Football: THE INTERVIEW: BRIAN CLOUGH; I was right, television is killing the game

Old Big 'Ead is back in form with thoughts on the age of Robson and the state of football

BRIAN CLOUGH will descend from his Derbyshire hill today to receive an overdue acknowledgement from Nottingham Forest. The main stand has been renamed in his honour and a bust of Old Big 'Ead will be unveiled in the main entrance before the match with Wolves. Despite what he calls "my dodgy knees" the 64-year-old will limp on to the pitch and doubtless have a thing or two to say to the crowd.

Clough's departure as manager, almost six and a half years ago, was precipitate amid swirling gossip about a losing battle with the bottle. No time for lingering farewells or ceremonies after 18 years in the job, so today might provide the occasion for thanks all round for his legacy of two European Cups, a championship and four League Cup victories.

A man who is not averse to nourishing grievances, Clough has been back to the City Ground only once in all that time, to watch his son Nigel play in a reserve game. He has driven by a few times, though, usually on his way to the adjacent Trent Bridge cricket ground. That was when he noticed they had already put his name up on the stand. "In letters that big," he says, holding his hands two feet apart. "But they didn't let me know officially they had put it up because they have been in such turmoil at the club."

His interest in the structure borders on the proprietorial. "I paid for that stand, bribed the erectors because it was built in the winter. They used to say: `We can't touch that steel, there's ice on it' so I provided coffee and brandy. I sent their wives hampers and all sorts."

At ease on the sofa in the annex of Nigel's stunning hilltop farmhouse in Duffield, where he is lodged awaiting the renovation of the home he is moving to at Darley Abbey, Clough concedes: "I am slightly embarrassed about going back, but on the other hand I am not. It was not so much the football, it was the silly things. The first letter I got from Forest after I left was one stopping my private medical cover."

Never a vociferous booster of club chairmen, Clough has finally found one he likes, Ben Robinson, at Burton Albion, the Dr Martens League club where Nigel is player-manager. Brian, who has bought a season ticket and attends all Burton's home games, says: "I must be going soft in my old age because I like their chairman. He is enthusiastic and young, his smile is as wide as Stockton high street and I took to him straight away because he didn't fuss too much."

Clough expands on the subject: "The most important decision a chairman should ever make is appointing the manager and then giving him sufficient time to do the job they want, so that they can walk around with trophies and sit in the Royal Box at Wembley.

"But nowadays chairmen seem to live in Spain. That bloke who was at Forest [Irving Scholar] lived in Monaco. I often wonder how people like that got into football. You can't love football and live abroad, because you miss the one thing you should want, watching your team. I upset young Keegan over that. He took tax exile, went to Germany for a couple of years. But he used to make sure he had 31 days in England tax free. So I said they should tax him because he was breathing our air, drinking our water and driving on our roads.

"And how can anybody praise Martin Edwards at Man United? He has twice tried to sell the club to the enemies of football, Robert Maxwell and Rupert Murdoch. How can he look anybody in the eye and say he loves the club when he has been trying to make sixty million quid selling it?" Nor does that inviting target, those who run Newcastle United, avoid a tongue- lashing from this North- easterner. "That club have dropped more clangers in the last couple of years. It looks like they may have to pay Kenny Dalglish a lot of money, then there was the Dutchman with the headlocks or drylocks, or whatever they call them. It has been a walking disaster for them, manager-wise. Now they have given the job to Bobby Robson to keep the seat warm, and that's a bad decision too.

"I'm delighted for Bob. I just think he has left it a wee bit too late and I fear for him. He is saddled with the job of restoring the fortunes of a club steeped in tradition, yet he doesn't just have to avoid relegation. They are already talking up there about him winning something. Yet they could quite easily go down. The Shearers won't keep them up, the first essential is to keep a clean sheet and they haven't been doing much of that. When I played, the least I scored in one season was 39 goals, but we couldn't get promotion. Every time I put three in, somebody was putting four in at the other end. Bob's first task is a mammoth one, to avoid relegation.

"If he is to win something it will take two or three years and at 66 he hasn't got that much time. He has already broken all the rules by taking over a big club at that age. He has got his hands full. If he goes to a youth match he will be 20 years older than the players' fathers. Fifteen- year-olds won't know what Bob is talking about.

"There was a photo of him in one of the local papers the other day showing him pushing against a goalpost and the wind had got under his magnificent head of hair and lifted it three or four inches. He looked like one of those mad professors. When you start getting to 50, never mind 67, the stress in present-day managing is so fierce.

"With Robson, Newcastle will bring a bit of stability to the club and the crowd will be generous to him, they won't get on his back just yet. But I would have gone for Martin O'Neill. They would have had to pay Leicester compensation, plus Martin's wages, now reported to be in the pounds 100,000 bracket. When we won the European Cup I was not getting pounds 600 a week and when I left Forest after 18 years I was on just over a thousand a week."

There is, of course, an inevitable Robson anecdote from the Clough archives. "When we played his team [Ipswich] in the Charity Shield we stuck five past them. Bob came over at the end and put his arm around my shoulder as we walked off. I said: `Never mind talking to me, get in the dressing- room with your team.' He said he was just leaning on me for support until he got there."

There is sad irony in the fact that the man who has dished out so much stick over the years is also in need of a bit of support these days. There is a stick handily placed near the sofa in case the knees aren't up to the job. But the last nine months have produced a remarkable recovery from the drinking that so nearly destroyed him. Alcohol has been shunned, weight regained and the sparkle is back in the eyes and on the lips. That is as close to the old Cloughie as you are reasonably entitled to expect at 64. As he says: "All the stress has gone from my face but I still look old, and that's because I am old." Ten days ago Brian and his wife Barbara travelled to London to see a show. "At half-time a grey-haired fellow came up to me, said: `I can't believe how well you look' and buggered off."

Clough has spent a lot of time in hospital recently for dental work to remove old roots, an operation to straighten a bent finger and surgery on both knees. He points to his right knee. "They took three and a half pints of liquid out of that, and that's supposed to be my good one. I asked them if they were sure they were talking about my knee and not my head.

"But I think my knees have got a bit worse. I'll have to order a new pair from the Co-op for Christmas. I am all right sitting down or in bed but if I get in a car they lock. The bloke who said life begins at 40 was either blind drunk or in cloud cuckoo land. There is only one way you go when you are 40 - down."

Down is also where football is heading, Clough feels. "When I was a kid I used to go the pictures on a Saturday morning and they often showed films of the Klondike gold rush, everybody going crazy and shooting each other, staking out claims. Football is at that stage now, at its barmiest. I am sick of reading more about the money in football than the football. TV is a killer. Coverage has got to saturation point. It has taken away from the working man his ability to look forward to the pinnacle of his week, a Saturday afternoon or midweek match. He doesn't know which match to pick now, he sits in his armchair, the excitement isn't there. They have taken the spirit away. I don't care how much money they are getting in.

"Five years ago I said TV would kill football as we know it and that gates would gradually decline. Now I watch TV matches and see hundreds of seats vacant."

One seat never vacant is Clough's at Burton where, he says, people in the crowd keep asking him when he is coming back into football. "Funny, it's mainly the women who ask the questions while the fellows stand in the background in embarrassment. One woman put her arms around me and with my knees being dodgy she nearly knocked me over."

Brian often gives his other son, Simon, a hand at the newsagent's shop he runs in Nottingham and here, too, he is assailed by customers wanting to know about comeback plans. "I tell them I ain't going back anywhere. I did my stint from 16 to 60, that's a long time in one trade, it's a testimonial to have lasted that long. Nobody is going to take away the feeling I have now, where every day I wake up and think I have nothing to do, except what I want to do. I have my grandchildren to see, I can watch a match on TV if I want to, I can go to the theatre with Barbara."

And today he has chosen to go back, briefly, to Nottingham Forest to be honoured. How will that feel, then, Brian Clough? "I'll get it over with and retire for a second time."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manager - (communications, testing, DM)

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Apprenticeships

£10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an outstanding opportunity for 1...

Ashdown Group: IT Analyst / Helpdesk - 2 Month Contract - £15ph - High Wycombe

£15 per hour: Ashdown Group: IT Analyst / Helpdesk - 2 Month Contract - £15ph ...

Recruitment Genius: Automation Test Analyst

£35000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This group is the world's secon...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum