There have been a handful of great managers in British football. Sitting at the very top of the game are four Scots: Bill Shankly, Matt Busby, Alex Ferguson, and Jock Stein. They led enormous clubs: Manchester United, Liverpool, and Celtic. Right up there with them is an Englishman who never managed England, and never managed a giant club. For 20 years he was the manager of unfashionable Nottingham Forest, with spells at Derby County, Hartlepool and for 44 days, Leeds United. With zero resources, Clough took Nottingham Forest to two European Cup wins, and that’s as many as the mighty Manchester United have accumulated. There have been quite a few books written about Clough, including two biographies (and while I remember, make sure you read David Peace’s The Damned United. It is the best book of football fiction ever written).
Last week a new book was published about Brian Clough called Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton. Cloughie died in September 2004 at the age of 69, and this book goes places no other sports book has ever been. It describes a huge personality, a man with god given gifts and a man flawed in every way. Someone who grabbed life and most of his players by the throat, and didn’t let go until he got his way. His idea of a meaningful meeting with a star player was – “We talked for twenty minutes and then he did what I told him”. Provided You Don’t Kiss Me is lit up with joy and darkened by sadness. It’s a must read for anyone who cares about sport, life, humanity, and life on the edge.