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5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Brian Clough - well written insight into the enigmatic football genius, 8 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: Provided You Don't Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough (Paperback)
Duncan Hamilton's portrait of the great Brian Clough is another one of the newer football books that have taken the level and quality of sports journalism up a peg or two. This book recounts the author's tenure as a football correspondent with the local Nottingham newspaper during Clough's reign as manager at Forest. In some respects, this book reflects a long-lost era in the British game rather in the fashion of the similarly excellent "My father and other football heroes" by Gary Imlach. Amazingly, this book goes up to as recent as the early nineties by which point Sky had transformed the game with the evolution of the Premiership and the football world depicted is staggeringly different from the one that exists today. Shocking to see how much the game has changed in this period.

Regarding the book, there must be countless others on the shelves about the most charismatic football manager in the history of the English game but Hamilton is sufficiently a good enough writer to make this the ultimate book to choose. The book starts with Clough's prolific goal-scoring record as a player before discussing his managerial career at Hartlepool and the infamous sojourn at despised Leeds United. Fascinating to see how the pay-out Clough received from Leeds totally transformed his fortunes. However, this book is not a biography and considers within each chapter such topics as the management of players, the realtionship with Peter Taylor, why Clough would have been a disaster as England manager and his European success despite being an original "Euro -sceptic." There are also chapters on Clough's managerial style and an insight into why the team that won promotion to the old Divison One and swiftly nabbed the Championship before following it up with two successive European Cup wins was so quickly dismantled. I found it interesting to read of the ultimate demise of Nottingham Forest but the sad decline of Brian Clough is one of the saddest stories I have read about the game. His final season not only saw his health wrecked by drink (Hamilton is very candid about this), his Forest team utlimately relegated and his relevance irradicated in the game as the nature of football management changed with the emergence of more "scientific" coaches such as Arsene Wenger. Fascinating to read this book too at a time when Wenger's own abilities are now being put into question after 15+ years at the helm of Arsenal.

Having shared 20 years as a journalist alongside Brian Clough, we are fortunate to have a book that is both intimate in it's understanding of the subject and very well written too. A football manager as great as Clough deserves to be served by a writer as good as this. "20 years..." could have been a book filled with amusing stories and Clough's celebrated soundbites and whilst the humour is there, Hamilton is not afraid to discuss the darker aspects of his career such as his treatment of the tragic Justin Fashanu, the excessive drinking and an account about a mysterious sports bag full of money. Throughout the book, it is clear that Hamilton had a huge amount of respect and affection for Brian Clough and he explains where his genius lay and the amusing eccentricities as well as why Nottingham Forest and Clough were made for each other. (Tempted to say "Taylor-made!) There are some fascinating comments where Clough outlines his regrets and an appraisal of why Clough was able to bring unprecedented success to a provincial football club such as Forest.

As a Southampton fan who grew up supporting my team when they were under the stewardship of another great manager of that era who worked similar wonders with a small-time, provincial club, I hope that Lawrie MacMenemy's story could be told as well as this effort by Duncan Hamilton. All in all, this is THE Brian Clough book to buy and nicely sums up the career of a football manager who might not have enjoyed the success of Sir Alex Ferguson but who will certainly be loved by more non-partisan football fans for many years to come. I thoroughly recommend this book.
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