The Championship battle of the sons

Two dynasties collide this afternoon as Nigel Clough and Darren Ferguson go head to head. Glenn Moore hears how the aspiring managers of Derby County and Peterborough deal with the pressure of preserving their fathers' legacies

It is not, at first glance, the most alluring of fixtures. Derby County v Peterborough United. The last time the teams met, at the same Championship level 15 years ago, less than 8,000 watched a draw at London Road that helped neither side's ambitions.

This afternoon, however, there will be photographers aplenty at Pride Park. The reason will be evident from the direction most point their lenses - not at the pitch, but towards the dugouts. Were managers to wear tracksuits bearing their names across the back, spectators in the Toyota Stand would view one of the more evocative sights: Clough v Ferguson.

That is, of course, Nigel v Darren, scions of two of the most successful managers in the game, each twice winners of the European Cup. After contrasting playing careers, they are now united in trying to forge their own reputations despite the shadows cast by their fathers' formidable achievements.

Brian Clough and Alex Ferguson last exchanged a post-match handshake in January 1993. There was mutual respect, but no great closeness between the two men. That Clough refused to take Ferguson's calls when United tried to buy Stuart Pearce, and once claimed he should have been United manager, did not help. Manchester United won 2-0 at Old Trafford that day, a result which emphasised their contrasting trajectories. Clough, in his last season as a manager, was heading for relegation; Ferguson was on course to lift the first of a staggering 11 Premier League titles.

If Ferguson was on the brink of history, Clough's heyday was well behind him. Forest had been marking time for a while and Clough had increasingly taken refuge in alcohol. Those latter years do not, however, diminish his reputation as one of the great managers. Clough won the league title with both Derby County and Nottingham Forest, taking each from the second tier. He also took Derby to the European Cup semi-finals, only to lose controversially to Juventus in 1973, before winning the competition with Forest in 1979 and 1980. Neither club has done anything comparable before or since. It is a hard act to follow, especially in Derby, where the Clough family lived even while Brian was managing at the other end of Brian Clough Way, as the A52 is now called.

"Nigel's situation is tougher than mine because he's managing at the club where his father once managed," Darren Ferguson said. But Ferguson junior has a lot to live up to as well. Besides his father's phenomenal success at United there is the little matter of his spell at Aberdeen. In those eight seasons the Dons won three Scottish titles, four Scottish Cups, and the European Cup-Winners' Cup. In the other 98 years' of existence they have won one title and three domestic cups.

Darren recognises he will never match his father's record but hopes to establish a reputation by his own lights. His decision to become manager at Peterborough two years ago was in part due to the chairman, Darragh MacAnthony, not mentioning Ferguson pere in his job interview. Not that he is shy of talking about the old man – Nigel tends to be more reticent, as he is generally when talking to the media.

Two years ago, in an interview with The Independent, Darren admitted while playing under his father at Manchester United [from 1990-94] "there was no real father-and-son relationship." He added: "It became just a working relationship, although there were times when he left me out and never should have done. It got difficult for both of us. In his team meetings he'd say, 'I'm leaving Darren out, his mother'll kill me'. I didn't find it funny, but obviously he felt uncomfortable, and that was how he tried to deal with it."

Brian Clough dealt with it by referring to Nigel as "the No 9" or "the centre-forward". In his first autobiography he wrote: "It is never easy for a child to work for a parent, but when the gaffer in question is this particular father I know the arrangement is far harder for him."

Nevertheless, Clough was fiercely protective. As a teenager Nigel combined playing for Forest with turning out for his brother Simon's team, AC Hunters. Prior to one match an opponent threw a cup of tea in Nigel's face. Brian was there, found out, and ensured the match was cancelled and the player prosecuted. It was, said Clough, an "incident where Nigel was picked out because of me. He always had that cross to bear."

Nigel Clough played for Forest in that last competitive meeting between his father and Ferguson. Darren Ferguson – who was offered terms by Clough as a 16-year-old but chose United – had been in the United team which beat Clough and son at the City Ground earlier in the season. Injury then cost him his place, for good. As he later put it, by the time he was fit "the bar was raised". In came Eric Cantona, then Roy Keane. There were also some useful players coming through the ranks. Wolves were interested and Ferguson moved on. After a five patchy seasons and a spell in the Netherlands he wound down his career at Wrexham

Ferguson was a decent passer but lacked pace. Nigel Clough had the same flaw but he had enough ability elsewhere to win 14 caps for England and for Liverpool to pay £2m for him. Though an unorthodox, often deep-lying centre-forward, as likely to link the play and create goals as finish them, he scored 131 for Forest at nearly one every three games. As he entered his 30s a heel injury hampered him and he became player-manager at Burton Albion in 1998 – contradicting his father who once wrote he was "certain his son would not choose football management".

In a decade of incremental progress he steered Burton from the lower reaches of the Southern Premier League to the brink of promotion to the Football League – achieved after he answered Derby's siren call in January.

Ferguson, at 37 six years' Clough's junior, is only in his third full season but after achieving successive promotions with Peterborough his reputation is already sufficiently burnished for Reading to short-list him this summer. Ferguson wanted to talk but MacAnthony, a youthful self-made millionaire intent on reaching the Premier League, refused permission. Ferguson later signed a new four-year deal and approaches the new season full of optimism.

"We've taken a big step up in class and everyone needs to realise that, but it's still possible for us to have more success," he said this week. "We're not going into the Championship aiming just to avoid relegation. I'm looking for us to take our momentum forward and get off to a fast start. Derby is a good place for us to start. They'll be expected to win."

Clough did not respond to that dip into "mind games", but he did observe, "Darren has the major advantage – he has his dad to talk to for advice. My dad gave me plenty when he was alive, but I wish he was still here now to give me some more."

Nigel's advantage is that his father frequently took him to "work", even sitting him in the dugout at times. He will have absorbed many lessons in management, which was invaluable when he inherited, at Derby, a bloated squad low on morale. There was also the inconvenient distraction of The Damned United, the film which dramatised David Peace's controversial book about his father's time at Derby and Leeds, in which his own character had a role.

This summer Clough has slashed the squad and brought in promising talent from lower down the league like Exeter's Dean Moxey. He has also signed non-league players, a trick which has worked well for Ferguson who struck gold in former Conference stalwarts Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron McLean.

While Ferguson appears a man in a hurry, Clough has a long-term outlook. "We will just try to improve every season, there are no timescales," he said. "We are looking for some signs that we have got a team coming together. I think sustained success is built like that."

Fortunately, given that an injury crisis already imperils their start, Derby's American owners seem to agree. So does the club's senior player. "Managers like Nigel need to be given time," said Robbie Savage, who has been rejuvenated under Clough. "It might take him two or three years, but I think he is going to take this club back to the Premier League eventually." The feeling is both men will get to the top flight, with, or without, their current clubs.

The apprentices: Young managers building their reputations

Roberto Di Matteo

(West Bromwich Albion)

The former Chelsea midfielder, 39, makes his managerial debut in the Championship after guiding MK Dons to the League One play-offs last season. As a result Di Matteo holds a 55 per cent win ratio in his embryonic career and, after holding onto most of their best performers after relegation, Albion are one of the favourites to go back up.

Simon Grayson

(Leeds United)

A successful spell at Blackpool alerted Leeds to Grayson's ability. Guided the Tangerines to promotion to the Championship in 2007 and, perhaps more impressively, managed to keep them up. His acrimonious departure to Elland Road in December rather sullied his reputation in Lancashire and he will be expected to take Leeds up this season after last term's play-off failure.

Nigel Pearson

(Leicester City)

A useful central defender for Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough, Pearson, 45, is now making a name for himself in the managerial world. Steered Leicester into the Championship at the first time of asking last season after various coaching/caretaker roles at WBA, Newcastle and Southampton. Should have the Foxes looking up rather than down again this term.

Brendan Rodgers

(Reading)

Jose Mourinho's new best friend faces a hard task following on from Steve Coppell at the Madejski. Was in charge of Watford for eight months last season and did well to guide them to mid-table security. The departures of Graeme Murty, Kevin Doyle and Marcus Hahnemann leaves Rodgers with an uphill challenge at Reading.

James Mariner

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice