Prolific career cruelly cut short

Brian Clough: The player

Today is officially Green Jumper Day at the City Ground. Old Big 'Ead would have doubtless approved. He probably would have also quite liked a red No 9 shirt day at Middlesbrough, and a red-and-white No 9 jersey day at Sunderland too.

Today is officially Green Jumper Day at the City Ground. Old Big 'Ead would have doubtless approved. He probably would have also quite liked a red No 9 shirt day at Middlesbrough, and a red-and-white No 9 jersey day at Sunderland too.

If Brian Clough the manager was a phenomenon, winning two European Cups and two championships with modest East Midlands clubs, what of Brian Clough the player? At Middlesbrough he scored 204 goals in 222 League and cup games. At Sunderland he scored 63 goals in 74 games.

"He was a phenomenal goalscorer," Charlie Hurley, his captain at Sunderland, reflected. "It was terrible when he got injured. We all wanted to see how great he could become."

Clough was 27 and in all likelihood still approaching his peak when he collided with Chris Harker, the big Bury goalkeeper, in the slush-covered Fulwell End goalmouth at Roker Park on Boxing Day 1962. "It happened in the first half," Hurley recalled, "and at half-time I went straight to the treatment table to see how Cloughie was. Johnny Watters, our physio, just got hold of the bottom half of his leg, from the knee downwards, and the whole lot came forward. That meant his cruciate ligaments were completely gone. I can remember Johnny whispering to me, 'That's it'."

After 18 months of running up and down the vast Roker End steps each day, Clough did attempt a comeback in September 1964. It lasted three games, the only three he ever played in the old First Division, the Premiership of its day. So how good a player was he?

My father saw all of Clough's games at Roker Park, and described him as "a Gerd Muller. He had the same ability to make space in the box and to wrap his foot around the ball when he shot. He always got his head over the ball, too. He kept his shots low."

Hurley played with Clough and against him, as a tough, ball-playing centre-half who was voted Sunderland's Player of the 20th Century. "Cloughie was a real talent," he reflected. "And he wasn't good in the air. He wasn't quick. He wasn't a dribbler. But give him half a chance and he would send it steaming into the net.

"We always had a great deal of respect for each other. I used to change my game when I played against him. I used to be right up his backside all game. I would make sure he couldn't turn, because once he'd done that, and the ball came across, he was the best I've ever seen at hitting the ball out of the air. His timing was unbelievable.

"When he played for us, he scored some fantastic goals. All he would think about was hitting the target. He practised it and practised it. He was a great pro."

Clough, of course, also had a great opinion of himself, and a not-so-great one of many around him - a combination which led to a deputation of Middlesbrough players petitioning for him to be stripped of the captaincy at Ayresome Park, and which prompted Walter Winterbottom to jettison him from his England team after just two games. At Sunderland, though, he bowed to the iron will of Alan Brown, the disciplinarian manager who became known to his players as "The Bomber".

"The Bomber was exactly the same as Cloughie," Hurley said. "He stood no nonsense. He was hard but honest, and the players had great respect for him. Brian admitted to me that The Bomber did him the power of good.

"Cloughie learned a lot from The Bomber. He'll be up there in heaven with him now, thanking him, I would have thought."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones