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The story of Brian Clough, of Sunderland & Nottingham Forest: A legend in red (& white)

As we prepare to visit the City Ground for Saturday’s EFL Championship game with Nottingham Forest, we take a look back at a playing legend with Sunderland who became a managerial legend at Forest.

Brian Clough: Legend

From a certain generation who recall his playing ability, to another who recount his somewhat unique managerial style, tales of Brian Clough will no doubt reach a new age who never knew this colourful character; a true legend of our game.

Clough was a striker from the North-East and remains one of the most prolific forward that England has ever produced.

He had an outstanding scoring record of 251 league goals from 274 starts and, to this day, he remains one of the Football League’s highest ever goalscorers. 197 of his strikes came in 213 appearances for Middlesbrough before Sunderland signed him for £55,000.

Cloughie would go on to score 54 goals in 61 appearances for the Lads.

In the Sunderland dressing room

During his career Clough would win only two England caps, both coming in 1959 as a Boro player. This seems so tragic for one so gifted, but perhaps this was the tale of his unfortunate playing career.

At the age of 29, Clough was seriously injured whilst playing for Sunderland against Bury on Boxing Day 1962. Damaging his anterior cruciate ligament in a collision with the opposition goalkeeper, Clough would never fully recover.

Cloughie described the injury, sustained on Boxing Day, in an interview with Ron Atkinson:

Brian Clough couldn’t leave football, though.

Aged just thirty years old, he took the manager’s job at Hartlepool United of the Fourth Division. Two years later, he’d make the jump up two leagues to manage Derby County with his long-term assistant Peter Taylor, where he’d start to turn his legendary status as a player in the North-East to an even greater legend as a manager in the Midlands.

He led Derby to the Second Division Championship in his second season before winning the First Division three years later. In 1973, the year of our own great cup run, Clough took the Rams to the semi-finals of the European Cup.

Drama was never far from Clough’s side. A falling out with the Derby chairman saw Clough and Taylor make an eight-month switch to third division Brighton.

Leeds United came knocking in 1974. Clough had long spoken out against Leeds, their players and most of all their manager - another former Sunderland forward, Don Revie.

Clough lasted 44 days. For bad, as well as good, Cloughie was making himself a legend in the game.

Nottingham Forest offered Clough a new job just a few months later. Back in the Midlands, Clough was to lead a team from the Second Division to promotion and, only twelve months later, he’d make them Champions of England. He became only the fourth manager to win the First Division title with two teams.

An even greater achievement was to follow. Clough won back-to-back European Cups, as Forest became Champions of Europe in 1979 and 1980.

Nottingham Forest v West Ham United
Trophy winner
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Cloughie had a uniqueness all his own. There are countless stories that are told about him.

My grandfather once told me what a great striker and what a professional attitude he had. He had a presence on the field. He told me Clough once scored a first half hat-trick against Middlesbrough in a 3-3 draw. “He’d only ever have one thing in mind and, more often than not, he successfully left the ball in the opposition net.” He also said our Board were neither sensible enough, nor brave enough, to appoint him as Sunderland’s manager.

Forest fans often recall what a great manager he was, not only in his achievements, but as a person. A friend from my own schooldays once came in on a Monday morning absolutely buzzing. He’d waited for the players and staff to arrive at the City Ground on the Saturday and asked Clough for his autograph. Clough duly signed and turned to my friend’s dad, asking him how many of the players had signed my friend’s book. Not content with a few names, he offered to take my friend round the dressing room to make sure he collected them all!

Roy Keane once recounted how Clough had told him to come to the ground on a match day when he was only 16. Roy thought he'd be helping out as perhaps other academy players had, but, at the last minute, Clough told him he was playing. Roy went on to have a great debut, but the next day he was called into the manager’s office and Clough told him his shoes needed cleaning!

Keane at Forest

Paul Barron recalls an occasion when he was playing in goal for QPR against Forest at the City Ground. He walked off the pitch after a 0-0 draw and as he entered the changing room, somebody kicked him up the backside. He turned around to see Brian Clough, who said: "That'll teach you to keep a clean sheet against me young man."

Tony Cascarino tells a story regarding Teddy Sheringham’s time at Forest. Sheringham was having a sauna after training and in walked Clough to talk tactics with him for about 20 mins. At the time Cloughie was wearing a suit!

Brian Clough was a larger-than-life, outspoken, often controversial figure, but certainly one of the greatest managers of the English game - an honour recognised by UEFA in 2017, when they named Clough among the top 10 coaches since their formation in 1954. He will forever be a legend at Sunderland, for his playing ability, and Nottingham Forest, for his managerial achievements.

There may never be another like him.

Nottingham Forest v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images