on 8 June 2007
This is the book that Duncan Hamilton was born to write - at least, that's what Cloughie must have told him when he sat him down, offered him a glass, scared the wispy moustache off the young journalist's top lip, and instructed 'You can put this in the book' almost as soon as they first met.
Much has been written about the Great Man and his sidekick, Peter Taylor (including 'With Clough, By Taylor' which, as we learn, was the beginning of the end for the greatest ever double-act in English football). This biography is up there with the best of them - but it' s no hagiography. As someone else mentions, this is warts-and-all stuff - there's a lot about the booze, the short temper and the unpredictable behaviour, knocking players down a peg or two or putting the Directors in their rightful place. However, it becomes clear why Clough was, and still is, so revered by the people of Nottingham. We see the warmth of the man - handing a few twenty pound notes to a hard-up fan for his young son, or planting a kiss on anyone lucky enough to cross his path. Nice!
This is the world of football pre-Premiership and Sky Sports, ie a time when Forest were actually good. I'd advise all Trickies to get their hands on it and wallow in a dose of nostalgia. And if you're not a Forest fan, enjoy some of the eccentricities of one of the most charismatic Englishmen of recent years.
There have been some great books written recently about football - Gordon Burn's 'Best and Edwards', Richard Williams on 'The Perfect 10' for example. Both those books feature some of football's greatest characters, but they don't come much greater than Brian.
Brian Clough was a real character, much missed when modern day football is full of dull, two dimensional players & managers. Not only was he a character though, he was first and foremost a very, very good manager. Even today his management feats at two such unlikely teams like Derby County & Nottingham Forest - two league championships and two European Cups - is remarkable. His partnership with Peter Taylor, who this book quite rightly stresses played a vital role in those successes, was without equal in the world of football.
Unfortunately the latter years of his managerial career, when alcohol finally got the better of him, as taken a little of the gloss off of Brian Cloughs achievements.
This book, whilst excellent, is to me also very sad book as it explains better than anything else I have read the decline of Brian Clough. The author, Duncan Hamilton, obviously got very close to his subject and he could watch at first hand the ravaging effect that whisky and vodka had on Brian Clough. His descriptions of his fading management skills and increasingly bad judgement are very poignant, as are the chapters regarding Brian Cloughs death and its aftermath.
No book about Brian Clough cannot be without humour and this book is no exception, as it is full of stories that portray Brian Cloughs eccentric style of management, but it is the bad times that this book best describes.
This is a must read for all those football watchers who admired Brian Clough and miss his presence in todays game.
on 16 July 2008
Excellent, straightforward sports biography, distinguished by Hamilton's closeness to his subject and the resulting intimacy of the portrait. No tricks, no fiction or imagined scenes, just sensitive writing and informed analysis of the Clough career and of a very different time in British football - a big enough story in its own right to require very little embroidery.
Duncan Hamilton makes no bones about how fortunate he was to be allowed unparalleled access to the force of nature that was Brian Clough. The portrait that emerges seems to come from something for which 'love' is maybe the only appropriate word; it's to Hamilton's credit that it never seems like obsession as, throughout, he is remarkably clear-eyed about Clough's weaknesses as well as his astonishing triumphs. The excellent and detailed accounts of how Clough took not one but two poor-to-middling English clubs to the heights of European glory (a feat that one struggles to imagine being repeated today) are balanced by an understanding of his very human insecurities and frailties, and by an increasingly dominant subtext - a (literally) sobering account of how low even a character as powerful as Clough could be laid by alcohol.
on 6 December 2009
I grew up in Australia. And in my `formative' years in the 1970s and 80s, soccer was a foreign game in every possible sense. The only soccer broadcast on television was relegated to late night television and month old episodes of Match of the Day. English football was the only version of the game that we were exposed to, and then in only brief one hour weekly slots.
Match of the Day, with its addictive theme music most often featured the great Liverpool sides of the period, and then only occasionally Man U, Arsenal, Spurs and sometimes Man City.
Nottingham Forest was the other side that was occasionally featured - it seemed when Liverpool wasn't.
And through the tyranny of distance, Nottingham Forest it seemed was famous for Robin Hood and its mercurial manager Brian Clough.
Clough was simply fascinating, and that aura seems to have strengthened in recent years.
I was reminded by Brian Clough when I picked up a copy of Damned United. I struggled through the book, not confidently knowing the intimate details of Clough's history pre-Forest, which involved the turbulent 44 days at Leeds. My only childhood memory of Clough was him wearing a green goalkeeper's jumper when managing Forest, while all other managers were resplendent in suits.
I found Hamilton's book in a bookseller at Heathrow, as I prepared for the long flight back to Australia. As with many sports/football biographies I expected a chronological account of Clough's football biography.
What I found was a beautifully written work, and a carefully and intimately crafted analysis of both Clough's professional life and personality.
Hamilton writes about his face to face contact with Clough over a 20 year period. He follows Clough through the successes in his early years at Forest, through to Forest's consolidation in the First Division, and maps Cloughs' (perhaps) eventual personal and professional decline.
The final chapters are hard to read. This is because the reader is so involved with Hamilton recording Clough's decline sympathetically and beautifully. You feel you are with him watching Clough lose his career and his football relevance.
Hamilton through the book dissects Clough's complex personality, and what we find is a man who was perhaps just as fragile and emotionally taut as the rest of us, just hiding that fragility behind a mask of bravado and bluff.
Football, tactically and commercial, later in Clough's career passed him by. And as Hamilton records, in today's highly commercial football marketplace and sophisticated football strategies, Clough may not have been as successful. Nonetheless, Clough reminds us that he played for and managed football clubs for the man in the terraces. It was about a deep love and appreciation for the game.
Hamilton has written a book that is an important a piece of recorded football history, as it is an important book recording the personality depths and flaws of one of football's great characters.
on 6 March 2009
It's become conventional wisdom to decry the lack of characters in modern football, it's overall Sky-hyped pre-packaged blandness, and to hark back to the spikier times of the likes of Brain Clough. Duncan Hamilton, football journalist at the evening newspaper in Nottingham, gives us an insight into whether Clough lives up to the image in this 254-page book covering 20 years of Clough's time at Forest. I should say at this point I did come to this as a (long-suffering) Forest fan myself, so of course almost every detail was fascinating. However, I am convinced anyone who followed football during the 70s, 80s and 90s would be equally absorbed.
Clough doesn't live up to his popular image - he exceeds it. It's not just a tall story or two, but anecdote after anecdote of the uniqueness of the man and his methods. Hamilton presents the good, the bad and the ugly, not ducking difficult subjects like Clough's drinking or his relationship with the great (but equally flawed) Peter Taylor. There's also a great supporting cast of characters and one of my favourite sketches was of Jimmy Sirrel, the Notts County manager, the anti-thesis of the modern media savvy manager. Trying hypothetical situations on Sirrel didn't work, as he would reply, "If my granny had a dickie then she would nae be ma granny." (Sounds as though he deserves a book of his own!)
It's impossible to pick out one or two anecdotes from the book, or the conversations he had with Hamilton. It is well-written and rolls the tale along, making it genuinely difficult to put down. Maybe by the end, like Clough, it is beginning to run out of team a little, but you'll want to follow the story through, even thought the ending is hardly fitting for the man who flew so high.
This is a sympathetic, colourful, readable account of a great character. Mourinho, Ferguson, even Harry Redknapp, are characters but Brain Clough was without peer.
on 2 August 2009
It's easy to see why this book won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2007. It's a great read, and although the narrative doesn't quite sparkle all the way through like the quite brilliant prologue (one of the best intros to a non-fiction read ever), you can forgive the author for failing to live up to his own exceptionally high standard on every page. The strength of the book is the close-up portrayl of Cloughie, gleaned by the author from years of sitting in draughty corridors and bleak hotel lobbies waiting for a line or two from the great man. Criticisms are that some of the key matches are glossed over - the two European Cup wins are only mentioned in passing, Hillsborough and Cloughie's reaction to it is completely ignored (Forest are shamefully forgotten by the football media as being Liverpool's opponents that day), the skeletal timeline at the back of the book is woefully thin (apparently Cloughie did nothing worth mentioning between 1982 and 1989), and you are certainly left wanting to hear more of the key players and the big games. But the focus is on Cloughie, and you have to respect the choices the author made in writing the book.
In the end though, what comes shining through is the great man, his personality and his achievements. Cloughie is like the Last of the Mohicans; there will never be another Cloughie, and the game will be a lot poorer for that.
on 4 July 2008
Excellent, straightforward sports biography, distinguished by Hamilton's closeness to his subject and the resuting intimacy of the portrait. No tricks, no fiction or imagined scenes, just sensitive writing and informed analysis of the Clough career and of a very different time in British football - a big enough story in its own right to require very little embroidery.
Duncan Hamilton makes no bones about how fortunate he was to be allowed unparalleled access to the force of nature that was Brian Clough. The portrait that emerges seems to come from something for which 'love' is maybe the only appropriate word; its to Hamilton's credit that it never seems like obsession as, throughout, he is remarkably clear-eyed about Clough's weaknesses as well as his astonishing triumphs. The excellent and detailed accounts of how Clough took not one but two poor-to-middling English clubs to the heights of European glory (a feat that one struggles to imagine being repeated today) are balanced by an understanding of his very human insecurities and frailties, and by an increasingly dominant subtext - a (literally) sobering account of how low even a character as powerful as Clough could be laid by alcohol.
on 14 May 2007
If you want to know about Clough, this is the book. Duncan Hamilton saw him, close up, over twenty years covering Forest (i.e., covering Clough) for the Nottingham Evening Post. It's a memoir that's painful at times - Hamilton doesn't spare Clough the way the man did himself in his autobiographies. The alcoholism is properly and fully described (although there is no real insight into the bung saga) and, for all his magnetism, it's clear Clough could be pretty dislikeable. Peter Taylor suffered at his hands until his death brought remorse and Hamilton rightly accords him, Taylor, full credit for the successes of the 1970s. But it's best for the close-up picture of Cloughie it paints by a man who acknowledges him as a father-figure. This is our Brian, who brought glory to unfashionable Nottingham, who was irascible, opinionated, unbeatable, resilient, both eminently repeatable and wholly unrepeatable and who left so many of the people of Nottingham and Derby in tears when he died. If you care about Forest, about football or about life read this book, for we will never know genius like his again.
on 12 October 2007
Although I wasn't a supporter of any of the clubs he managed, Clough always intrigued me as a personality, and I always wanted to know more about him (rather than his increasingly odd opinions). This book is therefore a treat, because it really does give you a sense not just of the man but also the kind of relationship that was engendered between managers and local reporters. You get a vivid picture here of the rise and decline of a remarkable manager.
on 6 April 2009
Having been a Forest fan all my life, I was looking forward to this book. I wasn't disappointed. Duncan Hamilton obviously knows the man well and his insight into the highs as well as the lows gives you a balanced view of the legend and the man Clough. Hamilton not only portrays him as a brilliant man manager but points out the faults that sometimes caused problems (as Clough admits himself. The insight into his partnership with Taylor was amazing and it was a real shame they never spoke again.
I understand his reasons for not quoting many dates with the incidents he describes but if you are quite structured in your reading you may find that irritating. I kept looking back to work out dates or looking at the timeline at the back so I had an idea of when something happened, which I found slightly frustrating.
This was a very enjoyable book that had me laughing at the 'Cloughie quotes', especially his view of Shilton playing at Mansfield first day of one season prior to signing him.
This book is similar to Clough's own autobiography in the sense that it describes the same man (both good and bad), as opposed to the fictitious nutter being described in the damned united.
Overall, it was a tremendous read that makes you wish Cloughie was still around today. Even though it pains me to say it as he is at Derby, I hope his son can emulate his managerial achievements.