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Portrait of Brian Clough, Middlesbrough FC,

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On This Day (31 March 1962): Clough returns to Boro & emerges victorious in striker battle

Sunderland’s new striker made a goalscoring return to his old stomping ground, but it was his former strike partner who made the headlines post game.

In the summer of 1961, Brian Clough swapped the red and white of North Yorkshire for the red and white of the north east, and after the best part of ten years at Ayresome Park made the controversial £48,000 switch to Roker.

During his time at Middlesbrough, he’d averaged almost a goal a game in the second tier - 204 in 222 according to most sources, goalscoring that had warranted an England call up in 1959.

Alongside him in attack for the majority of those games for Middlesbrough had been Alan Peacock – two years Clough’s senior. Peacock’s unselfish play and aerial dominance was the perfect foil for the single-minded Clough, and both men regularly scored double figures; while Clough was close to one-in-one, Peacock was more a one-in-two man.

Upon Clough’s departure, however, Peacock took over the goalscoring mantle superbly, and while Clough was firing them in at Roker, so too was Peacock at Ayresome Park.

On this day 61 years ago, Sunderland travelled down the A19 to take on Peacock’s Boro. For Sunderland, Cloughie’s goalscoring exploits had attracted attention. He’d slotted in seamlessly at Roker, and had so far scored 28 goals in 35 games in all competitions.

Boro’s Alan Peacock, meanwhile, had stepped into the lead goalscorer role – and had impressed so much he’d been called up for the first-ever time by England for the midweek game against Austria. Preparations for the 1962 World Cup were well underway, and as well as Peacock, the Sunderland skipper Stan Anderson had also received his first international call up at the age of 28.

No call up for Clough, however, who was seen as too much of a challenge, although newly appointed England selector – Sunderland chairman Syd Collings – would surely have fought his corner.

Brian Clough 1962
Before the game, Clough had congratulated Peacock on his call up...
Photo by Teesside Archive/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

In recognition of his call up, Peacock was named as Boro skipper for the day, and the two captains allegedly discussed their plans to travel to join up with the England squad when tossing the coin before kick off. However, Peacock’s England dreams were shattered after only a couple of minutes.

As was his cheekbone.

As Peacock jumped for his first aerial challenge of the day with Charlie Hurley, he clashed heads with the Sunderland centre half and crumpled to the ground. Peacock laid prone, immediately dampening the bubbling atmosphere created by the 35,000 crowd – Middlesbrough’s biggest of the season.

Peacock had to depart the field, and in the era of no subs, Boro had to play the game with ten men and, while the majority of the home team understood the clash had been accidental, some thought otherwise, and sought revenge on the Sunderland team. Shortly after Peacock’s departure, Len Ashurst needed treatment after a clash with Boro’s Orritt, who also needed treatment. George Herd was a constant target for the Middlesbrough defence, which included Bill Gates, the brother of future Sunderland striker Eric, and the game descended into a scrappy affair.

Middlesbrough had attacked immediately after Peacock’s injury – Wakeham had let an Orritt shot squirm under his body and past the post, Irwin headed a thunderous shot away, but with the numerical advantage, Sunderland had more possession and created more chances.

Clough had a goal disallowed for offside, Harry Hooper missed a sitter when put clean through, and no fewer than five goal-bound shots were cleared off the line before Clough put Sunderland one up – heading home an Anderson cross downwards to keeper Appleby’s left.

Soccer - FA Cup - Quarter Final - Middlesbrough v Manchester United
Boro’s Bill Gates – brother of Eric – in action against George Best
Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images

Clough, according to reports, was a ‘much more buoyant and mobile character than usual at Ayresome Park, but was well marshalled by the impressive Gates.

Shortly before Clough’s goal, Middlesbrough’s Ronnie Burbeck had pulled up with a hamstring injury, but stayed on the field for nuisance value more than anything else, and the second half petered out into something more resembling an exhibition game than a league game.

For the subdued Boro crowd, the evaporation of Peacock’s England prospects hit hard – and was compounded by his former striker partner’s goal sealing the game.

While Stan Anderson did make his England debut in the 3-1 win over Austria, Peacock was ruled out for the season. He did, however, make the 1962 England World Cup squad, making his international debut in the group stages win over Argentina – one of only two players to ever make their England debut at the World Cup.

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