Nigel Clough has agreed to be the new manager of Derby County and the club plan to announce the appointment on Thursday. The son of Brian has finally decided to make the step into professional football management after 10 years at Burton Albion in the Blue Square Premier.
Derby, The Independent understands, had planned to delay the announcement until after the visit of Manchester United tomorrow for the Carling Cup semi-final first leg and it is expected that caretaker manager Chris Hutchings will still be in charge for that match. However, it now seems Clough's third game in charge will be at Pride Park for the second leg against Sir Alex Ferguson – a manager whom his father faced many times during the seven years their careers in England overlapped.
It will be a significant move for Clough, 42, whose father won the title with Derby in 1972 and led them to the semi-finals of the European Cup the following year. Nigel, who has two young children, has often cited the lifestyle benefits of staying at Burton over moving to a professional club. It is unclear whether Burton, who are currently 13 points clear at the top of their division, will be entitled to compensation – they have a gentleman's agreement with Clough rather than a contract.
Derby chairman Adam Pearson has placed Hutchings in charge of the club since Paul Jewell's resignation after the Ipswich game on 28 December. They are 18th in the Championship and only squeezed past Forest Green 4-3 in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday. The club hope to have Clough in charge by Saturday for the away game against Cardiff. His first home game will be against Queens Park Rangers the following Saturday.
Clough has already faced Ferguson and United in the FA Cup third round in 2006, Burton got a 0-0 draw at the Pirelli Stadium before losing 5-0 at Old Trafford. Burton play Torquay United tonight and if they win the match they will break the old Conference record for the most consecutive wins –12 in a row. It would be a fitting way for Clough to leave the club he joined in November 1998.
Last night Clough was a pundit on Setanta Sports for the FA Cup third round match between Blyth Spartans and Blackburn Rovers. Asked about the possibility of taking the job he said that he was "just concentrating on the game against Torquay".
"Nothing can distract us from that at the moment," he said, "all our efforts focus in on that." On Derby, he said: "Of course it is great to get an opportunity to move up the ladder. It's just talk at the moment and we will see what comes of it."
Earlier yesterday, the Derby chairman admitted he had spoken to Burton chairman Ben Robinson about Clough. "Certainly Nigel has got lots of attributes you look for in a manager and I have spoken to Ben Robinson about him," Pearson said. "But I speak to him often anyway because of the close connection between the two clubs. We did have a chat about Nigel but that is as far as it has gone. There are certainly other candidates on our shortlist but he is one who is on our very small radar."
Robinson has said in the past that he would not make it difficult for Clough if he did want to make the move to Derby which is just 12 miles from Burton-upon-Trent. He said last week: "If Derby came in next week and Nigel decides it's time for him to move on it will be a case of 'Good luck Nigel and thanks for all you have done for us', from us."
In a unlikely historic parallel, Brian's first season at Derby, in 1967-68, finished with them also in 18th position in English football's second tier. Having saved them from relegation with assistant Peter Taylor he went about building a new side, including the signing of Dave McKay from Tottenham. After promotion Derby won the league in 1972. Clough eventually left in October 1973 after a series of fallouts with chairman Sam Longson.