Brian Clough: The Player

Barney CorkhillSenior Writer IDecember 16, 2008

The name Brian Clough is known throughout English football as accompanying one of the most unpredictable, eccentric, and entertaining managers of all time.

In his managerial career, he took an unfancied Derby side to the First Division title, and then repeated the feat with Nottingham Forest six years later.

His greatest moment, however, came when he led Forest to two consecutive European Cup victories, an achievement which ranks among the highest in European football history.

The stories, quotes, and rumours regarding his managerial career are stuff of legend.

What is less well known, however, is his phenomenal playing career.

As a player, Clough was one of the most prolific strikers of his generation, scoring an outstanding 251 league goals in 271 league games, a record most strikers would do anything to achieve.

He started off at Middlesbrough and, amazingly, struggled to get into the first team, until Peter Taylor, who was to form a formidable partnership with Clough that would continue into his managerial career, spotted his potential.

The records vary when it comes to his goal scoring here, with some claiming it was less than 200, while others claim he scored more than that for 'Boro. What is unarguable, however, is that his ratio of goals per game was world class.

Despite consistently scoring in most games, Clough's outspoken personality hurt his international career. Even so, it is almost criminal that he only amassed two England caps throughout his career.

A similar thing happened in his managerial career when, despite being the best English manager around by some way, he was continually overlooked for the England job, mainly because the FA thought he would be too much trouble.

After his remarkable spell at Middlesbrough was over, he moved to Sunderland and continued his fantastic rate of scoring, netting 54 times in 61 games.

The great Bill Shankly, a great rival in Clough's managerial career, once said to a journalist who questioned him about Clough's outspoken nature, "Laddie, that man scored 200 goals in 270 matches—an incredible record—and he has won cup after cup as a manager. When he talks, pin back your ears."

On Boxing Day in 1962, aged just 27, Cloughie's career was tragically cut short when he suffered cruciate ligament damage that was beyond repair. He attempted a comeback after a spirited wrestle with the injury, but only played three more games before finally hanging up his boots to focus on management.

The career of one of the most prolific strikers England has ever seen was over.

Now, when talking about some of the greatest English strikers ever, he is nearly always left off the list. Perhaps if he hadn't suffered such a horrible injury, or if England had been sensible enough to pick him when he was in his prime, he would get his rightful place as one of the best this country has seen.

As it is, he is simply remembered as one of the greatest managers of all time.