Birtles and Burns shine at The Approach..

It was advertised as an Evening with Garry Birtles and Kenny Burns at The Approach, but it rapidly became ‘The Kenny Burns Show’ as the legendary former-Reds centreback took centre stage for the evening, much to the amusement and entertainment of all present.  That said, Birtles was good value on the night too, and whilst I often find myself fretting before these nights that I’ll just hear the same old stories – yet again I left with a few more that I’d not heard before.

Just a few examples; Birtles recalled when he was kicked out the team bus on Wilford Lane – on their way to Heathrow to fly to Dubai as he was injured and had complained to Brian Clough about his inclusion on the trip.  Rather than leave his injured striker stranded, Clough flagged down a passing motorist and requested that he take Birtles back to the City Ground.  Amusingly after an abortive take-off, the nervous-flyer Clough insisted the cabin crew let them off the plane and none of them made it to Dubai!

One thing I definitely discovered was to never accept a lift from either Birtles or Burns should they offer.  First Garry recounted a tale of a night when he had perhaps been a little less mindful of how much he’d been drinking, and fell asleep at the wheel of his TVR on Toton Hill, on the way to drop his mate off.  He ended up hitting a lamp-post and writing off the car – taking refuge at a nearby house.

At his refuge he apparently helped himself to their lunch for the following day – cheese and lettuce (presumably either in already, or in the process of being made into sandwiches), as well as wolfing down water.  His mate, who wasn’t buckled in, had a broken nose from headbutting the windscreen and was being tended by the good samaritans.

When the Police arrived, Birtles was breathalised and came out ‘borderline’ and was let off; the moral of the story?  Cheese and lettuce is apparently a cure for being over the limit!  Or possibly agreeing to autograph a programme for the police officer can work wonders if you’ve won a couple of European Cups.  Kudos goes to a passing journalist though, who passed the scene, photographed it and had the headline “Birtles hits the post, again!” in the next day’s papers – this was during his infamous goal drought whilst at Manchester United.

But don’t think it’s any better to accept a lift from Kenny Burns, because he apparently once crashed a car through a hedge and onto a bowling green, where he promptly panicked and fled leaving the car sat there; I presume it wasn’t during a game!

Kenny Burns also has a fairly colourful past.  He was signed by Forest to replace Sammy Chapman, according to the man himself.  Peter Taylor used to stalk him at a dog track where he spent an inordinate amount of time (and money!), where there were initially concerns over his character that Taylor eventually was able to assure Brian Clough was – whilst not impeccable – more than suitable for his needs.

Kenny’s career could have been a very short one – he described how Forest’s mere ten days of preseason suited his schedule much better than at other clubs, whose rigours before a season began tended to be more demanding.  During his first preseason on a tour he imbibed rather too freely in a beer tent and came within a few yards of being sick on Brian Clough’s wife, Barbara.  A timely apology to both Brian and Barbara Clough at breakfast the following day could well have saved his Forest career!

He told amusing tales of Trevor Francis not wanting to wear shinpads because ‘they made his legs look bulky’, whilst claiming himself and Larry Lloyd had phone books stuffed down their socks.  When Francis was eventually forced to wear shinpads he used to peel the foam lining from them to make them as thin as possible to minimise this effect of making him look too butch!

The thing that most people will remember (or read about in the case of folks like me too young to have seen him play) about Burns was that he was one of footballs hard men – back when the game was somewhat more violent than it is now.  He was fairly renowned for sticking the boot, the fist, the head, or whatever he could in on his opponents where required – as well as taking a bit in return.

He claims he’s probably the most fined player in Forest’s history; he recounted tales of psyching out Kevin Keegan in the tunnel before Forest played Hamburg in the European cup final – utilising nothing more than a missing tooth, a fierce expression and a piece of red chewing gum.  Of course, during the game he went on to completely take him out, and we all know how that game ended.

In a high profile gaffe in the build-up to a freekick at Highbury, having cased out the linesman and the referee weren’t looking, he decided to ‘sneeze’ (as he put it!) which caused his head to propel itself forward into the back of Frank Stapleton’s head.  Unfortunately he hadn’t clocked the camera capturing the moment for posterity!  He was even fined for attempting a raking pass to John Robertson which went awry and almost cost us a goal against Manchester City as Shilton was uncharacteristically off his line.

Imagine if our players were fined for shit passes that cost us goals!

My favourite story was a Clough one, I love it when I hear a Cloughie story I’ve never heard before.  This one involved Wimbledon in the crazy gang years.  They arrived at the City Ground and were infamous for having a loud ghetto blaster usually under the custodianship of Vinnie Jones.  The noise from this was grating on Clough, who despatched Alan Hill to the away dressing room to request it be turned down.

Alan Hill knocks on the door, Jones answers “Could you turn that down?” asks Hill, “Yeah, sure” says Jones – and does so.  No sooner does Hill return to the home dressing room, it’s turned back up again.  Hill is despatched again to remedy the situation, this time being ordered to say please when he makes his request.  He does so, he gets the same result – an initial turn-down, followed by resumption of services.

“Right!” says Clough, “I’ll go and ask him!”, he promptly knocks on the dressing room door, barges into the away dressing room and puts his foot through the ghetto blaster, simply saying “You can send me the bill!”.  Quality!  There was lots more on the night, and poor Kelvin got a bit of a panning during the auction which I thought was a little harsh, both seemed very supportive of Forest moving stadiums, and both spoke supportively of the current chairman (Burns more cagily than Birtles, it has to be said).

But since it made me chuckle, I’ll end with another Clough story told by Burns.  This one involved Calvin Plummer, I didn’t catch where it was – but he had been out either to warm up or train and had come back into the dressing room, clearly aggrieved.  “What’s wrong, son?” asked Clough.  “They’re throwing things at me, gaffer” replied Plummer.  “What things?” asked Clough.  “Bananas” he responded.  “Great, go and get me one!” Brian Clough responded.

What a way to diffuse a horrible situation!  Keep an eye out for more evenings like this at The Approach, as there should be more of them coming up over the coming months, and I’ve yet to see a bad one.  Apparently Kenny is forging a career on the after-dinner circuit, on this performance I’d highly recommend him as a thoroughly entertaining, witty and amusing speaker!

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8 Responses

  1. classic clough – may he never be forgotten !!! great piece of writing as always!!!

  2. Must have been 1 heck of a great night – typical bighead, what else would you expect from this man. He’ll be missed for a long time to come & his legacy will be passed on from Generation to Generation. At least he’ll have company in another great Manager now (the ex-County Manager – Jimmy Sirell)

  3. Anecdotes like this remind you of how football’s changed…and not for the better. Not that I’m advocating heavy drinking as the way forward; christ imagine how crap we’d be if the present Red’s team turned up after having too much “sauce”!!
    I know this sounds dodgy but reliably informed that we should have two midfielders with us in the next few days. One of which is apparently Carl Fletcher from Palace. Spoke to a “not so happy” Hammer about him & advised that he’s a combative midfielder who likes to put the “boot in.” He apparently played in the Cup Final a couple of years ago. If Calderwood’s looking @ midfielders lets hope he’s not forgot about defenders…

  4. Without trying to sound too much like the old fart I am, you missed out on some classic stuff if you never saw KB play. I’d never heard the tale about psyching Keegan out in the tunnel before the European Cup Final but it made me chuckle. I vividly remember the game and KB ignoring the ball and “playing” Keegan early on – clattered him good and proper. Funny thing was Keegan never looked dangerous afterwards and never went within 10 yards of KB. Great days.

  5. Good article as usual. I wish I could have been there.
    I expect the 500 who saw Pembo´s reserves win 7 1 tonight enjoyed it. .. The scoreline certainly cheered me up,as it was a good selection of scorers AND A WIN !!!. Anderson looks to be claiming a place on saturday, so lets see…..

  6. Cheers for the report nffc both are forest legends and rightly so.I have been to a couple of nights at the approach .stuart pearce was tops and saw our nigel there also he wasnt bad.Cloughie story is a peach

    My old man saw robbo and mgovern last year he enjoyed the night also something to cheer us up in this current economic mayhem and forest ineptitude.

    Come on you reds lets get a frigging result at dippy dowies place on saturday

    Forest til Die !

  7. Reserves were excellent, in particular Anderson, Reid and I thought Bensharif was ok too, at least as good as Morgan and looks more athletic than Morgan who I think is too sluggish for the CCC, he (Bensharif) was great in the air.

    Another good performance was from Moloney at right back, his passing/crossing/decision-making was worthy of giving him a chance in the 1st team and I believe he deserves a shot at right back instead of Chambers.

    Nice goals, look forward to the h’lights on Forestworld.

    Finally, I really think Sinclair needs to move on. OK he’s quick but that’s pretty much it. His general all-round play was poor, I’ve never been impressed with the lad and don’t mean to offend but I can’t believe Forest are paying him a wage!

    Let’s hope for the best v QPR and get some decent form in time for ze sheep on Nov 2nd.

  8. Quality post nffc. Having “lived the dream” with both Burns and Birtles, its great to hear stories like that.

    BC and the Ghetto Blaster is pure magic! Never again will the likes of him manager a football club and the world is a sadder place for it.

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