Do we really need another book about Brian Clough? He wrote two autobiographies, and the years since his death in 2004 have seen at least 10 volumes devoted to him, plus a plethora of others in which he plays a major part.
Yet most of these focus on specific areas of his extraordinary career, while Jonathan Wilson has attempted an all-embracing, cradle-to-grave assessment. He had to do so without the co-operation of Clough's family and others still seemed afraid to talk about him, but Wilson tracked down a wealth of witnesses and has marshalled his material with a sure, skilful hand.
There are no explosive revelations but he does nail the myth that Clough was not a tactician, and highlights his capacity for spontaneous acts of great kindness. He also reminds us how astonishing Clough's achievements at Derby County and Nottingham Forest were; in the latter case, to take a deeply parochial club languishing 13th in the old Second Division to a First Division title, two League Cups and, of course, those two European Cups within five years still seems miraculous.
Unsurprisingly, Clough's quixotic nature is dominant. Wilson agrees with Peter Taylor, Old Big 'Ead's Sancho Panza, that iron entered Clough's soul when his playing career was cut short at 27, but that alone doesn't begin to explain the bewildering blend of arrogance, assurance and what Wilson calls "a self-destructive darkness" that had made him a household name many years before he left the City Ground in 1993, a drink-sodden, blotchy parody of his former self.
It is the definitive factual account, yet after 550 pages the real Clough remains curiously elusive, still an enigma. But what an enigma.
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