He was controversial, he was charismatic and he was cherished by all – apart from maybe those at Leeds United. Brian Clough was one of the best managers the game has ever produced. After scoring 251 goals in just 274 league appearances for Middlesbrough and Sunderland respectively, he went into management and achieved great success.
He turned Derby County from a run-of-the-mill Second Division side into the Champions of England and also guided them to the semi-finals of the European Cup. After his ill-fated 44-day spell as Leeds boss in 1974, Clough returned to the Midlands and held the helm at Nottingham Forest for 18 years. He made the club in a serial player in both the English and European game. Forest won the First Division title in 1978, four League Cups and back-to-back European Cups in 1979 and 1980.
Sadly though, his career ended on a low note as Nottingham Forest slid through the Premier League trap door in the league’s first season. Key players like Des Walker and Teddy Sheringham had been sold and there was an increasing battle the manager was having with alcohol. On the week before the club’s final home match of the 1992-1993 season, Clough announced his retirement from football management so he could spend more time with his family.
His final day at the City Ground was a highly-charged occasion but there would be no happy ending to this fairytale. Forest were beaten 2-0 by Sheffield United which consigned them to relegation. Afterwards, Clough revealed to Martin Tyler when asked why the club had gone down: “We’re not good enough, simple as that.”
After retirement, his battles with ill health and allegations of corruption dominated headlines but he still wrote an explosive monthly column for FourFourTwo magazine. He died from stomach cancer in September 2004, aged 69.
It was a sad goodbye and a sad way for one of the game’s great characters to bow out on.