Brian Clough, managerial legend and scourge of the FA, dies at 69

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The Independent Online

"Brian Clough's a football genius," roared an emotional Nottingham Forest crowd as the trademark green sweatshirt made its entrance before his last match with the club he twice led to the European Cup. Eleven years later, the cry will rise again at the City Ground tomorrow night. This time the tears will not simply be mourning the end of a golden era, but the passing of the greatest manager England never had.

"Brian Clough's a football genius," roared an emotional Nottingham Forest crowd as the trademark green sweatshirt made its entrance before his last match with the club he twice led to the European Cup. Eleven years later, the cry will rise again at the City Ground tomorrow night. This time the tears will not simply be mourning the end of a golden era, but the passing of the greatest manager England never had.

Clough, who was 69 and had been suffering from stomach cancer, was pronounced dead yesterday morning after being admitted to Derby City General Hospital last week due to a deterioration in his condition. He died peacefully with members of his family at his bedside.

Players from the two great teams that Clough fashioned in the supposedly unfashionable East Midlands, at Derby County and Nottingham Forest, lined up to pay tribute. They knew of his fight against alcoholism, and about the liver transplant that gave him a new lease of life in 2001. Yet, like the fans who adorned the stadiums of both teams with scarves and flowers last night, they assumed that he remained "indestructible", as Garry Birtles put it, or even "immortal", as Duncan McKenzie described him.

Clough mischievously encouraged such perceptions, calling his autobiography Walking On Water, but he did have a capacity for turning half-time tea into wine. He achieved it with Birtles, whom he signed from Long Eaton United and sold to Manchester United for a seven-figure sum, as well as with countless other lost causes. And he felt he should have had the opportunity to work his miracles on the England team, only for another of his conspicuous talents, getting up the noses of the establishment, to work against him.

As well as being arguably the greatest manager the English game has known, Clough was an outstanding goalscorer with Middlesbrough and Sunderland between 1955 and 1964. He amassed 251 goals in 274 games before injury ended his single-minded rampage.

Hartlepools United, a club on intimate terms with the bottom of the Football League, gave Clough his break as a manager in 1965. He insisted there was no deal unless he could bring an old Middlesbrough team-mate, Peter Taylor, as his assistant. The pair would move together to Derby and also worked in tandem during Clough's sojourn with Brighton & Hove Albion and, most famously, at Forest.

Clough and Taylor were chips off the same block; "Derby and clone" as one reporter characterised them. "I'm the shop front and he's the goods in the back," Clough said of the partnership, adding: "I'm not equipped to manage without him." He believed Taylor's judgement of players to be unrivalled, but they fell out acrimoniously after the latter rejoined Derby. The friendship was not rekindled before Taylor died in 1990.

In six years at Derby they transformed a humdrum club in the Second Division (now the Coca-Cola Championship) into League champions and European Cup semi-finalists. Clough's pronouncements made him an iconic figure - even Mike Yarwood, the leading television impressionist, "did" him - but they also antagonised the club's veteran chairman, Sam Longson. Hostilities came to a head and the duo departed.

They resurfaced, implausibly, at Brighton, but when Clough moved to Leeds United as successor to Don Revie, who had become England manager, Taylor stayed in Sussex. Although Leeds were champions, they were an old side, past their best, and the dressing room was not well disposed to Clough because of his typically blunt claim that they had "cheated" their way to honours under Revie.

Within 44 days he was sacked. He lay low, nursing a £97,000 pay-off from Leeds, until Second Division Forest came calling. He called the place "a desert" on taking over. Two players who became key figures, the current Celtic managerial team of Martin O'Neill and John Robertson, were on the transfer list, and Forest soon finished in their lowest position for 24 years.

The turnaround started when Clough and Taylor were reunited in 1976. The trophies flooded in. Clough became the first manager since Herbert Chapman in the 1930s to win the title with two clubs, a feat only Kenny Dalglish has emulated. Within three years, a club from a provincial city of less than 300,000 inhabitants basked in the title of European champions, and they repeated the feat 12 months later.

Clough coveted the England post when Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson were appointed, in 1978 and 1982 respectively, but was convinced the FA "blazers" were scared he would give the Italians or Germans a piece of his mind. Political correctness was not his strongest suit, although he was a socialist and marched in support of the miners' strike in 1984. During a bitter industrial dispute at the Nottingham Evening Post, he refused to speak to "scab" reporters.

After seven years at Forest, Taylor's departure signalled a downturn. However, with players such as Stuart Pearce and later, Roy Keane, becoming the dominant characters, they qualified regularly for Europe and made frequent visits to Wembley. Clough continued to espouse fair play and a passing game. But his image was tarnished in some eyes when he punched two young fans who had invaded the pitch to celebrate reaching another final, and stories of his eccentric handling of players increasingly circulated.

There were also unsubstantiated allegations of "bung" taking, while drink began to make his once sharply-defined features turn jowly and red. Later, he would recall that, as a slim, teenager, Middlesbrough plied him with stout to fill out his frame. "Everywhere you go in football," he lamented, "you're offered booze." In his autobiography, he conceded that alcohol impaired his decision-making during the 1992-93 season, when Forest were relegated.

Tomorrow, before Forest meet Rotherham United in the Carling Cup, a competition his sides made a habit of winning, the faithful will stand in silence. In their heads they will hear the hectoring voice and picture the jabbing finger. Then, for the last time, they will proclaim the genius of Brian Clough.

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