Ronnie Fenton: Footballer who went on to become Brian Clough’s right-hand man

Clough said he would have liked him to inherit his job, but Forest chose Frank Clark instead

Ronnie Fenton was a trusted lieutenant to Brian Clough throughout his Nottingham Forest glory days, a reliable cog in an all-conquering machine which carried the Trentsiders to rarefied heights of continental and domestic success previously undreamed of for a club of that size. As a coach from 1977 to 1987, then as assistant manager until Clough’s retirement six years later, Fenton was an immensely influential, frequently stern figure as Forest won the League title in 1978 then went on to lift the European Cup the next two seasons.

The assertive, industrious Tynesider outshone his own relatively modest professional playing career, which began when he joined Burnley as an apprentice in April 1956 from his home-town club, non-League South Shields. Fenton, a tough and lively inside-forward with an explosive shot and a never-give-up attitude, made his senior entrance for the reigning League champions in the Clarets’ first ever League Cup tie, in which they beat Cardiff City 4-0 at Ninian Park in October 1960.

Three months later he scored twice as Southampton were beaten 4-2 at the Dell in the quarter-finals, but in an era of Burnley excellence he failed to make a sustained breakthrough, languishing in the immense shadows cast by the first-choice inside men, his fellow north-easterner Jimmy Robson and the inspirational Ulsterman, Jimmy McIlroy. After collecting a Central League title medal with the reserves in 1962 he was sold to West Bromwich Albion for £15,000 the following November, having made only 15 first-team outings for the Turf Moor side.

At the Hawthorns he linked promisingly with the likes of Alec Jackson, Bobby Hope and John Kaye, playing regularly for a season and a half before fading from contention and joining local rivals Birmingham City for £7,500 in January 1965. That spring Fenton and the Blues suffered relegation from the top flight and he never settled at St Andrew’s, accepting a move to Brentford of the Fourth Division in January 1968. Finally, at Griffin Park, he found a productive niche and flourished as a combative midfielder-cum-striker, making nearly a century of League appearances, serving briefly as captain and spending a fleeting spell as caretaker-manager when Jimmy Sirrel left in November 1969.

However, there was no place for Fenton under the new manager, Frank Blunstone, and in summer 1970 he linked up again with Sirrel to coach the reserves and youngsters at Notts County. He played his part as the Magpies rose from the fourth to the second tier before taking what would be his sole manager’s job, when Sirrel left for Sheffield United in September 1975. Fenton’s side challenged for promotion to the elite grade in both the next two seasons, but he was sacked when they were bottom of the Second Division in October 1977. He was immediately recruited by Clough across the River Trent and played his part in the success which followed, including League Cup triumphs in 1978 and ’79.

After 10 years on the coaching staff Fenton rose to assistant manager in 1987, a position he kept until he left the City Ground when Clough stepped down in 1993. During his stint as No 2 he had been involved in two more League Cup wins, in 1989 and ’90, shared in the pain of FA Cup final defeat by Tottenham Hotspur in 1991 and, the ultimate professional agony, saw Forest relegated at the poignant climax of the pair’s valedictory season.

Clough described Fenton, who could claim credit for the signing of Roy Keane from Cobh Ramblers in 1990, as a valuable friend and ally, though he would quip about his assistant’s sometimes gloomy outlook. He also declared that in some ways he would have liked Fenton to inherit his job, but the directors chose Frank Clark, whom Clough had recommended some years before.

Later Fenton, who scouted for England under Terry Venables and coached Floriana of Malta, was implicated in an investigation into transfer corruption which also involved the controversial Clough. After a Premiership inquiry the Football Association laid charges against both men, the authorities having concluded that they had taken cash illicitly. However, the cases were dropped in 1998 in view of Clough’s ill-health and because Fenton was out of the game.

Ronald Fenton, footballer and coach: born South Shields, County Durham 21 September 1940; played for Burnley 1957-62, West Bromwich Albion 1962-65, Birmingham City 1965-68, Brentford 1968-70; managed Notts County 1975-77, Nottingham Forest coach/assistant manager 1977-93; died Beeston, Nottingham 25 September 2013.

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album