Competition: Win 150 BC: Cloughie the Inside Stories

Thanks to the generosity of author Dave Armitage I am able to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a signed copy of his excellent book 150 BC: Cloughie the Inside Stories.  I’ve just finished reading it after my ‘interim review‘ a few days ago – and it’s a brilliant combination of heart-warming, tear-jerking and rib-crackingly hilarious collection of anecdotes and stories.

Better still, Dave has kindly written a small piece for the blog about the dilemma of naming the book and his background:

The number of people who have made favourable comments about the title of the book has been quite staggering – if only they knew!

Once I’d established the idea that trying to compile a collection of Cloughie stories was a good one, I mused over a working title.

Obviously, you try to come up with something that sets it apart from other books on the great man and yet still captures the essence of the whole thing.

Then it came to me – 100 BC. Surely that would be a winner. I liked it straight away and, barring any other flashes of inspiration, decided virtually from day one that would be the way I would go.

It had a nice ring to it – the only problem was if I didn’t manage to assemble a whole century of Cloughie stories. After all, how many personalities football or otherwise lent themselves to one hundred tales or anecdotes?

I vowed that the very second the stories showed any signs of duplicating I would call a halt and if it had to be 82 BC or 77 BC then so be it. I still liked the idea behind the BC part of title and was happy to stick with it whatever figure I finished up at.

It quickly became clear that hitting a ton wasn’t going to be a problem (surprise, surprise!) and so the book grew under a working title of 125 BC and so on . . .

At 150 I really had to start thinking about bringing it to a close although I was aware there were still a whole host of people I hadn’t got hold of.

In essence, that’s it. I stopped at 150 and reluctantly ‘pulled’ a further 20 or so that I had. I was happy that the content satisfied the criteria of a decent sized book and wasn’t repetetive.

And so, there it is. The finished article ‘150 BC: Cloughie the Inside Stories‘ and, at the risk of sounding smug, I am very pleased with it.  It’s a kind of jigsaw where the reader can build up his or her own picture without the author/narrator preaching to them.

I was happy that it might just give an alternative side to the darker aspects portrayed in The Damned United or, for that matter, certain sectons of Duncan Hamilton’s Provided You Don’t Kiss Me.

I thought the Damned United was a horrible book, though I know many who really enjoyed and even think it didn’t portray Cloughie in a bad way. I can’t see that, but that’s just my take on things.

Let’s be straight, he could be an awkward cuss and prided himself on it more often than not.  But there was a generosity, warmth and humour about him that I honestly don’t think other books have always got over.

I know Duncan personally and he chose to do his in a certain way and I chose to do mine from a slightly different take. Neither is right or wrong. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

What was nice was that nearly all the people I interviewed were more than happy to give up some of their memories for the book and many that I have seen since it came out have been complimentary.

I’m sure I’ve gone on long enough, but if anyonedoes have any particular questions that they would like answering, I’d be more than happy to do so.

All the best to you die-hard Forest fans and let’s hope it isn’t too long before the City Ground is playing hosts to the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and the likes again.


Anyone else find the above a rather tantalising almost-admission that we could see a sequel of more stories? Anyway, I digress – how to you win a copy of this fantastic book?

To be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of the book, please email me the answer to the following question: What was the name of Brian Clough’s faithful Golden Retriever? Send your entries to and please include your postal address, and whether you would like Dave to inscribe a particular message in the book.

Entries will close on midnight 28th October, and Royal Mail strikes permitting hopefully we will be able to arrange delivery in time for Christmas!

150 must-read Clough stories..

Books about Clough always seem to start with the author justifying their decision to write it.  The fact of the matter is, Clough was and remains a fascinating character who generates massive interest – surely that’s the only justification you need?  Particularly when you’re utilising real people’s real memories to paint a charming picture of a football legend.

Given the lack of football aside from extortionate grainy internet streams of England’s defeat against Ukraine, it seemed as good a time as any to start getting stuck into 150 BC: Cloughie The Inside Stories compiled by Dave Armitage.  The author, a journalist who worked many years with Clough, has basically utilised his stella contact list to create this ‘from the horses mouths’ compendium of Clough anecdotes.

I’m only about a third of the way in to the tome, but given it comprises 150 fairly short sections I can get enough of a flavour of what the book is about – plus, as I always do, I’ve already had a flick through to get to some of the fantastic photographs the book contains too.  The stories I’ve read so far have been a mixture of familiar tales – and some new ones too, each story also capped off with a classic Clough quote – again, a mixture of the familiar and the new.

The mission statement of the author was that he felt Clough’s humour and warmth were perhaps traits that weren’t aptly encapsulated in other works – so he’s gone all out to rectify this.  Perhaps the nicest story I’d not heard before that I’ve encountered so far was from his former assistant Alan Hill.

Upon a fall-out with his daughter Elizabeth, Brian wanted to get a dog by means of making up with her (or ‘getting her onside’ as was phrased in the book!) – Hill accompanied him to a kennels where he found a litter of Golden Retrievers to his liking.  The breeder was naturally set to pick out the best puppy in the litter – but Clough insisted on taking the runt, leaving the kennel with it promising it a good life.

The beauty of this book – for me at least – is that because it’s comprised of so many short accounts from former players, friends, journalists etc, it is really easy to just pick up to read a couple more even when you’re pressed for time.  Whilst it’s unusual to review a book before finishing it, I can be confident enough to strongly recommend this one if – like me – you still obsess over all things Clough.

Some of the fantastic pictures alone make it worth it – the poignant image of Clough making his famous thumbs-up gesture to travelling Forest fans at Ipswich after his last game in charge, Peter Shilton kissing the European Cup – or for the more mischievous, him grabbing Nigel Mansell where it hurts during a Labatts promotion – with Roy Keane looking on laughing.

Definitely one for your Christmas lists if you don’t have it already!

A finger flicking good competition…

I find it a bit odd when I get an email asking if I’d mind awfully reviewing a book for somebody; but certainly odd in a good way.  This little compilation by Paul Willetts is an interesting idea, and one that will certainly be relevant to football fans of a certain age.  Because it’s all focused around Subbuteo, a word synonymous for me with the sport I love, so I was amazed to discover in the prologue the origins of the the famous trademark.  You’ll have to read it to find out!

The format of the book is essentially short interviews with well known figures from football and beyond; interspersed with recreations of famous (and not-so-famous) footballing moments using Subbuteo players and accessories (and fear not, Forest feature a couple of times!).  Certainly not a deep and meaningful tome, but bloody good fun and nostalgic for those of us who may have dabbled with flicking small plastic men around for hours on end.  Some of them even with the accompanying crowd noises thanks to a record!

Oddly I never really got into Subbuteo at all as a kid, it always seemed a bit – well, limited.  That said, I’m of the age where computers were starting to lure children away from such things, albeit only a ZX Spectrum in my case, and if I wanted some hands-on entertainment (fnar fnar) then it was always Lego for me – however, I do remember my mates who did treat Subbuteo like a religion, and did used to express an interest in the different teams they had etc.

So, should you want to read nostalgic whimsies by David Baddiel, Alastair Campbell, Will Self, Graham Taylor, Jeff Stelling and Clough-biographer Duncan Hamilton, then you can get yourself a copy pre-ordered, or you can enter the competition below to win the review copy that publishers Dexter Haven kindly sent me; once I’ve finished reading it, anyway!  Perhaps it could be a good Christmas gift for those difficult-to-buy-for male relatives we all have!

Right, so how can you win my copy of the book?  I was really tempted to coerce you to set up a famous Forest moment using Subbuteo figures and send me a picture, and judge the best one – but well, I don’t think anyone would do that!  However, if I’m wrong, do it anyway and send it to me!  So, to stand a chance of winning send me the answer to the simple question below; I may apportion bonus marks if entries are accompanied with a beautiful arrangement of Subbuteo players re-enacting Gary Crosby heading the ball out of Andy Dibble’s hand…

The question: What did Subbuteo’s creator, Peter Adolph, originally want to call the game he had invented?

Please email your entries to, including any amazing Subbuteo masterpieces you feel inclined to create.  The deadline is midnight 31st October 2008 – oooh, Hallowe’en – after which point I’ll select the winner at random and get in touch to arrange where to send the book to.  I shan’t promise to reply to everyone depending on how many entries there are – so if you don’t hear from me early in November, then you haven’t won!

Also, whilst I’m here and posting – Kenny Burns and Garry Birtles inadvertently helped me past a fairly significant milestone; that of my half a millionth visit.  Half a million visits (and my hosts cleverly don’t include my own countless visits either!).  It makes me feel very gratified that so many of you kindly grace the site with your presence – sincere thanks.  I only feel a bit reticent that I’ll have to start writing about present-day Forest again at the weekend!

The Damned United..

I’ve mentioned David Peace’s novel based on Clough’s famous 44 days at Leeds United, but always from the position of supreme ignorance of never having read it.  Many of you commented, quite rightly, that I should – despite my reservations having heard the reaction of the Clough family to the tome.  However, I have relented and availed myself of a copy, and blitzed through it over the last few days, and can now comment on it from a position of being at least slightly less ignorant than I was.

Firstly, it’s a good book – I tried to suspend my judgements, my feelings, my fears that it would try to annihilate my hero, and judge it on it’s own merits.  It’s very important this is fiction woven around true events, those 44 days, as well as flashbacks to time spent at both Hartlepools (as they were back then) and Derby County – all told through a narrative purported from Clough’s mind.

I do think that Clough is portrayed quite one-dimensionally – if it were the only reference material you had on him, you’d think he were an unjustifiably arrogant chain-smoking person with a drink problem and a severe case of Tourette’s syndrome, not to mention a strange fixation with losing his watch.  You would think him embittered and obsessed by Don Revie, and you would think him an insecure and weak-minded person hopelessly out of his depth when managing a team who should have been doing much better than they were.

It got me thinking to the kind of self-narratives I sometimes have though, and if I were to write them down and read them back, I would probably not think them a fair reflection on my true self either.  I have no idea whether David Peace has a more sympathetic view of Clough than his caricature portrays, but certainly the thoughts we all have from time to time might not be quite as rational and pride-inducing as those that we choose to externalise either in writing or conversation.

Certainly Peace packs the book with facts as well as fiction, told in a time-line story in sync with a time-line of past achievements – and it’s interesting and compelling reading.  I struggled with the repetitive nature of Peace’s writing, he repeats phrases constantly – although perhaps his 44 days at Leeds felt like a monotonous and repetitive cycle of difficulty.  I imagine it can’t have been easy, attempting to tackle a bunch of mature and successful players who you’d spent the last few years slagging off must have been challenging.

Whilst it’s a very poor comparison on so many levels it brought to mind Megson’s time at Forest; attempting to motivate a bunch of overpaid bloaters who’d been allowed to indulge all their bad habits under Kinnear – of course, the manager, the players and the status of the clubs bear no comparison at all – but ultimately it’s a tale of the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time – apparently fuelled by both his desire to escape the obscurity of managing Brighton, and his embittered need to eclipse fellow Middlesbroughite Don Revie.

In leaving Brighton he left behind Peter Taylor; I’ve written at length before how much I feel Taylor’s contribution to Clough’s success is overlooked – and in lacking his ‘right arm’ at Leeds, it certainly didn’t help his struggle.  Of course, we latterly learned that Clough was capable of a second less glorious renaissance without Taylor at Forest, but never was he to rediscover those great heights they reached together, almost with Derby County – totally with Nottingham Forest.

Aside from minor quibbles (I don’t believe, despite capable of swearing like a trooper, that Clough would have oft used ‘the C word’ as he does in the book, nor do I believe he would have drawn such vivid sexual metaphors in his mind for Derby trying to overcome Juventus in the European Cup), it was an interesting and thought-provoking read.  Who knows how accurate the account is?  Not me – I personally choose to take it with a large helping of salt, but certainly it’s a book that is worth reading.

It didn’t leave me particularly emotionally touched, which books like ‘Provided you don’t kiss me‘ and ‘My father and other working class football heroes‘ did – but perhaps that isn’t the intention; so this isn’t exactly a rave review, but it’s somewhat a retraction on my previous reticence to even consider picking up the book – I don’t feel the time I’ve spent on it has been wasted, equally I wouldn’t say it’s inspired me either.  A worthwhile way to have spent the playoff weekend, though!

Clough finds an unlikely ally in Russell Brand!

I’m not all that familiar with Russell Brand beyond the occasional appearance I’ve caught on Jonathan Ross – where he comes across as a fairly superficial person very much in the mould of the recent cult in ‘celebrity.’  So it was quite a surprise when a friend pointed me at this excellent article he’s written about Duncan Hamilton’s book about Brian Clough, and linked it with the current vacancy for the England job. 

So it’s made me reappraise him very much – so I figured I’d give you the opportunity to similarly view Mr Brand in a different light!  The article is published here on the Guardian website, and I’ll reproduce the text below for your reading pleasure.

Barwick must atone for the sins of his fathers 

Brian Clough, for all his extraordinary achievements as a player and a manager, is still often remembered as the best manager England never had. I am reading Duncan Hamilton’s Provided You Don’t Kiss Me in which he chronicles 20 years of interviewing Clough whilst, initially, working for a local Nottingham newspaper. I’ve not yet progressed beyond the early chapters so Clough is still in his prime, virile, volatile, passionate and frequently unreasonable.

What I enjoy most about this beautifully written and tender account of the relationship between a nervous young nit of a provincial reporter and a football genius is the sense of genuine proximity to its subject, so that Clough’s obvious flaws seem forgivable and even beguiling, rather than cruel and unbearable.

In the introduction Hamilton recounts an occasion where, whilst he was still in his teens, Old Big ‘Ead viciously coated him off in the home changing room in front of the wet and nude first team effin’ and blindin’ with such ferocity that he feared for his safety while Garry Birtles stared embarrassed at his own nude tootsies. The severity was such that Hamilton assumed that his relationship with Nottingham Forest was finished forever. Naturally, within 24 hours, Clough had called instructing him to get to the City Ground at once and that the argument had been a mere trifle.

From what I’ve read so far this is a wonderful book but I suppose I ought reserve judgement – perhaps in later chapters Hamilton loses all regard for his work and just scrawls slogans across the page in nail varnish, which would be absurd and not altogether unrewarding. What I can be assured of is that Clough will descend into alcoholism and stay at Forest for 18 months longer than he should have which gives even these early episodes a hue of sadness.

I’m a shade too young to have been fully cognoscent of goings-on at FA headquarters at the time that Clough ought to have been made national manager but have strong memories of his enormous and compelling personality. Once, during a non-aggressive pitch invasion, I think after Forest had won an important cup tie, he clipped one of his own supporters round the ear like an aggressive dad. He was a very potent man with an incredible life force and often such characters are sniped at and undermined rather than elevated and celebrated.

In his pomp Clough would’ve been a marvellous England manager – he vibrated on a plane of consciousness that made him a formidable leader but unnerved administrators. It is widely assumed that the reason he didn’t get the job is because the FA didn’t think they’d be able to control him – and they probably couldn’t have. That’s one of the reasons he’d’ve been bloody good.

If you have not yet guessed that I’m building towards a rather grand fanfare in support of the appointment of Jose Mourinho then you don’t deserve a newspaper and I suggest you take this copy of the Guardian, God’s newspaper I call it, and thrust it into the palms of an orphan who will be grateful of the nourishment. I think that by appointing Mourinho we can as a nation atone for the criminal neglect of Clough’s talent. Mourinho is his natural heir, more than Martin O’Neill, who admittedly played under him, more than any of the potential candidates. Who could be better? Who could inspire a nationwide buzz in the way that the sexy dog smuggler has so effortlessly done? Wenger or Ferguson? Why, they only have one European Cup between them and two full-time jobs.

I read that Brian Barwick, when asked about the likelihood of Mourinho being offered the job, just stared into space and mumbled bizarrely. Well, that’s the wrong attitude, no one ever got anywhere by staring into space and mumbling bizarrely except, maybe, Nostradamus but it is more for his perspicacity that he is admired than his mumbling and staring. Barwick must immediately cease this mumbling and staring and get on the phone and avenge the errors of the past and give us something to feel optimistic about.

Mourinho’s future is yet to be written but let’s insist that it is strewn with leading Blighty to glory. Let’s as a nation embrace unique and gifted individuals rather than suspiciously eyeing them as they subdue unspent ambition with toxic, bottled anaesthetic.

So there you have it, hats off to Russell Brand for a much unexpected commentary on both an excellent book (which I may or may not have plugged extensively before! 😉 ), and a solid appraisal on the current situation at the Football Association HQ.

Top award for Clough author Hamilton..

Great news for author Duncan Hamilton, his book has won the coveted award of William Hill Sports Book of the Year today – which is thoroughly deserved, not that I read all the other nominated volumes of course!  Graham Sharpe from William Hill said “The judges were as close to unanimous in their decision as any panel is ever likely to be.” – high praise indeed.

Incase you missed it last time around, I wrote a piece about the book back in May shortly after it was published, and basically gave it rave reviews – as did the guys at Left Lion, and Jonathan Stevenson over at the BBC, when interviewing the now award-winning author.  There’s a rather splendid new interview with Hamilton on LeftLion now, too – which is well worth a read.

So there you go, a bit of off-the-pitch glory for the mighty Reds, kind of – but on a less flippant note I’m chuffed as hell than Hamilton’s excellent portrait of such an over-caricatured man has gained some much deserved recognition.  Perhaps it will encourage filmmakers eyeing up Clough as a potential movie opportunity to consider this approach rather than the entertaining-yet-fictional parody that David Peace created in his ‘The Damned United’

So, if you’ve not gone out and read it yet, then bleeding well go and get a copy!

Clough family condemn defamatory Brian Clough book..

It’s odd timing, really – since the book in question has been out for a while – but the local media picked up this morning that the great man’s widow, Barbara Clough, has recently discovered the David Peace fictional work “The Damned United” – a book charting BC’s tumultous 44 days in charge of Leeds United.

The books is one that’s been ‘on my list’ for a while to read – but since picking up Duncan Hamilton’s ‘Provided you don’t kiss me’ I’ve resisted – and I think given this feedback from somebody who knew him better than anybody else, I will give it a miss in the end.  I’ll be in good company, Brian’s two sons Nigel and Simon have both vowed to ignore the work completely.

I suppose this media outburst (and indeed, my collusion in reporting it) gives further publicity to the book, and indeed the proposed film that the BBC of all people want to make of it.  The main crux of the criticism is that it portrays Clough as little more than a potty-mouthed trouble causer – which is perhaps not surprising when you consider Peace is a staunch Yorkshireman (that said, Brian would describe himself also as this).

Whilst I doubt that many people would deny Clough was capable of the occasional swearword, he was fundamentally a witty and intelligent exponent of wordplay – have a look around YouTube for a few interviews if you have any doubts on this front, so it’s understandable why Peace’s dark and very one-dimensional portrayal of him has offended those who knew him best.