AND IT’S UNREAL
because of the salaries. It’s trying to keep all that together.
“You try to surround yourself with good people. That’s what the chairman does. If you get good people around you have a chance.”
Clough is a regular reader of our sister newspaper, The NonLeague Paper. Non-League is his managerial roots and he hasn’t forgotten.
The first thing Clough won at Burton after arriving from playing at Forest in October 1998 was the Dr Martens Southern League Cup in 2000 by beating Hastings. He missed out on the Premier Division title in 1999-00 and 2000-01. It was Boston the first time, then Margate.
“I keep an eye on the scene through The Non-League Paper and the amount of teams we have played over the years, clubs like Margate,” recalls Clough. “They were our nemesis and they’ve just got relegated out of the National League South. It’s amazing how it changes.
“Burton was the only job available to me. We’d just had the baby in ‘98 and we didn’t want to travel far.
“It was a player-manager’s job, which appealed to the chairman because he thought he was getting two for the price of one.
“There was only one League vacancy and it was Leeds. So I didn’t think there was too much chance of getting that. I might have been struggling. I would’ve had to change my name.”
Brian Clough spent 44 turbulent days as Leeds manager before making Forest the best team in Europe.
Nigel travelled with his dad to Forest games, sitting with the subs on the bench as often as not, but William does it solo. “He has grown up through all this,” says Clough. “From the old ground at Eton Park where William used to have a cuppa and have a kickabout. He was a mascot a couple of times. “He is at university now, so it’s a way of measuring it all. He still comes and watches. I think that’s why he went down the road for his uni.” As he has to leave and head for his academy technical meeting, Nigel makes a request. “Don’t make this about me,” he says. “Make it about the people here.” It’s why he turned down the chance to leave and manage Forest (“my history there, following my dad, it was very, very difficult”) and why he sat quietly at home, drained, tired, with his son, daughter, wife and a glass of champagne after getting the decisive point at Barnsley.
Before they sign any player, Nigel, his assistant Gary Crosby, coach Andy Garner and goalkeeping coach Martin Taylor will all make assessments.
“We can’t afford to make mistakes. They also have to fit in,” says Clough.
There’s a player at Newcastle who earns more in one week than Clough’s entire weekly playing staff budget.
“I use that. Tell them to go and show these big earners what they can do,” he said. “Every one of our players has contributed something. You don’t stay up by a point if you don’t get those contributions. You are down.
“The word ‘misfits’ was used about the players. They’re not misfits, but there is a reason they are here. It’s a challenge.
“They are not idiots, they know we are favourites to go down .They come here, they look around and they see we have three sides terraced and they think it’s going to be difficult.
“We haven’t got a training ground. We are so fortunate that we’ve got St George’s Park 15 minutes up the road.
“They look after us brilliantly but we meet here, go in our cars, train, come back, get changed and have a bite to eat.”
It was 30 years this week since Burton first played at Wembley, a goalless FA Trophy draw with Kidderminster, losing the replay
On the same day as the Trophy anniversary, Clough got a letter.
“It said it’s been so exciting having all the big teams down here and to have them again next season. No Newcastle next season but Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Sheffield United, Bolton.
“I don’t know what their anniversaries might be, what they might be recalling, but ours is the day we got to the FA Trophy final. We’ll be the only ones doing that.”
MODEL OF CONSISTENCY: Chairman Ben Robinson