Some 40 years on, the voice and the dictates are pure Brian Clough
In a Derby County 'Player's Ticket' from 1968 Sam Wallace finds clues to the great man's rise
Friday 27 March 2009
Every Derby County player from nervous schoolboy signings to Dave Mackay, bought from Tottenham Hotspur in 1968, had a copy of it pressed into their hands when they joined the club. It was Brian Clough's original rulebook, a template for good behaviour in the 1960s footballer and even today the stern voice of its author can be heard in every line.
The release of the controversial Clough film The Damned United today has sparked a rush of interest in the late, great manager, and The Independent has had access to one of his earliest managerial strategies. This was Clough's "Player's Ticket" – printed in full on this page – issued in 1968 which doubled as an all-purpose pass that could get the holder into any football stadium in the country. More importantly, it laid out Clough's laws for his players.
The rules, 19 in all, vary from the mundane – all players had to be in the dressing room one hour before kick-off – to the wonderfully archaic: rule 15 describes in great detail when players were permitted to attend "Dances". In that case it was "up to and including Tuesday (except when a Mid-week match is to be played), and also Wednesday, if permission is granted by the Trainer."
There are some rules in Clough's book that the modern-day footballer would take for granted. For instance, Clough says: "Smoking on the Ground or in the Dressing Rooms during training hours strictly forbidden." Although it is noticeable that there were no rules that stipulated the players should abstain from a smoking habit when they were not playing or training.
There are other rules that the modern-day Premier League superstar, with his coloured boots, branded base-layer vests and contractual image rights might find more difficult to keep. Clough stipulated that no player "was allowed to order sports gear or goods of any kind for himself" without his permission or that of "the Trainer", who in 1968 was Jack Burkitt.
The rulebook reveals just how much control Clough, then just 33 years old and in his second job in management, wanted to exert over his players. They were not to ride "motor-cycles" or have any connection with "licensed premises" which is the only nod to Clough's own dangerously self-destructive pastime. There are rules on what time players should turn up for trips to away games and when they were – and were not – allowed in the dressing room.
Clough took over at Derby in May 1967 with his loyal assistant Peter Taylor at his side, having made his name at Hartlepool (then Hartlepools) United. He inherited a struggling Second Division Derby team from former manager Tim Ward and turned them into champions of that division in 1969. Three years later they were league champions and the following season made it to the semi-finals of the European Cup.
Noticeable in Clough's rules are the many references to the "Directors" – five in all – which he must have resented. His predecessor, Ward, once complained that he had to get the board's permission even to post a letter because they had to sanction the purchase of a stamp. Eventually it was Clough's breakdown in relations with the chairman Sam Longson that resulted in Clough and Taylor's ill-judged resignations in 1973, what Clough later described as "the biggest mistake of my life".
Clough wrote in one of his books, Cloughie: Walking on Water, that even in the relatively short time he spent at Derby he noticed that the game he had played for Middlesbrough and Sunderland had changed. "I regarded the game as a business and I was the first one to use the term 'industry' to describe professional football," he said. "It was an industry then and it is even more of one today. Now it's huge – possibly too big for its own good, too big to last."
Even so, the attitude of the "Directors" and manager towards the players in Clough's rulebook demonstrates a very different relationship to the one between players and clubs in the modern day. The strict schoolmaster tone is not what most of the current generation of top footballers are accustomed to. These days players are more likely to have a closer relationship with their agent than their manager.
However, some aspects of those days still hold true. Like Derby's players travelling by train, the England squad's current North-west contingent will get a train together from Manchester Piccadilly to Watford Junction, near to England's Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire. Instead of motorbikes there are other extra-curricular activities from which modern players are banned because of the potential for injury. David Beckham recently bemoaned the fact that his contracts have always stipulated he is not allowed to go snowboarding.
Clough gathered together a great team at Derby including Mackay, Kevin Hector, Roy McFarland and Colin Todd, but this rulebook was preserved by one player who did not make the first team. Malcolm Ireland, 58, who lives in Coventry, can still remember the day in 1968 that Clough knocked on the door of his parents' house in the city and said: "I would like to sign your son as a Derby County player."
Then just 16, Ireland played for the Derby "A" team and the reserves but became homesick and went back to Coventry despite Clough's attempts to persuade him to stay. "He was a wonderful man," Ireland said. "Clough parked his car at the end of our street and came to the door. He spent two hours with me and my parents, drinking tea and explaining how the club would look after me and what would be expected of me.
"My parents were amazed that someone who was already a major figure on television should make such an effort with them. But that was the sort of man he was. He was very at home in a family environment and enjoyed talking to us. I signed the contract there and then and he gave me the player's ticket. He said: 'Those are my rules, I expect you to read them and not to break them.' As young players we wouldn't have dared. We were in awe of him."
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