Brian Clough : Simply the Best
Imagine Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola moving to a mediocre championship side like Derby County or Nottingham Forest. Now imagine them getting the team promoted back to the top-flight and winning that division too. And then reaching the Champions League semi-finals and after that actually winning it. After that moving to another club in a similar predicament and repeating the trick. This is what Brian Clough actually did. If that is not the hallmark of greatness then I don't know what is. Brian Clough is not the holder of the most trophies ever won. Not even close to some. The best striker around is not necessarily the guy who nabs the most goals and the same is true when it comes to management and accolades. The greatness of Ol' Big Head lies in how he approached the game, his unique management style, his indomitable character and his vicious wit, but so much more beyond that too.
When Cloughie arrived at Derby, the club had been languishing in English football's second tier for a decade. Derby were, and still are, a provincial club with a trophy cabinet that's not exactly overflowing. Within 5 seasons they were crowned first division champions and reached the semi-finals of the European Cup. Clough's right hand man and former teammate Peter Taylor played a massive role as always. Upon his arrival at the Baseball Ground, Clough sacked eleven first team players, the scouting team, the groundskeeper and also some tea ladies for good measure who reportedly were enjoying a laugh after a defeat for derby.
That kind of all encompassing oversight and micro-management encapsulates the brilliance of Clough. He was also twice interviewed for the England job but was foolishly overlooked. His confrontational nature and dedication to confronting the establishment no doubt frightened the FA. When Clough and Taylor resigned from Derby County in 1973 after a feud with the board, so too did the complete backroom staff, the very least Mr. Clough would have expected one suspects. A brief spell at Brighton was followed by the disastrous decision to go to Leeds United without Taylor. That ill-judged experiment was complete in 44 days and paved the way for the duo's most successful project to begin, Nottingham Forest.
Upon his arrival at the City Ground in January 1975 the club was mid-table in the 2nd division. Within two seasons they were promoted and followed that up with being crowned first division champions and adding the League Cup to complete a double. In the '78/79 season Clough displayed the full repertoire of his brilliance. Nottingham Forest won the European Cup and were runners-up in the league and incredibly successfully defended the European Cup the following year. The magnitude of this triumph cannot be overstated. Under Cloughie's tutelage the club set a record of 45 games unbeaten which stood until Arsene Wenger's invicible's side surpassed it in 2004.
Brian Clough was a flawed man. The man who famously punched Roy Keane in temper was no shrinking violet. Not everything he touched turned to gold and his spells at Brighton and Leeds display this as well as his later years at Forest. He certainly had a nasty streak and had a bitter falling out with Peter Taylor which was never resolved before the latter's death. His enduring battle with alcoholism contributed enormously to his and his team's decline in the 80's and early 90's. All of this makes the man more relatable and he is revered to this day by both Derby and Forest fans alike. The '92/93 was to be Clough's 18th season at Nottingham Forest and also his final season in football. Nottingham Forest were relegated after an appalling season in which they were rooted to the foot of the table for the vast majority of it. He didn't always get it right but when he did, he really did.