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Customer Review

on 12 August 2012
This is, as the author mentions in his preface, the first full-dress biography of a football figure about whom more has been written than perhaps any other, certainly in recent years. Unfortunately, the lengthy tome which follows does a better job demonstrating why no-one else had attempted to capture Clough in the conventional biographical format than it does illuminate or bring to life such a mythologised personality.

The virtue of the author, a meticulous researcher and distinguished football historian as he has shown in several other works, is the vice of this biography; anecdotes and insights which are of real interest are too sparsely scattered among reams of reportage, with an over-emphasis on individual matches with little wider significance, and research from regional newspapers.

The upshot is a sometimes arid read, particularly in the early stages detailing Clough's playing career at Middlesborough. The narrative picks up with Clough's forced retirement and move into management, and peaks with his years of success at Derby and Nottingham Forest, before appearing to rush through his decline in later career and retirement.

Some of the passages exploring Clough's personality and character are strong. Wilson successfully draws out some themes in his life that resonate - his emulation of Alan Brown, who managed him at Sunderland; the long-lasting effect of his career-ending injury; a tendency towards indecision - and is, perhaps strangely, more engaging on his many boardroom wrangles and man-management style than what happened on the pitch.

But overall, for a writer as accomplished as Jonathan Wilson this has to rank as a disappointment. It is not so much a bad book as the wrong book, and although it will almost certainly remain the pre-eminent reference work for the life of Brian Clough, casual readers may be better served by the many more digestible options available.
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