Sam Wallace: Clough right to bide his time at Burton as contemporaries struggle in spotlight

Talking Football: Remarkably, Clough does not have a contract at Burton, just a gentleman's agreement
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The Independent Online

As the son of Brian Clough, the popular perception of Nigel Clough is that he has seen what football management can do to a man and decided he would rather keep his sanity. He is the odds-on favourite to get the job at Derby County, where Brian won the title in 1972, but even if they offered it to him he probably will stay at Burton Albion. In a profession where managers who eschew advancement are about as unlikely as vegetarian polar bears, young Nigel is an oddity.

Tomorrow Burton play Torquay United in the Blue Square Premier, formerly the Conference, and if they win – their 12th consecutive victory – it will set a new record for the division's longest winning run. In November, Clough junior reached 10 years at Burton and now his team are 13 points clear at the top of the table. He says his job allows him to be there to pick his kids up from school – and good on him, although sadly there are no prizes in football for embracing modern fatherhood.

Increasingly, though, Clough's decision to delay his move into managing a professional side looks ever more astute as a career choice as well as a lifestyle choice. Former Nottingham Forest and England team-mates of his are burning brightly and fading quickly as young managers. Conversely, those who are thriving in the Premier League and beyond tend to be those who did very little in the first 10 years of their management careers. In fact some of them had achieved a good deal less in their first decade than Clough, who has taken Burton up two divisions to the brink of the Football League.

Rafael Benitez, for example, got his first job outside Real Madrid, where he had worked with the junior sides, in his 10th year of coaching. In that job, at Real Valladolid, Benitez was sacked after 23 games. Apart from a brief caretaker spell, Fabio Capello had to wait 11 years before he got his shot at managing Milan, having coached the kids after retiring as a player. On his 10th anniversary as a manager, Marcello Lippi was in charge of Lucchese who even then had not been in Serie A for 40 years.

The list goes on. Luiz Felipe Scolari was earning a living in Kuwait after 10 years in management. At the same point in his coaching career, Harry Redknapp was assistant manager at West Ham after nine years at Bournemouth. Joe Kinnear was in charge of Nepal. Sam Allardyce had only just got Bolton into the Premier League. Roy Hodgson had just won his first major trophy – the Swedish league with Malmo – but the extent of his coaching in England was a brief stint at Bristol City.

Ten years, history tells us, is no time at all in management although there are, of course, exceptions. Sir Alex Ferguson had won two Scottish titles, three Scottish cups, the European Cup Winners' Cup and the European Super Cup by 1984, his managerial 10th anniversary. Arsène Wenger had won the French title and the French cup by the same point. But generally speaking, taking your time has been no impediment to a successful career as a manager, as Clough's contemporaries from his playing days are demonstrating.

Roy Keane, Clough's former Forest team-mate, had only 28 months at Sunderland before resigning. Paul Ince has already had three jobs in the space of 25 months and is now unemployed. Tony Adams is looking vulnerable at Portsmouth after just two months (he was previously manager at Wycombe between November 2003 and August 2004). Stuart Pearce has already lost a job at Manchester City although his career has stabilised as coach of England Under-21s. David Platt has been out of coaching since 2004 after stellar jobs with Sampdoria, Forest and England Under-21s.

The lesson from the career of those men would surely be that Clough needs to take his time. Remarkably, Clough does not have a contract at Burton, just a gentleman's agreement with the long-serving chairman Ben Robinson, who told me last week that he would never consider standing in his manager's way. "He's got a job for life at Burton," Robinson said. "We will never be able to repay him for what he's done for the club and the town." By the time Brian Clough had served 10 years in management he was just embarking on his most successful phase at Forest, where he would win two European Cups. Just behind him was that 44 days at Leeds United, the subject of the brilliant novel The Damned Utd by David Peace, the film of which is out this year. It will once again focus attention on the Clough family who won't welcome it. Among other things, they have objected to Peace portraying Brian as an effer and blinder, which the family say he was not.

In The Damned Utd, there is something beautifully poignant in Peace's repeated poetic refrain used to evoke Brian's psychosis at Elland Road. "Under the stand. Through the doors. Round the corners. Down the corridors. In the office," he repeats. It depicts perfectly a man under huge pressure. It may not be dissimilar to what Keane, Ince, Adams, Pearce and Platt – all once team-mates of Nigel for club or country – have been through. When the job is stressful, why not take your time to prepare for it?

What of Tosic, the latest pretender to Giggs' crown?

Zoran Tosic's arrival at Manchester United from Partizan Belgrade prompts the suggestion he is the "long-term replacement for Ryan Giggs". Good luck with that because Giggs has seen off plenty in his time. Lee Sharpe pre-dated him but never truly compared. Keith Gillespie, Ben Thornley, Jesper Blomqvist, Jordi Cruyff, David Bellion and Kieran Richardson came and went. The 21-year-old winger Lee Martin (not the 1990 FA Cup winner) has never fulfilled his promise. Only Park Ji-Sung and Luis Nani are hanging in there.

Giggs is 35 now so Tosic, 21, has time on his side. But replacing Giggs is not like replacing any old player. He is an institution. If Tosic plays for 17 years and wins 10 titles then maybe he will be able to say he got close.

There's no need to presume Joe, it's a Given

"You presume the statement was sanctioned by Shay," said Joe Kinnear on Friday in a desperate attempt to deny the veracity of Shay Given's public declaration he wants to leave Newcastle. We don't presume, we know it was. The story was broken by The Independent's north-east correspondent Michael Walker who reported the statement, written by Given's well-respected lawyer Michael Kennedy. End of story.

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