Brian Clough is still prominent in bronze in the centre of Nottingham through a striking nine-feet high sculpture by Les Johnson. His hands are clasped above his head as he acknowledges the fans and shares in their celebration. He is again among the people of Nottingham with whom he shared so many triumphs. He put Nottingham on the world footballing stage.
Becoming manager of the unfashionable second division side Nottingham Forest in 1975, promotion to the top division was clinched in his first season in charge. And then, to the astonishment of most in the game, straight to the league championship title in the following season. Two successive European Cup victories followed – the first back-to-back success for a British side in Europe’s premier competition – defeating Sweden’s St Malmo 1-0 in the 1979 final in Munich and then, a year later, a victory by the same score over Hamburg in Madrid.
His success over 18 years as manager of Nottingham Forest should not obscure his earlier career. A prolific goal-scoring centre-forward with Middlesbrough (his hometown and where a statue of Clough, by Vivien Mallock, stands in the local park) and later Sunderland, winning four England caps. His playing career was cut short by a serious leg injury. He turned to management aged just 30, learning his apprenticeship at Hartlepools United before moving to second division Derby County – and, with assistant Peter Taylor, inspiring the latter to promotion and then, extraordinarily, to the first division title the following season. Derby has also now honoured the partnership of Clough and Taylor. A majestic larger-than-life statue was unveiled in 2010 outside Pride Park Stadium and shows the two men, arms around each other’s shoulders, holding together the 1972 league championship trophy.
They were years at Derby and Nottingham that will not be forgotten.