Last may, at a dinner held to mark the 25th anniversary of Nottingham Forest's first European Cup victory, Brian Clough had the room in the palm of his hand as he spoke about his time as manager of the club.
Last may, at a dinner held to mark the 25th anniversary of Nottingham Forest's first European Cup victory, Brian Clough had the room in the palm of his hand as he spoke about his time as manager of the club. We were all there, his former players, listening when he looked over at us and said: "I used to be their boss and they used to do what I told them - most of the time anyway. Tonight I class them all as friends."
We looked at one another and I could see that really meant something to all of us. That is the respect in which we held him. That, more than all the successes, is the tribute to him as a person. When I look back I think first about the man, then the manager.
He looked so well back in May. We all thought he was back on form. So when I heard the news yesterday I was knocked for six, devastated. Those like myself who were young players at the time have known Brian longer than we've known our families. He was someone who gave us direction in our lives. To us, Forest was a family of which he was the head. He knew everyone, from the ladies who made the tea and washed the kit, to the chairman.
There was a tremendous bond between us all which is still apparent today. We players would joke about him kissing us whenever he saw us but it was genuine affection.
As soon as we heard we were calling each other: Viv Anderson, Garry Birtles, Kenny Burns... We were a very tight-knit unit. The success obviously helped - and Brian had a good eye for talent - but he was also a very good judge of character.
People say he ruled by fear. We could never have achieved what we did if that was the case. We watched our step. When he said something was black you didn't say it was white, but you could discuss it. If you made a good point he'd say "you're right". There was a mutual respect, a respect which is not always apparent in football now. It was about having the right attitude, the right values, about how you conducted yourself on and off the pitch.
He didn't improve me much technically - he would have a simple word here or there - but he gave me confidence. Once I told him I couldn't play if he kept bellowing at me from the touchline. He said he thought it would motivate me. I said that didn't work with me. So he just said, "well, you can't win the ball," and walked away. I think he knew what he was doing. Football's a tough game and you have to fight or you go under. Nowadays we'd call it psychology.
We won everything in a three or four-year spell. The things we achieved 25 years ago are still talked about today. The older players, like Frank Clark, would say to me and Viv, the youngsters, "you'd better enjoy this, it's not normal in a footballers' life".
Brian was a one-off who managed at a time when managers were in total charge but if there is anyone around like him today it is probably Jose Mourinho. I'm told Brian himself made that comparison.
Mourinho is growing on me. People say he's arrogant but he's come to another country and said, "If I fail I will fail my way. I'm not going to please anyone else." Just like Brian.
I've a cupboard full of medals and England caps but what I treasure most from my career is the camaraderie we had at Forest and still have.
Tony Woodcock played under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest from 1975 until 1979Reuse content