GRAEME SOUNESS: Nottingham Forest must learn from Brian Clough's style

GRAEME SOUNESS: Nottingham Forest could learn so much from the way Brian Clough ran their club… he would NEVER have accepted 22 new players in one summer and all the interference in modern football

  • Brian Clough won seven trophies with Nottingham Forest between 1978 & 1990
  • The boss instilled a tenacity and fighting spirit to the dressing room at the club
  • It’s 18 years this week since Clough died and football is a different world now
  • We have directors of football, heads of scouting and recruitment committees
  • It’s hard to imagine Clough operating at the modern day Nottingham Forest 
  • I suspect Clough would have been telling Marinakis to calm down and leave 
  • Steve Cooper’s side sit 19th in the table on four points with 17 goals conceded

I have so many memories of encounters with Brian Clough, whose Nottingham Forest team had the sign over Liverpool for a few years, but the day we planned a £5 note trick on him sticks in my mind as much as any.

Clough had engendered an incredible fighting spirit in Forest at the time and there was a great deal of fear about his management style. I took it upon myself to go into a Liverpool joke shop and buy about a dozen of these devices which allowed you to attach a £5 or £10 note to a fishing line on a coil with a spring. 

You can’t see the line, of course, so when your target goes to pick the note up, it springs back out their reach, leaving them looking ridiculous.

Boss Brian Clough won seven major trophies with Nottingham Forest between 1978 and 1990

Four or five of us had these devices with us, as we walked into the City Ground to play Forest. I can’t remember who all my accomplices were, though I imagine Terry McDermott would have been a key member of our hit squad. We were all going to put our money down and make Brian Clough look stupid.

His office was at the end of corridor you had to walk along to get the dressing room and we all placed our notes. We certainly weren’t known for bottling things in that Liverpool team but we started to have second thoughts when Clough was about to emerge from his sanctuary and head for the Forest dressing room. 

We didn’t go through with it! Our fivers were hastily retrieved and we made ourselves scarce. We were by no means the only ones who were slightly fearful of Brian Clough.

The Reds head coach (R) instilled a tenacity and fighting spirit to the dressing room at the club

It’s 18 years this week since Clough died and football is a different world now to the one when our team and his team went head to head – no quarter spared. We have directors of football, heads of scouting and recruitment committees. 

There’s not a chance that Clough would have accepted any of them. He was a manager in the full meaning of the word. He managed and he controlled virtually every aspect of that football club. And he did all the talking.


Appointed: January 6, 1975

Games managed: 994

Games won: 464

Games drawn: 263

Games lost: 267

Honours: First Division title (1977-78), European Cup (1978-79, 1979-80), League Cup (1977-78, 1978-79, 1988-89, 1989-90), Full Members Cup (1988-89, 1991-92), Charity Shield (1978), European Super Cup (1979), Anglo-Scottish Cup (1976-77) 

It’s hard to imagine him operating at the modern Forest. No sooner had Steve Cooper completed the incredible job of taking the team from the foot of the Championship to the Premier League inside eight months, their excitable owner Evangelos Marinakis was declaring the club had to be ‘ready for trophies.’ 

I suspect Clough would have been telling Marinakis to calm down and leave the football sphere to him.

I’m not sure how much say Cooper would have had in the decision to bring 22 players in this summer. If I had been Cooper and Marinakis had told me, ‘I’m going to spend £150million on 22 players’, I would have said, ‘Spend that money on six or seven top players.’

I know they had a lot of players on loan last season but 22? In one summer? I would very much doubt that that has ever happened before at major league in world football. It’s too many and just not conducive to being a successful football club.

Without the power that Clough wielded, it’s difficult for Cooper to exert the control that we saw when Forest were promoted as the Second Division’s third placed team in 1977. Back then, they immediately won the First Division title and then lifted the European Cup twice. For me, that’s still the greatest achievement in British football.

Cooper would just not have had the time to look at all those signings because of the relentless job of preparing Forest for two games a week – every week – in the Championship. I actually doubt he’d have put his name to more than a handful.

Clough poses with his assistant, Peter Taylor, after winning the European Cup in 1979

John Robertson, Ian Bowyer and Kenny Burns (left to right) lifting the European Cup in 1979

I certainly wouldn’t be critical of the football culture at Forest because these are early days. It’s far too soon to draw conclusions about the fact that they’ve lost their last four games and are second bottom of the Premier League – even though it will be a concern to them that the last two of those defeats have been against teams who were promoted with them. But any promoted club could learn from what Clough instilled in Forest after he’d taken them up.

Clough took charge of his last Nottingham Forest game in 1993 and gave the fans a thumbs up after the fixture (above) 

He drew a group of players together who were totally resolute, completely disciplined and very hard to play against. Some of them were genuinely outstanding and John Robertson was the most under-rated of all them. 

People might be surprised when I say that Robertson is a player who completely fits my definition of world class. You can go and spend £150million on any player you like. None could deliver more than Robertson did in that Forest team, 40 years ago.

It was war between us and them. They were dogged. They roughed teams up. They were going to fight you. They played a counter-attacking game, whereby we would dominate the ball but they would pick us off. Our defeat to them over two legs in the European Cup First Round when we were defending that title in September 1978 was particularly hard to stomach.

The cultures were very different. At Liverpool we were made to feel responsible for our actions. One of the most common things you would have heard at Liverpool from Ronnie Moran was ‘work it out for yourself son.’ You were made to feel you were in charge of your own destiny. At Forest it was a different model because the manager was unique.

It’s hard to imagine Clough (pictured alongside Stuart Pearce and Roy Keane during the League Cup final at Wembley back in 1992) operating at the modern Nottingham Forest

However, the club could learn at lot from the manager who was adored by the fans 

You only have to look back at Clough’s television work to see the kind of individual he was. He was a joy to watch and listen to. He was ruthless. He was exciting. He was interesting. He was Box Office. I’m very much enjoying the robust argument on the talkSPORT mid-morning show – but sitting across from Clough in the studio at 10am every Monday? Now that would be lively, though I would be showing the man a lot of deference.

My last exchange with Clough came when I tried to sign Stuart Pearce from Forest to Rangers. I called Clough up about it and we spent ten minutes on the phone. There was no small talk from him, that night. No remembering old times. But I went to bed thinking I’d got a deal and Pearce was in the bag.

When I phoned back the next day, Clough said he had no recollection of the conversation. Pearce enjoyed ten more great years at Forest.

Steve Cooper’s side sit 19th in the Premier League table on four points after a big summer of spending – having brought in 21 new players 

Paying my respects to the Queen is a day I’ll never forget

As for so many of us, last Monday is a day that always live with me. I was in the crowds on the Mall about 150 yards from Buckingham Palace when the Queen’s coffin was brought past on the gun carriage. A very kind soldier had helped me get across the Mall to be with my son James, who was on the opposite side. I was standing right behind a lady from Troon in Ayrshire who was a big Rangers supporter and another lady from Gloucester. 

There were also two Italian women – one a Juventus supporter and the other a supporter of Sampdoria, another club I’ve played for. It’s a small world. It was such great company to keep and really the most incredible day. A day to remember and say: ‘I was there.’

Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral took place on Monday during the nations period of mourning 

Buckingham Palace announced the news the Queen had died peacefully over two weeks ago

Souness said that paying his respects to the Queen while in the crowds on the Mall during her funeral was a day that he’ll never forget 

Charity walk for inspiring teenager and others like her  

I completed the charity Kilt Walk with my son last weekend in Edinburgh, my home city, and there was a resonance about it for me because of the most incredible and inspiring person I have ever met. Isla Grist is a 14-year-old living with Epidermolysis Bullosa, a life-threatening skin condition that causes her body to blister and tear. I met her a few years ago as part of my work for my charity DEBRA, which is trying to raise awareness and money. 

Isla and I have done a few short videos together in which she calmly explained how she deals with the condition, day to day. Unforgettable. When I’m in her company, she inspires me and makes me realise how fortunate we all are. 

James and I were walking for Isla and many others like her. The ‘Mighty Stride’, as we Scots call the walk, raised £2million for 500 charities.

Drinks with Grealish is on! 

Great to see that Jack Grealish is up for a night out, which I said is something that I think I would enjoy very much. I think he’s replied to say ‘let’s do it’, so long as he can bring along Paul Pogba as his +1. 

Well, that’s very good to hear! You’re on Jack. If I get to pick the venue and the wines, you bring along whoever you want. And by the way, you’re picking up the bill!

Jack Grealish said he would go for drinks with Graeme Souness and bring Paul Pogba as his +1

Share this article

Source: Read Full Article