The Robson Report: Sir Alex Ferguson had millions, Clough charisma and brilliance

Jonathan Wilosn's book on a Sunderland great
Jonathan Wilson’s book on a Sunderland great

NB: COMMENT ON: A technical blip prevented them until now

Jeremy Robson pays a grand tribute to Brian Clough to mark the imminent 10th anniversary of his death (aged 69, on September 20 2004). Sunderland fan and top writer Jonathan Wilson’s book, Nobody Ever Says Thank You, is available at very decent prices at Salut! Sunderland’s Amazon link:

It’s hard to believe
that ten years have lapsed since the passing of the great Brian Clough. Arguably, the finest manager of all time, he didn’t have to spend millions or be in charge at clubs with the deepest pockets to win trophies. He did it on the strength of team work, charisma and sheer brilliance.

According to Nigel his, son speaking ahead of tomorrow’s 10th anniversary of his death, his Dad would have been “dismayed and flabbergasted” by the modern game.

Sorry to say it, but Brian would not have been the only one. Brian’s inimitable style of management was flamboyant, brash and colourful to say the least. It was also incredibly successful, during the years of his partnership with Peter Taylor. They were a classic example of what the Germans call “Gestalt” where the whole is greater than the sum of the constituent parts.

“Old Big Head” as he called himself, was sometimes described as arrogant and conceited, and that wasn’t all he was called.

Nigel Clough contends that his late father was often afflicted by self doubt along the way. This might surprise a few people. He was a very honest man who despised cheating of any kind and, if he made mistakes, he was more than prepared to admit them, sometimes publically. I remember when he signed midfielder Gary Megson, and sold him again within a matter of weeks, disappointed in his new acquisition and commenting that Megson, “couldn’t trap a bag of cement”.

For younger readers who aren’t so familiar with this legend of the game there are some wonderful clips, and interviews with Brian on YouTube, particularly the Calendar interview with Brian and Don Revie following his dismal 44-day tenure as manager of Leeds United 40 years ago.

My son, who is only 12, has watched a lot of these clips and is highly amused at the frank as well as very amusing nature of it all.

As well as being the greatest manager of all time, Brian was of course one of the finest forwards to ever wear the red and white stripes. Brian Clough, my hero as man and boy. I still miss you. It’s such a shame that you never managed our beloved club.

8 thoughts on “The Robson Report: Sir Alex Ferguson had millions, Clough charisma and brilliance”

  1. Yes MD, Moyes would be more humble but he does have more to be humble about having won absolutely nothing as a manager. The circumstances under which Moyes took charge at Old Trafford are similar only wrt to the fact that he was taking over from a long standing boss who had won everything there is to be won.

    Like yourself, I had no time for Revie at all and the Cloughie’s smirking I still find hilarious even 40 years on. He was winding Revie up a treat. He couldn’t stand Don Revie either, and Cloughie has his hackles rising right from the off. Brilliant stuff.

    I don’t think either of them were intended to be sacrificial lambs at the time they were appointed (Moyes or Clough), but Moyes especially became the scapegoat for everything. There’s a part of me that has always suspected that Cloughie actually went out of his way to alienate the players that adored Revie. He despised Leeds and the way they played under Revie, and all the old boys were still there when he arrived (and of course when he soon left.

    Moyes was a terrible appointment for Man Utd, not that he was a bad manager, just not a successful one in their terms. It remains to be seen whether he ever wins anything for the rest of his life. He did a good job keeping a cheap ship afloat but that’s a monumentally long way from winning trophies every season year upon year. He couldn’t tie Cloughie’;s laces.

    • Nothing JR but then what had Clough won when he went to Leeds? Oh yes the League!

      But my point is that both were brought in to succeed a long term successful manager and on a hiding to nothing. Moyes managed Everton in a time when the amount of cash at Chelsea and the Manchester clubs makes it difficult for others to challenge them. Derby were a small club at the time but they could still compete. No doubt though that OB’E brought the best out of his squad.

      Neither were given the time to mould the team into their own.

      I see both as sacrificial lambs.

      For what it’s worth I have no doubt Cloughie was a better manager than Moyes will ever be and I never liked Don Revie, even if he was also ex Sunderland. In the clip though I feel Revie maintained some dignity whilst Clough’s smirking expression would doubtless have alienated many of those watching.

      Moyes would be more humble.

  2. This could almost have been a similar interview 40 years later with Moyes and Ferguson, except the PR people wouldn’t have sanctioned it. I actually think Revie comes out of this exchange quite well.

    Given more time but without Taylor, could Cloughie have succeeded at Leeds? I wonder but there’s no disputing what he did in subsequent years.

    I await the Moyes bounce back.

    • Malcolm

      I think Clough could have succeeded at Leeds [ I think he could have succeeded anywhere given time ] if he had adopted a different approach.

      I completely ignore ” The damned United “, which after all was a work of fiction [ and rubbished by most of the people who were at Leeds at the time ]

      However I do remember this time well [ I was a rabid Clough watcher ] and it was transparently clear that the players [ or at least some of them ] were not over enthused by him, and were playing at less than 100%.

      For all sorts of reasons Clough disliked Leeds, and he certainly disliked Revie. However, the Leeds players loved Revie, and IMO, BC should have been sufficiently smart to have realised that.

      There were some great players at Leeds. A few were reaching the last stages of their careers, but they could have been gradually phased out, and I think Brian would have had another Championship winning team ready made.

      As it turned out Leeds loss was Forest’s gain, and Clough probably learnt something as a result [ ? humility ]

      Personally, I think Don Revie was also a great manager. He built an incredible team, who played possession football better than anyone else at that time. Unfortunately they had an ugly side to them, and that I think, was what Clough disliked.

      I would have welcomed either of them as manager at Sunderland, particularly Clough.

  3. Great listening to him again. He was an incredible character, quite unique, and a psychologist’s dream.

    As you say Jeremy, it was a tragedy that he didn’t go on to manage Sunderland. He was the perfect fit at the perfect time. An ex-player who liked the club, a northeast lad, who understood the area, it’s people, and their desperate desire for success.

    I also think that he was probably the best British football manager of the lot, certainly in my experience. IMO he would head up a tiny elite group which would include Shankly, Ramsey, Paisley, Busby, Nicholson and Ferguson.

    I think he was better working initially with players who had not enjoyed huge success. He liked to mould players and teams to play the way he wanted. This is probably why it went wrong at Leeds. I personally think that he himself was somewhat in awe of some of the Leeds players, and the self-doubt that his son mentions, led him to antagonise and alienate some key players, who quite possibly didn’t try as hard as they would have, if he had adopted a lower key approach?

    However Cloughie didn’t do low key, and, of course, it was the supreme confidence that he was able to impart to his players that was the key to his success. That and the talent spotting ability of Peter Taylor.

    Whatever one’s opinion, I doubt we’ll see his like again?

Comments are closed.

Next Post