Brian Clough is well known as one of the brightest and most controversial characters ever to have graced the beautiful game.
His stunning success as a manager eclipsed the efforts of almost every other Englishman that has ever taken up the reigns of a football club.
In June, 1967 Clough took charge of Derby County transformed the club in just five seasons, from the low levels of the old Division Two up to the pinnacle of League Football and the First Division Title in 1972.
Clough, never one to stray far from controversy, walked out on the club the following year after a long-running dispute with club chairman Sam Longson.
Clough eventually found his way to Nottingham Forest after unsuccessful stints in charge of Brighton, and an infamous 44 days at Leeds, and embarked on repeating the tricks from his Derby days.
He took Forest from the bottom of Division Two to the top of Division One in just three seasons and pushed on to claim the European Cup twice in successive seasons.
This kind of unprecedented success accompanied by his outrageous self-confidence endeared him to the fans and the press, and led to him becoming one of the most highly-rated managers in the history of English football.
These stories are well read and have been told on numerous occasions but there is a lesser told story about this great man, the story of his playing days.
At just 16 years of age, Clough signed as an amateur for Middlesbrough in November 1951, and with his natural talent and hard work it took him just six months to earn a professional contract.
However after three years of training Clough had not managed to win a debut, partly due to his time away on national service, upon his return to the club after his time with the RAF he found it hard to earn a first team spot.
Eventually reserve goalkeeper Peter Taylor spotted the talent in Clough and used his influence within the club to help him win a first league appearance against Barnsley in 1955 at the age of 20.
Taylorwould prove to be influential in Clough’s careers as both a player and a manager, joining him as assistant at his first managerial post with Hartlepool and following Clough to Derby, where Taylor was influential in bringing future stars to the club for small fees. However their relationship deteriorated over the years and sadly a bitter feud remained unresolved when Taylor died in 1990.
Just over three weeks after his debut, Clough scored the first professional goal of his career against Leicester City, and began what would still stand today as one of the most astonishing scoring records of any striker in the world.
A solid start to his career earned a call-up to the England ‘B’ team and a game against Scotland in February, 1957, going on to win the first of three England under 23 Caps, also against Scotland, in the same month.
In October of the same year he scored five goals for the FA’s Select XI in an exhibition against a British Army XI, a particularly sweet victory for the former RAF man.
Clough scored five goals in a competitive fixture against Brighton in 1958 and managed to score four goals in a game an incredible five times throughout his career.
He achieved this stunning feat for the third time when he scored all five goals for a Football League XI team against an Irish League XI in September of 1959, an effort that would help him gain his first full England cap against Wales just a month later.
His time on the international scene was to be short lived as he made his second and
final appearance in an England shirt against Sweden on 28th October 1959, failing to
score an international goal.
After an astonishing return of 204 goals from just 222 appearances for Middlesbrough Clough signed for their bitter North East rivals Sunderland for a fee of £42,000 in July of 1961, but suffered the blow that would cut short his playing career.
On Boxing Day of 1962 the striker collided with the Bury goalkeeper and tore a cruciate ligament in his knee, beyond repair.
After two years of agonising rehabilitation Clough attempted a comeback, but managed just three appearances before succumbing to retirement at the age of just 27.
After his playing career was cut short he was offered a job as Youth coach at Middlesbrough by former England captain George Hardwick. However, he was soon dismissed by the directors who had not forgiven him for his move to rivals Sunderland four years earlier.
Angry and despairing at a glittering career in taters, Clough drank heavily and the alcohol problems, that plagued him until his death, had begun.
However in 1965 he found himself managing local fourth division team Hartlepool, and took his first steps into a management career that would see him catapulted to the heights of superstardom, and the status of legend.
As a player, Clough had an astonishing scoring record, in just seven playing seasons of professional football that saw him make 296 appearances for Middlesbrough and Sunderland he scored 267 times.
Including an impressive 18 career hat-tricks, Clough scored five goals in 12 FA Cup appearances and, even more impressively, 11 goals in just ten league cup fixtures.
He never managed to achieve the ultimate goal of managing England, and never laid his hands on the FA cup as a player or manager but Brian Clough had one of the most exciting careers of any footballer.
Always enjoying life, he remarked how growing up in Middlesbrough was like living in heaven and respected his parents greatly for the sacrifices they had made to bring up him, and his seven siblings.
“If anyone should be grateful for their upbringing, for their mum and dad, I'm that person. I was the kid who came from a little part of paradise,” said Clough.
"Everything I have done, everything I've achieved stemmed from my childhood. Maybe it was the constant sight of mam, with eight children to look after, working from morning till night, working harder than you or I have ever worked.”
When asked if he was the best manager ever Clough responded with typical arrogance and confidence, leaving us with the magical quote: "I wouldn't say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one."
It is possible that Brian Clough wasn’t the best striker in the world, but in my opinion he was certainly in the top one.
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