Football; The quiet man who let Clough do the talking

Click to follow
The prominence Ronnie Fenton plays in the Football Association's report into "bungs" could not come as a greater contrast to the unassuming role he has played in the game.

An extrovert would have been hard to detect amid the battalions of headlines Brian Clough created in their spell together at Nottingham Forest, but Fenton was a low-key assistant manager by preference. Old Big 'Ed would seek the limelight, Fenton preferred the shadows.

He was the same as a player. Born in South Shields in 1940, he passed though Burnley, West Bromwich Albion, Birmingham City and Brentford largely anonymously, appearing in more than 180 League games between 1960 and 1969, until he became part of Jimmy Sirrell's backroom staff at Notts County, succeeding him as manager at Meadow Lane between 1975 and 1977.

The day after Fenton was sacked by Notts County, he was appointed Forest's youth team coach, teaming up with Clough, who would make him his assistant a decade later. Fenton was the solid, unassuming figure around which the City Ground's figurehead could brandish his unconventional brand of management.

"When I worked for Jimmy Sirrell, I honestly believed I would never meet anyone who knew more about the game," he said in a rare interview. "Then I was fortunate to work for Brian Clough.''

Fenton left Forest when his mentor retired in May 1993, working part- time for the FA and then as a scout for Terry Venables when he was in charge of England.

Now working as a coach in Malta, he admitted to the "bungs" inquiry that he received money from Rune Hauge, the Norwegian agent whose pounds 400,000 "gifts" to George Graham cost the latter his job as Arsenal manager.

"There was nothing dishonest and that's the truth," Fenton told the Mirror after revealing he had received pounds 45,000 from Hauge. "The cheque came out of the blue. Rune told me the money was a reward for service over a period of six or seven years when I advised him which Scandinavian players might be good enough for English football.

"He never promised me cash and I never asked for any. There might have been an unspoken agreement that I'd get something, but even so it was a surprise when pounds 45,000 turned up as a totally unsolicited gift.''