The tribal factions will be out in force for the East Midlands derby between Nottingham Forest and Derby County today but one of the keenest observers will be some 5,000 miles away.
The former Forest, Derby and England winger Alan Hinton follows the fortunes of the two clubs avidly from his home in Washington State and it still pains him to think that the legacies of Brian Clough have been squandered.
The 94th meeting of the rivals coincides with this week’s 10th anniversary of the death of Clough and the two sets of fans will rise as one at the City Ground to celebrate the achievements of their former manager. Across the Atlantic, Hinton will relive his own personal memories of a unique character.
“Never a day goes by when I don’t think about Brian Clough and his sidekick Peter Taylor,” said Hinton. “And the memories always bring a smile to my face. Forest and Derby are what I call ‘little big clubs’. They have had success in the past without having the massive fan bases of the so-called giants. The common factor for both is Clough and Taylor. When they were in their prime, they were unstoppable. It saddens me to see them outside the top flight now and it goes to show how much the legacy of the great man has been lost when you consider how far they have slipped behind the top clubs.
“Hopefully there are better times ahead for them both. They seem to have strong characters as managers and that is what football is about.
“By bringing back Stuart Pearce Forest have recruited someone who is popular with the fans and he seems to have energised the club again. He has also put his foot down and made his presence felt.
“Steve McClaren has had experience of managing in Germany and Holland as well as being in charge of the England team so Derby are in safe hands too. Ideally, I would want both of them to win promotion to the Premier League and if my other former club Wolves could join them, that would be just about perfect.”
Hinton moved to North America to play and coach after a 15-year career with Wolves, Forest and Derby, winning the First Division title twice during his eight-year spell at the Baseball Ground. “Peter Taylor tapped me up quite blatantly when I was at Forest,” recalled Hinton. “I was playing cricket one day and he approached me and said they were going to buy a centre-half, a centre-forward and then they were coming in for me.
“In the end they signed Roy McFarland, John O’Hare and me for £100,000 and we were at the heart of the team that won two titles. Cloughie was unique. He got away with things other managers could never attempt.
“One day at the training ground he told me to go and do some press-ups in the nettles behind the goal. I said: ‘I’m not doing that. How will that make me a good player?’ If you stood up to him he liked that and respected you.”
Clough tried to re-sign Hinton after he had taken over at Forest, at the end of the player’s time at Derby. The winger’s son Matthew, aged eight, died from leukemia and Hinton got a call from the Forest manager asking him to move to the City Ground.
“They [Clough and Taylor] reckoned I could go on and play till I was 38 or 39,” said Hinton. “If I had done I would have won another title with Forest and the European Cup. But I was in a bit of a state after Matthew died and was drinking a lot. I knew I had to go and start my life over again so I went to North America.
“I owe such a lot to Cloughie. Would Cloughie have been successful today? Of course he would. He would have surrounded himself with people and players he could trust and got the best out of them.”
Nottingham Forest v Derby County is live on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 1.15pm.Reuse content