From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.33 :: NO.32 :: Aug. 12, 2010
Brian Clough led Nottingham Forest to two European championships.
They keep coming back like a song. However discordant. I am referring to Don Revie and Brian Clough, born within a few streets of each other in sombre Middlesbrough, up in the struggling North East. Both were greatly talented footballers. Both played for England, but should have played more often. But whereas Revie's career, as a brilliant young strategist with Leicester City — why did Middlesbrough football club allow him to slip through their fingers so far South to the East Midlands? — at least carried on for many years, Clough's came horribly and abruptly to an end when, playing for his second club Sunderland on an icy pitch. He collided with an opposing goalkeeper and smashed up his knee to such an extent that his playing career was at an end.
Revie, by contrast, had eventual consolation for the fact that as an inside-right who brilliantly inspired humble second division Leicester to beat then powerful (yes, they truly were!) Portsmouth in an FA Cup semifinal, he missed the final itself. This, because he took a shocking blow on the nose which could have caused him to bleed to death. That was in 1959. Seven years later, at Wembley, playing as a deep lying centre forward — as Nandor Hidegkuti had done when he tore England to pieces there in 1953 — he inspired Manchester City's Cup final victory over Birmingham City.
Clough, by contrast, was essentially a goal scorer; a prolific one, if only in the Second Division. Sunderland kept him on a while as a youth coach; he drank heavily, though not as heavily as in his declining, sadly alcoholic days, but took a grip on himself. He took a job as manager of the decrepit Hartepools club, a North Eastern Cinderella, whose previous manager had kept pigeons in the roof of the stand and whose chairman was a tiny tyrant. To help him, Clough summoned Peter Taylor, once a Middlesbrough goalkeeper, and a father figure to him in his playing career. Together, they turned the club around and moved on to manage Derby County, with huge success. Meanwhile, Revie had ended his playing career with Leeds United then a struggling Second Division club. Elevated to manager, he rejuvenated them, but with a team detested outside Leeds itself.
Recently, a fascinating book, ‘Promised Land: The Reinvention of Leeds United', by the talented Leeds born journalist, Anthony Clavan, was almost contemporaneous, with a television documentary, ‘Brian Clough: The greatest manager England never had? I knew both Clough and Revie, who detested each other. I don't think Clough, with his peremptory, but largely successful methods, would ever have made an ideal international manager. Revie did get the England job and was something of a disaster, ultimately sneaking away from a South American international tour, to sign a hugely lucrative contract with a club in the Gulf.
Clough, having fallen out with the Derby chairman, Sam Longson, had a short, disastrous, spell, in charge of then Third Division Brighton, whose team he utterly demoralised, leading them to catastrophic results. But unlike Revie and Leeds, for whom the European Cup, biggest prize of all, was ever elusive, Clough almost miraculously won it, twice in a row, with previously modest Nottingham Forest.
I once wrote of Revie that he was endlessly frightened of waking up poor. This accounted for what was perceived as his constant, pervasive superstition which sometimes took on ludicrous dimensions. Almost the least of which was that for years he persisted on wearing the same suit on match days till it was almost falling to pieces.
Yet Clough, in this mercenary respect, was no angel. I was told, some years ago the tale of how, one day in the managerial office of the Watford club, when the manager, Graham Taylor, was sitting next to his Chairman, the millionaire singer, Elton John, the phone went: it was Clough's right hand man, Peter Taylor. “Brian and I are going to have this benefit match,” he said. “See if you can get Elton to come along and sing at halftime. Mark our card for us, Graham!” Taylor didn't tell him that Elton, making about £7 million a year then, was right beside him. After a while the phone went again. “Any news?” asked Peter Taylor. “No,” said Graham. “Mark our card for us, Graham!” said Peter. “And if you do get Elton to come, you can take a look at our reserve side and have any one player you like on a free transfer!”
Moreover, though Clavan insists in his book there is no proof of Revie's malfeasance, his bribery of other teams, when Leeds were fighting their way out of Division Two, Bob Stokoe, Newcastle centre-half and manager of the Sunderland team — which itself then in the Second Division beat Leeds in the 1993 Cup final — angrily revealed that Revie had once tried unsuccessfully to bribe him.
The astounding thing was that Clough, who as Derby manager, had time and again accused Leeds of being a team of aggressive cheats, who should throw any medals they had won into the dustbin, actually agreed to manage them, after Revie had left to run England. Needless to say, he ran into a wall of sheer hatred among the players and lasted only 44 days.
There's no doubt that Leeds, in their earlier days of success under Revie, were a cynical, sometimes even brutal, team. The two motors of their central midfield, Scotland's Billy Bremnerr and Ireland's Johnny Giles, not to mention Norman (nicknamed “Bute Your Legs”) Hunter, could be violent to a degree. Yet it is also true that as time went by, Revie transformed his team into a splendidly fluent, inventive, creative force, which could play delightful football.
Both Revie and Clough had good cause to lament the corruption of European referees. Revie, when, in Salonika, Leeds lost a European Cup winners Cup final to Milan, thanks to the outrageous refereeing of the Greek Johnny Migas, later punished by his own Federation. Clough, in Turin in 1973 when the German referee, Schulenburg booked two key Derby players for trivialities, meaning they missed the second leg. But when Juve tried to bribe the honest Portuguese referee Lobo for the return leg, he nobly refused as my polyglot American colleague Keith Botsford and I proved in a Sunday Times investigation, which elicited fury in Italian football.
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