“I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one.”
Brian Clough was never short of a dull quote. Though many will agree that David Beckham’s “wife can’t sing and his barber can’t cut hair”, not quite as many will be in appreciative mood to his claims that he was the best manager in the business. At least not in Leeds, anyway.
Appointed manager of the West Yorkshire side in July 1974 after United’s greatest manager of all time, Don Revie, accepted the England call, Clough lasted just 44 days at Elland Road.
It was a torrid tenure in charge as he branded the team a “dirty bunch of cheats”. Key players Johnny Giles, Norman Hunter and Billy Bremner were left alienated by his methods.
They had enjoyed unheralded success under Revie, winning two First Division titles, an FA Cup, and numerous runners up medals. But on the first day of training under Clough, they were reportedly told “you can all throw your medals in the bin because they were not won fairly.”
The ex-Hartlepool, Derby and Brighton boss lost his job at Leeds not long after the 1974 Charity Shield, in which Liverpool triumphed on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
The wily man from Middlesbrough would not wait long for a new job, and in January 1975 he was appointed the manager of recently-relegated Nottingham Forest.
At his second club Derby County, he had made headlines as he took them from Division Two basement boys to Division One Champions in five years. At Forest however, he would go one better.
Clough became one of the greatest football managers in living memory throughout an 18 year stint at the City Ground, as he won 13 trophies.
His tactical nous as the underdog was displayed in his very first game, as Division One Tottenham Hotspur were beaten 1-0 in the FA Cup.
It would take time to rebuild a fragile Forest side, but in the summer of 1976 his old friend Peter Taylor became his assistant manager for the fourth time.
Over the next four years, they enjoyed phenomenal success. In their first season back together they won promotion to Division One, after finishing third in the Second Division.
12 months later they won a league and cup double, being crowned champions of England at the first time of asking and beating Liverpool 1-0 in the League Cup final.
In 1979 they again won the League Cup despite missing out on the the league to the European champions Liverpool.
But the European Cup would evade the Merseyside club that year, as Clough’s Forest defeated Malmo 1-0 in the final.
Trevor Francis had become the first £1 million player when he signed from Birmingham the previous summer, and it was perhaps fitting that he struck the winner.
Retaining the European Cup is arguably one of the hardest tasks in football, but Forest kept hold of their trophy by beating Hamburg 1-0 in 1980.
There was a third consecutive League Cup final appearance that year, however Wolves came out on top.
A couple of disappointing finishes in the league led to Taylor resigning in 1982, but two years later Clough had Forest competing again as they finished third in the league.
By 1989 they were League Cup winners again as they beat Luton at Wembley. And for the second time in his career Clough retained the Cup when Oldham Athletic were beaten 1-0 a year later.
Forest were denied a return to European football after English clubs were barred as a consequence of the Heysel Disaster.
But in 1991 he had the chance to win his first FA Cup, only to be denied as a Des Walker own goal gave Spurs a 2-1 win.
Clough would lead Forest to Wembley for a fourth year running the following season,but they were beaten in London again as Manchester United won the 1992 League Cup final 1-0.
That year saw the formation of the inaugural Premier League, but Forest’s dominance had been curtailed and after they were relegated in 1993, Clough retired from management.
He is remembered as one of the greatest managers of all time, and his 42 unbeaten run in the league was surpassed rather eerily by Arsenal just a month before his death in September 2004.
While he may only have sat in the Leeds United dugout for six games, the 994 times that he managed The Forest will be looked upon with fond memories by Nottingham fans.
“I regret telling the entire world and his dog how good a manager I was. I knew I was the best but I should have said nowt and kept the pressure off.”
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