so he wouldn't get so confused and stressed putting his hands in his pockets.

As I talked about last week, Graham Taylor built a team that progressed through the leagues but he wasn't alone. Dave Bassett also did it at Wimbledon, helping build "The Crazy Gang". People may laugh at the likes of Vinnie Jones as a footballer but he was a cog In a very entertaining and successful machine, even if the football was criticised for being route one.

That style also seemed to work on the international stage for Jack Charlton at the Republic of Ireland in the late 80's early 90s, but teams that used that system also had quality players as well. Gordon Cowans, Paul McGrath's and Kevin Sheedy are just some that come to mind.

Helping to mould those clubs were the managers, yet one particular man stands out as being inspirational, talented and perhaps the funniest man in football.....

Ladies & Gentlemen there's only one Brian Clough.

A cracking goalscorer in his early years at Sunderland, he saw his playing career cut short by injury very similar to the one that ended our own Sir Steve Coppell's playing days at Manchester United.

Clough was a man who took an unfashionable club in Derby County from the second tier to win the top division with a team made up of what pundits of the day wrote off as players past their prime, unknowns and cheap signings.

He had the ego and the belief but was backed up by one of the most underrated coaches of all time in Peter Taylor.

However, Clough's self confidence sometimes got the better of him & his belief that he could improve Don Revie's all conquering Leeds of the early 70's combined with the egos of Bremner, Giles et al all and trying to do it without his sidekick Taylor, ensured he lasted about as long as Sir Steve's reign at Man City in the 90s. It was even made into a film!

Yet geniuses bounce back and like as Coppell found success at Reading after his City nightmare, Brian took over another back water club in Nottingham Forest and turned them into not just League Champions but League Cup Winners and twice European Champions, all during an era when Liverpool were dominating the domestic game in the late 1970's and early 80's.

It was also a time of no second chances in Europe, with nothing but two-legged knockout ties and game over if you lose. He did it with players like John Robertson, Larry Lloyd, Kenny Burns journeymen who Cloughie got the best out of.

His secret was keeping things simple. I watched an interview with one of Clough's former players recently who said Brian's training ground instructions were 'there's the ball go and pass it to your team mates and score!'

Clough himself once said...

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

Managers these days should remember that! His self belief was amazing and he still won trophies at Forest even as his health and skills declined and despite again falling out with Taylor in the late 80's.

Even in his final years, he still managed to scout and sign a young Roy Keane & his legacy lives on now, having helped inspire Keane, Stuart Pearce, Martin O'Neill and others to go into management.

Sadly for many he was too outspoken to become England manager but it would have been brilliant to watch. He didn't get everything right in his treatment of players and some of those stories are well documented elsewhere.

Clough was a different man to Graham Taylor but both achieved amazing things with clubs that we hadn't seen until Leicester & Claudio Ranieri last season, something that was such a breath of fresh air and a warm flashback to the old days.

There may be many top managers that win leagues and cups but there will only be one Brian Clough. As he said himself "I wouldn't say I was the best manager in the business but I was in the top one".