In the 70's there were a group of highly skilful , free spirited footballers such as Bowles,Marsh,Worthington, Hudson , George etc. - Brian Clough is their managerial equivalent. Like these players Clough was anti-establishment , conceited and individualistic and these traits undoubtedly cost him the Big Jobs which his talents warranted , such as the England post which Cloughie laments in this book. "Walking on Water" is a somewhat disjointed mixture of history and opinion which doesnt read particularly smoothly, but there are many interesting insights into Cloughie's career and plenty of regrets about missed and lost opportunities (early end to playing career,walking out on Derby,the England job , falling out with Peter Taylor etc.).I remember Cloughie most for his remarkable achievements in the 1977-1980 period with Nottingham Forest. He built up a nothing club of journeymen players into European Champions within two years , replacing Liverpool in their prime as the top club domestically and internationally. The modern day equivalent would be a manager taking over at , say, Coventry City and taking the Title off Man United the season after getting promoted ! Cloughie was a miracle worker back then. After 1980 Forest never reached these heady heights again, but Clough's Forest always played good passing football , developed many talented international players and won several Cups.They also played football in a disciplined , honest way and didnt systematically harass referees (Arsenal under Wenger take note !). Cloughies Forest from 1988-1992 at times reached the heights of his great 70's teams - with his son Nigel playing an important role in this success. As a person Brian Clough was in your face ,opinionated and called a spade a spade. His views always entertaining and informed. "Walking on Water" is not as exciting as one of his famous TV interviews, but there are plenty of memorable moments . One of my favourites was the pre-season team photo of Clough as a player at Sunderland with a pipe in his mouth for which he incurred the wrath of his manager. That sums up Brian Clough . Another favourite part was when he mocks the modern day self-appointed TV experts with all their earnest match and formation analysis and talk of "diagonal runs and spinning off the shoulder of the last defender". "What the hell they're on about is beyond me ! " says Clough. Cloughie did it His Way, rubbed countless numbers of people up the wrong way and as a result had to make do with managing smaller clubs when his talents deserved a bigger stage. "Walking on Water" has a wistful air about it , a lot of "what ifs" and "if onlys" permeate it , but there are plenty of references to Cloughies remarkable successes which far outweigh his failures."Brian Clough's a Football Genius" the fans used to chant - this book will tell you why.
This book dates from 2002, and the last chapter is largely devoted to the state of English football at that date. The sports-obsessed have much longer memories than that, and anyone wanting to know how the (nearly) current scene was viewed by the greatest genius, I'm in no doubt at all, who ever managed an English club can read all about it here. Clough was often wrong, and even he knew that, but much oftener right. Where his crystal ball deceived him in 2002 was in the belief that Alec Ferguson was over the hill. Ferguson has just won the league title again with Manchester United in 2007. It is a terrific achievement and a terrific career, and it's not over yet. To say the least of it, not everyone could have done what Ferguson has, even with Manchester United. What I don't believe Ferguson or any man could have equalled was what Clough achieved with two obscure and unfashionable clubs.
I remember nothing about Clough's career as a player, because that was with minor sides and it was before the blanket TV coverage that we have today. Cloughie himself gives us no opportunity to forget what a great goal-scorer he was before a knee injury brought his playing days to an abrupt end. He went into management because he had bills to pay and a family to support, and he discovered that he had another talent too - he could teach. To put it mildly, he could communicate. To put it even more mildly, he didn't miss and hit the wall with his more acerbic opinions. That was what I used to love about him but, understandably, it didn't endear him to many. He was the glaringly obvious choice for manager of the England team, but governing bodies in sport tend to be side-issue specialists and of course greatly persuaded of their own importance, and they sensed (it would have been impossible not to) that Clough's estimate of that was well short of theirs.
In case you didn't know that Clough was a conceited bigmouth he tells us that himself. He had any amount to be conceited about, and he knows that too. He plays the standard game of disparaging what he calls his 'brains', and he was certainly not intellectually inclined. What he had was clear insight - what was blindingly obvious to him would never have been clear to many others in nine lifetimes, and any modern manager or coach wanting or needing to know some home truths could never complain about lack of clarity in Clough's account. Even he wasn't born knowing it. In his playing days it was all about scoring goals, but he was ahead of the others in appreciating that even if the forwards play like world-beaters a defence that plays like panel-beaters and lets in a goal for every goal scored will undo whatever the forwards achieve.
He is as ruthless in describing his own downfall as he ever was in showing up anyone else's shortcomings. It was drink that nearly killed him, and he leads off with that story. If there is a touch of reticence, even from Clough, it shows in the way he can hardly bear to describe how his befuddled judgment led to his disastrous last season at Nottingham Forest. I found the book very readable indeed. He repeats himself a bit, he meanders a bit, but so what? It wasn't the booze that killed him, it was cancer. Like George Best he had to have a liver transplant. Unlike George Best he was not intent on destroying himself and he stopped the drinking before it put an end to him. He was, quite simply, a genius, and our loss was not down to his own frailty but to the nincompoops in charge of selecting an England manager. He tells us that as well, as of course you would expect, and he tells it in his own inimitable way. What improvement, if any, there has been in that department I'm not at all sure. However even from beyond the grave he can still teach, and some lessons worth learning could hardly be clearer than the way they are put across here.
A very enjoyable read. Well written and easy. The passion of the man comes out, as does the relaxed later life. The first chapter is perhaps a tad heavy going but after that it's one of these books you don't want to put down.
What a woeful read.Brian Clough could have saved a huge amount of time if he had just told everyone he was perfect & left it at that. All his achievements were better than everyone else's,there was never a manager & possibly many forward's too touch him.
The lack of insight is astounding,as is the fact that in over 300 pages Bob Paisley,Jock Stein or Bertie Mee merit not a mention.Matt Busby & Bill Shankly are mentioned in passing but only for membership of the committee that turned Clough down for the England job & for membership of a pundit panel Clough was on not for their considerable achievements & Bill Nicholson is included because he included Clough for the Under 21's.In fact nobody but Clough ever achieved anything in football or so it seems.How he turned little Derby & Forest into behemoths is repeated endlessly as his ability to score in Division 2.Walter Winterbottom is criticised for not noticing this & capping Clough more than twice.Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Winterbottom's time as England manager know that the side was selected by an FA panel not the manager.This seems to have eluded Clough though & allows him to whine continuously.A hilarious claim that if Clough had stayed at Derby they would be as big as United,Liverpool & Arsenal now is laughable in the extreme.He forgets that after winning 2 European Cups with Forest he managed to get them relegated 12 years later without challenging for the title again so how would Derby now be gracing Camp Nou or San Siro he fails to mention.Even his much trumpted sorrow for Justin Fashanu seems more a case of I was wrong but it was still his fault not mine. As for his bile regarding Alex Ferguson it is a case of huge sour grapes. He continually mentions that Fergie has only won 1 European Cup,yet never mentions the Cup Winners Cup,& labels Alex "King Rat" which he tries to pass off as not a jibe.Kenny Dalglish is also mentioned only for his departure post-Hillsbrough & for buying a title at Blackburn,again his double & other league titles,including the 5-0 performance in 1988 that Tom Finney described as the greatest he had ever seen are not mentioned.Now who was it Liverpool played that night.Oh yes Nottingham Forest,must have slipped Clough's mind again.
If worthwhile tales of 50-90's football are what you are looking for avoid this book.If self-interested gloating is your thing enjoy.You have been warned.