ONE of the reasons Nigel Clough joined Burton Albion was because he had a five-month-old son and didn’t want to uproot the family.
William is now 19, a fan who goes by train to see dad’s team play. He’ll be watching them at Championship grounds again next season.
Safe to say grandad would be proud. Brian Clough did amazing things, but for what Nigel has done at Burton manager of the season would not be out of order.
Chelsea’s Antonio Conte has won the Premier League, but would he have done it with no training ground?
Newcastle’s Rafa Benitez has won the Championship, but would he have done it on a top gate of 6,746 this season? Real Madrid or Juventus will win the Champions League, but would they have got to a classic final worrying about a ground with seats in just one stand? Unlike former Premier League champions Blackburn Rovers, Clough has kept Burton in the Championship. He has finished above two-times European Cup winners Nottingham Forest and FA Cup winners Wigan, competed with League Cup winners Birmingham City, finished ten points behind another European Cup winner, Aston Villa. “We still can’t believe it. On Sunday our supporters, after the game with Reading, stayed The usual lap of honour, you know and you could see the look on people’s faces,” says Clough. “The supporters’ faces, were like ‘We are doing it again next year’. I don’t think they could quite believe it, that we had scraped over the line.”
Clough adds, firmly: “We think we deserve it as well, to get to that 52 points.
“We’ve been surprised at the media interest in the last week or so since we did it. Everyone assumed we would just slip back into it in the last few weeks of the season with the form that all of a sudden Blackburn started showing while Bristol City got out of it. To have to get to 52 points has been incredible.”
Clough had to keep revising his maths.
“We thought late 40s in points would do it. We said to the lads that five of the last six seasons 45 points has kept you up. We beat Leeds and got to 51 and we still weren’t safe. Then we got a point at Barnsley.
“Everyone thought ‘Birmingham won’t win the last two, Blackburn won’t win the last two, Forest won’t win against Huddersfield, Reading and then Ipswich’ – and they did.”
And the prize? More of the same next season. Does he enjoy it? “It’s a constant battle. I wouldn’t say it’s enjoyable.
“I’ll tell you what is enjoyable: coming to the club on a daily basis, coming in here, the people. The games are a different matter because we know we are the underdogs and we are up against it every single time.
“During the week is enjoyable. We have still maintained that atmosphere and ethos of the club as we came up. That has been one of the main successes
of Ben Robinson, the chair-behind. man. He somehow has to improve everything, but he has kept that same atmosphere where everybody who comes feels it. People from the outside feel it.”
Clough turns to Nigel Powlson, who does PR for the club and is a lifelong fan.
“I don’t know how long you’ve been here, Nigel?”
“What, volunteering as well? I didn’t get paid in those days. I can’t remember. I started writing the programme 30 years ago, I think.”
Clough digests the information. “This club is a throwback to how it used to be. Football is not a very nice business any more. The money certainly affects that side of it, but also the people it’s attracted. That’s the thing now, the good people are getting lost.
“At Burton Albion, everybody is connected. No-one is isolated. Supporters are isolated in football. They are getting separated, especially from the players
WE’RE SAFE: Striker Luke Varney enjoys his goal against Barnsley that preserved Burton’s status and, inset, boss Nigel Clough salutes the supporters