Brian Clough, the 'best manager England never had', dies aged 69

The legendary football manager Brian Clough, 69, died today after a battle against stomach cancer, hospital officials said.

The legendary football manager Brian Clough, 69, died today after a battle against stomach cancer, hospital officials said.

The European Cup winning manager had members of his family at his bedside.

A spokeswoman for Derby City Hospital said that the manager, dubbed Old Big 'Ed, was pronounced dead this morning.

He was for many football fans "the best manager England never had", a no–nonsense northerner with exacting standards and a supreme confidence in his own abilities.

But it may have been precisely those qualities that robbed him of leading out the national side and the chance of transferring the enormous success he had at club level to the international stage.

Never a fan of the establishment – whether directors or what he called the "grey suits" of the Football Association – the man dubbed "Old Big 'Ed" once said: "I'm sure the England selectors thought if they took me on and gave me the job, then I would want to run the show.

"They were shrewd because that is exactly what I would have done."

Instead, "Cloughie" was forced to make do with being the man who took once unfashionable and mediocre sides to league, cup and European success – and provided a unique and memorable commentary on the game along the way.

Born into a working class family on Teesside on March 21 1935, Brian Clough became a professional footballer with his local club Middlesbrough at the age of 17.

The dark–haired striker made his League debut after three years of trying to break into the first team and never looked back.

During his career at Ayresome Park, he was leading scorer for three successive seasons and eventually netted 204 goals in 222 games.

In 1959, he won his only two England caps against Wales at Ninian Park, Cardiff, and Sweden, at Wembley. Two years later, North East rivals Sunderland paid £45,000 to bring him to Roker Park.

He went on to score 63 goals in just 74 appearances for the Wearside club until his career was cut short by a knee injury sustained against Bury on Boxing Day in 1962.

Clough stayed in the North East to cut his teeth as a manager, becoming boss at Fourth Division Hartlepool United at the age of 30.

Crucially, he appointed Peter Taylor as his assistant. It was to be this professional partnership that would be the key to his future successes.

Two years later, after putting Hartlepool on track to promotion, he became manager of Derby County, guiding them in 1969 to the old Division Two championship and the club's first ever Division One title in 1972.

Clough took the Rams to the semi–finals of the European Cup in 1973 before a long–standing disagreement with the club's directors took him to coach Brighton.

It was during this period, too, that his methods became legendary: no compilation of footballing history during the period is complete without a shot of Clough on the training pitch, bawling at a player for missing the target: "You want bloody shooting."

Depending on who you talked to, such methods showed either Clough's madness or his drive, determination and high standards which were the key to his ability to get the best out of his players.

In one famous comment that provided an insight into his character, he said of meetings with his players: "We talk about it for 20 minutes and then we decide I was right."

Barring a disastrous 44–day spell as Don Revie's successor at Leeds United in 1974, success followed Clough for the remainder of the 1970s after he joined Nottingham Forest in January 1975.

He and Taylor brought First Division football to the City Ground for the 1977–78 season and then marked a remarkable start in the top–flight with the League Cup and Division One title.

Between November 26 1977 and December 9 1978, his Forest side went 42 games unbeaten in the old Division One.

It was an achievement, claimed Clough, that outshone even the double European Cup success that soon followed.

The record was not equalled until August this year by Arsene Wenger's awesome Arsenal side.

Clough was named Manager of the Year and began the 1978–79 campaign as he left off, beating the FA Cup holders Ipswich Town 5–0 in the Charity Shield.

In February 1979, he signed the country's first £1 million player, Trevor Francis, and with his help, Forest went on to retain the League Cup and finish second in Division One.

The club's crowning glory that year was to defeat Swedish side Malmo 1–0 and win the European Cup.

Clough's Forest side of the late 1970s was perhaps its best ever and featured the likes of Kenny Burns, John Robertson, John McGovern and Peter Shilton.

To prove their 1979 success was no fluke, Forest retained the European Cup the following year, beating Hamburg 1–0.

Clough could have retired in 1980 and been deified in Nottingham but he was to spend a further 13 years at the City Ground.

He took the East Midlands side to further glory, including the League Cup in 1989 and 1990 but only the FA Cup eluded him, losing to Tottenham in 1991, the same year he was awarded the OBE.

But the period also marked the decline of Brian Clough as his behaviour and comments off the field threatened to eclipse his achievements on it.

In February 1989, he was charged with bringing the game into disrepute, fined £5,000 and banned from the touchline of all Football League grounds for the rest of the season after lashing out at pitch invaders after a League Cup quarter–final tie.

He later apologised to the fans concerned and told them to kiss him by way of apology.

Slightly bashful in the presence of the great man and the bizarre request, they complied.

As players came and went, Clough misfired on the transfer market – he once admitted that his signing of the striker Justin Fashanu was his biggest–ever mistake – and his successful partnership with Taylor dissolved.

The two men fell out after Taylor retired but then took on a coaching job at their old club, Derby, and signed Forest's star man from under Clough's nose.

What Clough viewed as Taylor's treachery caused a rift that remained unresolved even at the time of the assistant's death in 1990.

Forest were bottom of the league when Clough celebrated his 18th anniversary at the club in January 1993.

The club finished bottom that year and on May 1 1993, a tearful Clough stepped down as manager and stepped out of football, preferring instead a quiet life following his son Nigel's progress as a coach with non–league Burton Albion.

In later years, Clough's increasingly haggard appearance, ruddy cheeks and sometimes slurred speech led to speculation about his health.

In 2002, he revealed what had long been suspected: that heavy drinking was taking its toll.

In his autobiography, Cloughie – Walking On Water, he admitted: "I dropped my biggest clanger by getting into drink. On reflection, I'm sure the drink clouded my judgment during that final, fateful season in management when I took Nottingham Forest down."

The book told how he sought help after his grandson, Stephen, pleaded with him: "You're not having a drink, grandad, are you?"

Clough commented: "I was spending time drinking when I should have been doing other things. It was bound to take over. If you do something to excess, something has to suffer somewhere.

"Drink became more important to me than the anguish I was creating for those I loved most."

He eventually had a liver transplant in January 2003 after doctors told him that alcohol had caused so much damage, he had only two months to live.

Clough once said he wanted "no epitaphs of profound history and all that type of thing" when he died but instead to be known as someone who "contributed".

"I would hope they would say that, and I would hope somebody liked me," he added.

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