CLOUGHIE ARRIVES AT FOREST

JANUARY 1975



Brian Clough arrived at Nottingham Forest on January 6th, 1975, and was quickly providing the media with the quotes they - and the fans - loved to hear. "I'm leaving the human race to rejoin the rat race. At my age I'm too young to retire, football is my job. Now there is one thing in Forest's favour - the club has me."

Forest were 13th in the Second Division and the prospects were not looking good before Clough's arrival. The previous manager, Allan Brown, had been sacked at Christmas following a defeat to local rivals Notts County. Gates were down to an average of 12,000 and the club - run by a committee of members - was virtually bankrupt.

Recalls Cloughie: "When I walked into the City Ground in January 1975, it was like entering a desert - a barren place void of life, lacking in colour with not even a green leaf to give hope. And, like a desert, there didn't seem to be any end to it all. Supporters, sick and tired of seeing their best players leave to be replaced by others of lesser ability, were totally disillusioned."

The Master Manager said although the picture didn't look bright, he didn't regret 'for one minute' coming off the nation's unemployed list and joining Forest. "So, like my mother always used to do when she had a big job on her hands, I decided to clear the decks and start from scratch. It wasn't easy or pleasant but something had to be done in a dramatic way because the club was heading for bankruptcy and I didn't fancy sinking with it."

Clough had been sacked by Leeds United the previous year after his infamous 44 days at Elland Road. But the pay-off had made him financially secure and he was more than ready for a fresh challenge. Clough later recalled that the most significant aspect of his arrival at the City Ground was the pale blue Mercedes that brought him there - a 'present' from Leeds as part of his departure from Elland Road. "That car symbolised the feeling of freedom and independence that meant I could dive headlong into management again."

The man who had begun the efforts to bring him to the City Ground was - ironically - the one who announced his retirement 18 years later. Fred Reacher was a recent addition to the Forest board - but his initial suggestion of recruiting Clough did not go down well with all of his colleagues.

Journalist Pat Murphy recalls that four members of the board said they would resign if Clough was approached. Says Murphy: "Stuart Dryden, the vice-chairman, mulled it over, though, and suggested to Reacher he raise the subject again at the next meeting. The vote was carried unanimously and Dryden began the negotiations with Clough."

Cloughie recalled in August 2003 that he had initially been approached by Dryden and Derek Pavis, who later became chairman of Notts County. "I arranged to have dinner with them and it progressed from there." Forest have a lot to thank Dryden for after securing Clough's agreement. It began a life-long friendship between the two men. Cloughie relied on Dryden's support in the early months and, in turn, Clough gave moral support when Dryden, a postmaster, was convicted and jailed for fraud in 1980.

The newspaper photo's showed Forest chairman Jim Willmer welcoming Cloughie to the City Ground. But the pictures hide the reservations among some members of the committee. Author Jonathan Wilson states: "Willmer was unsure whether Clough really fitted. 'We don't want success at any price,' he told his successor, Brian Appleby. 'Set him on and you'll live to regret it.'" According to Wilson, Appleby probably didn't like Clough - "but he recognised that Clough 'gave a transfusion of life to a dying club.'"


Cloughie is welcomed to the City Ground

 

 

John Lawson, who was a reporter with the Nottingham Evening Post, recalled the historic day of Cloughie's arrival, in the book 'The Day I Met Brian Clough' compiled by Marcus Alton. "When Brian Clough strode purposefully into the City Ground on a chilly January morning in 1975, he attracted the biggest media pack these parts had ever seen.

"Eager to make an early impression in his welcoming press conference, I obviously asked one too many questions and he looked me straight in the eye and bawled: 'Are you the local journalist? Shut your mouth and I'll see you in my office later."

John recalls that in the following 48 hours he was allowed to board the team coach to Bisham Abbey Sports Centre in Buckinghamshire, where the players stayed before a cup match at Spurs. But after that game, it was the early hours of the morning before John was able to secure the Cloughie quotes he was after -- words that filled the Post's sports pages for several days.

When Clough asked John if he could 'mark his card' about any players who could play but were not in the team, the names of John Robertson and Tony Woodcock were put forward. "He never forgot that, and time after time over the years I purred at hearing him tell all and sundry that 'It was John Lawson who put me right about John Robertson.'

"But that was just the start of an amazing 18-year period that was as enjoyable as it was enthralling. Day by day you just never knew what was going to happen next."

Soon after his appointment, Clough was telling the kitchen staff they would be getting a new cooker and fridge - funded through the Master Manager's exclusive deals with newspapers for interviews. The impact of Clough's arrival could not be underestimated. Within days, £4,000 worth of season tickets had been sold.

John Lawson remembers: "What amazed Forest was that no top club had had the enterprise to offer Clough employment during his time in the wilderness, for once he had accepted Forest's offer his impact was both immediate and stunning. A report written at the time stated, 'It was not so much a breath of fresh air that swept through the corridors of the City Ground...more like a hurricane."

On his first day with Forest - and with just 48 hours until the FA Cup replay with Spurs - Clough had a surprise for his players. In a meeting lasting just 15 minutes, he gave them the following day off and told them to report on Wednesday morning to travel to Bisham Abbey for a 'getting to know you' break.

One of Cloughie's first major decisions was to reappoint Sammy Chapman, who commanded the respect of the other players, as the club captain. The team responded with what was their best performance of the season, beating Spurs 1-0. Brian watched the match from the Directors' Box and punched the air with delight when Neil Martin scored the winner with a header. Afterwards, Cloughie announced "It's Utopia."


Neil Martin scores 1st goal for Clough

 

 

After the victory over Spurs, Forest returned to London the following Saturday and beat Fulham 1-0 in the league, with Barry Butlin scoring the only goal. Clough's first home match as Forest boss was a 2-2 draw with Leyton Orient on January 18th, in front of a crowd of 17,582.

Players like John Robertson, Martin O'Neill, and Tony Woodcock were already at the club when Clough arrived. But they had been out of favour under the old regime and Robertson and O'Neill were on the transfer list. All three became integral to the Reds' journey to success and European glory, alongside Ian Bowyer who was also already at the club.

Robertson remembers the day Cloughie walked into the City Ground. "When Brian Clough comes into your life, believe me...you know about it. That day for me was 6th January 1975...and life, not just the football side of it, was never quite the same again. He seemed to influence you for every waking hour and dreaming about him became fairly commonplace too." Robertson continued: "On his first day Clough burst into the home dressing-room at the City Ground like a tornado."

Robertson later became a star of Forest's two European Cup Final victories, setting up the winning goal for Trevor Francis in the first final before scoring himself in the second final. Having been transformed into a vital member of the Reds squad, Roberston remembers how a simple 'thumbs-up' sign from Cloughie would make him full of pride and eager to play even better for his boss. "He was, without doubt in my mind, the greatest manager the game has known," adds Robertson.


Celebrating with his new players

 

 

Soon after Clough's arrival, the pieces of the momentous jigsaw were being put into place. The Master Manager brought in the likes of John McGovern and John O'Hare, who he had worked with previously. In the league, the Reds took just 14 points from 16 matches, finishing 16th. But in the close season, Clough snapped up defender Frank Clark on a free transfer from Newcastle and his vast experience was invaluable.

Clough had already enlisted the help of trainer Jimmy Gordon to act as a buffer between himself and the players, before Peter Taylor's arrival in 1976. Gordon first met Brian when he was looking after the Middlesbrough juniors and made a lasting impression. He also worked with Brian at Derby and Leeds. Taylor had been Clough's assistant during their successful time at Derby County.


Cloughie's arrival at City Ground

 

 

Promotion was secured in 1977 and the Reds went on to win the League Cup, the League Championship and two successive European Cups, as well as the European Super Cup. There were further League Cup triumphs in later years as Clough continued to show his managerial genius in the First Division too.

Looking back in later years, Cloughie said: "To be fair, not even I imagined quite how successful we would prove to be. Funny how Leeds United still don't have a European Cup in their trophy cabinet. I have two - but I'm not gloating, honest!"




References and photo's for this article:

'Clough, The Autobiography,' Partridge Press.
'Forest 1865 to 1978' by John Lawson, Wensum Books.
'John Robertson, Super Tramp, My Autobiography,' Mainstream Publishing.
Nottingham Post newspaper.
'Nobody Ever Says Thank You' by Jonathan Wilson, Orion Books.
'His Way, The Brian Clough Story' by Patrick Murphy, Robson Books.
'Forest Giants' by John McGovern and Rob Jovanovic.
'The Day I Met Brian Clough' compiled by Marcus Alton, DB Publishing.



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