Saturday, November 26, 2011

"The Day I Met Brian Clough...And Other Tributes"

In the United States, the name of Brian Clough is not a well-known name. But in England, he is a revered name in the world of football, which is better known on these shores as soccer.

Clough was a great player in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a striker for Middlesbrough, Sunderland and the English national team. But a 1962 knee injury led to his early retirement. He moved into club management, first with lower division Hartlepool, and then with Derby County, where Clough made his name as a manager.

He took Derby County from the lower end of the Second Division to the English League championship in a matter of just five years. He was a hard but fair manager who had a very high opinion of himself and his managerial talents. He moved on to Leeds United where he lasted just 44 days in charge before getting the axe. He rubbed a lot of people at Leeds the wrong way. To put it in an American baseball equivalent, think of a cross between Bobby Valentine and Ozzie Guillen. That gives you an idea of what Brian Clough was like.

Clough went on to greater success with Nottingham Forest, whom he managed from 1975-1993. He won another league title in 1978, and two European Cup championships. It was at around this time, 1977, that I began watching the English League matches on TV, which were broadcast on PBS every Saturday afternoon. And Nottingham Forest was on a magical run to the top of English football, in their first season back in the First Division. I became a Forest fan, as they were on so much, and one of the team's stars was Brian Clough. He was a colorful character I liked from the first days I had heard of him.

Recently I became friendly with man named Marcus Alton on Facebook. Marcus is a journalist who was also a Forest and Clough fan, who founded, a tribute site to the "Big Old 'Ead" as Brian Clough was affectionately called. Marcus met Brian Clough on a few occasions, and also helped raise the funds to have a statue of Clough erected in Nottingham City Centre. Marcus told me about a tribute book he was putting together to benefit the Brian Clough Memorial Fund, and he asked me if I'd like to add something to it.

So I wrote my remembrance, and it appears on page 174 of "The Day I Met Brian Clough...And Other Tributes." It's a terrific book of loving remembrances from people like Clough's former players and rivals to average fans and other journalists who bring back "Cloughie" to life. (Brian Clough died in 2004.) In my tribute, Marcus titled it: "The man who attracted me to soccer...even all these miles away."

The book includes a few photographs of the man as well. It's a loving tribute to a larger-than-life man who is fondly remembered, not only throughout Great Britain but the entire soccer world. (A few other folks in America are included, and from places like Australia, Denmark, South Africa and New Zealand as well.)

I am really proud and honored to be included in "The Day I Met Brian Clough..And Other Tributes." I recommend the book to all of you who are Brian Clough fans, or just soccer fans in general. I'm sure the book put a smile of Brian's face, whatever he is right now.

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