I’m at once indebted and slightly irked at Wendy Dickinson – no sooner did my copy of her book ‘For Pete’s Sake‘ arrive this morning, suddenly I have found myself missing a day – and having just finished, I glanced outside. It looks like it’s been a lovely day. If the ability to ‘put down’ a book is the barometer, then – aside from a couple of comfort breaks – this one passes with flying colours.
The author runs the gauntlet of tackling a tome as both a journalist – and a daughter – with good grace. Of course I’m sure there’s natural enough biasedness in there – but one gets the feeling a subject clearly very dear to her heart is dealt with with a degree of objectivity too. The stories are often very familiar (certainly once the football kicks in), but told from a slightly different perspective.
I was only twelve years old and just starting to fall in love with Forest when Peter Taylor was taken from us earlier than was fair – and given the policy of the club at the time, and indeed, one that remains – it’s fair to say I knew little of his influence at my relatively newly chosen club. Early forays into my brother’s video collection of Forest’s glory years offered clues, my Dad filled in a few more gaps.
However, it wasn’t until the relatively recent flurry of Clough related books and a natural inquisitiveness that started to unearth him properly for me – and since I’ve always felt drawn to him, the unsung local hero who combined so potently with undisputed legend Brian Clough. I think most books tackling the pair are unanimously favourable to Taylor, but perhaps over-simplified him as simply an excellent scout.
Certainly Duncan Hamilton and David Peace in wildly differing tomes offered more than a hint that there was more to the quieter half of the partnership – indeed, the over-dramatising of the film The Damned United had them both with many of the stereotypical trappings you’d associate with a married couple rather than a working pair!
For Pete’s Sake gives us the prehistory of the man before he met Brian Clough, growing up in Nottingham and actually fleetingly representing the Reds as a player before ending up at Coventry and eventually – and crucially – Middlesbrough. This is where the partnership began, although wasn’t to flourish before Taylor was able to demonstrate his managerial prowess in isolation of Clough at Burton Albion.
Of course, the charted path from Hartlepools, to Derby and to glory are well documented – and tantalisingly that’s where the volume ends, with – after bringing unbelievable success to Derby County, they are compelled to resign due to irreparable relations with the board. Not, as is popularly depicted, at the driving of the hot-headed Brian Clough, but at the insistence of Peter Taylor.
Understandably, growing from childhood to adulthood with the backdrop of Derby’s most successful period, the author is clearly very much a Derby fan. That might make uncomfortable reading for Forest fans, there is the necessarily odd ill-disguised swipe at Forest in there – and it will be fascinating to see how she tackles the subject in volume two, where the pair will obviously end up there and reaching the apex of their careers.
However, it shouldn’t be uncomfortable – this is an impassioned re-telling of a familiar tale from very close to the firing line, and it makes it very compelling. Sure, we get the ‘Derby’s a football town, Nottingham isn’t‘ cliché trotted out, shortly before the pride of a father who achieved a trebling of the club’s attendance figures in the ‘football town’- but well, it would be a bit rich of me to criticise too heavily for someone letting their prejudices sneak in to their writing!
Indeed it’s that feeling of reasonable biasedness that makes the passages chronicling Derby’s rise all the more compelling. Suddenly there’s real colour added to matches with real recollections, it is we that are celebrating and not them – it’s really rather charming even though it’s about that team. Maybe I can be charitable because I know already what is to follow!
This latest addition to my burgeoning Forest/Clough/Taylor library comes recommended by me – certainly I am really looking forward to Volume Two! Not just because it obviously tackles subjects with more resonance to me but I’ll be intrigued to see how the author deals with what I perceive to be animosity to Forest – like any self-respecting Derby fan would have, but particularly one who has the frustration of the club not recognising her Dad’s achievements.
The other surprise was that this wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to the Clough/Taylor vogue underway – much of the information comes from recordings made with Taylor himself before he died, filed away until the grief of his passing was perhaps less raw. It’s a fascinating insight into a man who I’ve always greatly retrospectively admired and offers us a few more layers to the Peter Taylor onion than anything I’ve read before.
You can pick up a copy by clicking here – and I can certainly vouch for quick delivery – just remember to set a few hours aside to read through it as, if you’re like me, you won’t want to put it down!
Filed under: Football books |