5. Jan, 2022


It is 4.45pm on Saturday 8th January 1983, a well built grey haired gentlemen hurries down the Baseball Ground Tunnel. That man is Peter Taylor manager of Derby County. The Rams boss should be elated after his side had beaten auld enemy Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup 3rd Round.

However, Taylor is more concerned with avoiding Brian Clough his opposite number in the Forest dug out. We are witnessing the final throws of a beautiful friendship. It was forged as 1950's Middlesbrough team mates, brought mid table respectability to Hartlepool United, transformed Derby County from Second Division strugglers to Champions of England and repeated the trick at Nottingham Forest. They surpassed the Rams success down the A52. Forest won 2 European Cups and 2 League Cups. The duo are shown above (Clough left, Taylor, right)

Clough was the manager, the outspoken master motivator. Taylor was his loyal assistant, quietly spoken and the best talent spotter in the business. With apologises to Derby fans this blog focuses on football in the 1980's so this piece primary explores the duos time with the red half of the East Midlands divide.

Clough arrived at the City Ground in January 1975, in many media outlets he was viewed as a broken man, battered by a nightmare 44 day tenure as Leeds United manager and bruised by a bizarre spell at Third Division Brighton & Hove Albion. His new employers were fairing little better. Since winning the FA Cup in 1959 Forest had fallen on hard times, a brief resurgence in 1967 when the Reds were First Division Runners Up and reached a FA Cup Semi Final offered hope. But star player Ian Storey-Moore had long since departed and Nottingham Forest were a mediocre Second Division club.

Yet like the nearby River Trent, the Reds talent pool was deep. When Clough arrived Ian Bowyer, Viv Anderson, Martin O'Neil, Tony Woodcock and a scruffy winger named John Robertson were already on the books. Clough soon persuaded Taylor to join him at Forest. Taylor saw the potential of the hidden gems and identified Robertson as the jewel in the crown. Clough and Taylor disapproved of Robertson's lifestyle. The Scot loved a cigarette and a pint. One day Taylor collared Robertson to impart their displeasure. As a sheepish Robertson exited Taylor added "BUT WE THINK YOU CAN PLAY" That was all Robertson needed to hear, like O'Neil he had fallen out of favour with Clough's predecessor Alan Brown. But the new boss had faith in him

In 1977 Forest were promoted back to the First Division. It had been a tight run thing with Bolton Wanderers pushing the Reds all the way. The deal was only sealed when already promoted Wolves beat Bolton in the last game of the season. Interestingly it wasn't the first time Clough was indebted to the Black Country club. In May 1972 Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Leeds United and handed the title to Brian Clough's Derby County. A season of First Division struggle looked certain. But inspired signings changed everything.

The new recruits were linked by two themes, they all played for Midlands clubs and they all had a point to prove. Peter Withe had been discarded by Birmingham City, Hard man Kenny Burns was also turfed out of St Andrews, Larry Lloyd was enduring a miserable time at Coventry City while former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton was failing to cut the mustard at Stoke City.

As with Robertson, Clough and Taylor recognized that form was temporary but class was permeant. A tactical masterstroke also helped. Burns was an excellent centre forward at Birmingham but was employed as a Centre Half at the City Ground. His partnership with Lloyd was pivotal as Nottingham Forest won the First Division title in 1978. A truly outstanding feat for a newly promoted club. With the help of ex Derby stalwarts Archie Gemmill, John O'Hare and John McGovern Forest also won the League Cup that season.

Much of the success can be traced to Clough's unique style of man management. The night before the 1979 League Cup Final the manager told his players to get drunk. Forest beat Southampton 3-2 the following day. Home grown striker Gary Birtles scored twice that day. The same year Forest reached the European Cup Final. As the team prepared to board the bus Birtles was told to get a shave., Birtles recalled "it took my mind off the match and relaxed me." Several team talks took place without Robertson who was having a sneaky fag. When negotiating the British record transfer of Trevor Francis from Birmingham City., Clough left the dressing room just before a League Cup tie. When Birmingham manager Jim Smith enquired "Brian, It's 7.30pm. Shouldn't you be giving a team talk. The Reds boss replied "It's ok, that lot know what to do." On a away trip to Millwall, Clough instructed the coach driver to park just outside The Den and ordered his team to walk through those notorious partisan Lions supporters gathered outside the ground.

There was method in the madness, Nottingham Forest kept winning trophies. John Robertson had blossomed into one of the best players in Europe. He was the focal point for the Reds attacks. Full backs were left floundering as the left winger jinked past them before delivering inch perfect crosses. Like the one Francis headed into the Malmo net to secure victory in the 1979 European Cup Final. A year later Robertson was the match winner as Forest retained the trophy. A trademark cut inside and low drive seeing off a Hamburg side including one Kevin Keegan. Robertson was also a brilliant penalty taker and his spot kicks often proved vital. It was a Robertson penalty which broke Liverpool hearts in the 1977 League Cup Final.

But the cracks were starting to appear. Forest surprisingly lost the 1980 League Cup Final to Wolves. Maybe they were paying Clough back. In 1982 Peter Taylor left, his relationship with Clough soured when Taylor wrote a book describing the duos partnership. Brian Clough took exception and felt that Taylor had lost his spark. Big money signings Ian Wallace, Justin Fashanu and Peter Ward flopped. The assistant manager carried the can. Six months later Peter Taylor was appointed Derby County manager. Again Brian Clough voiced his disapproval

In fairness it wasn't all one way traffic. Taylor resented Clough's media profile. While Clough appeared on the Parkinson chat show his assistant was left to to do the heavy lifting in Nottingham. The football gods couldn't resist s little fun and paired the two East Midlands heavyweights in the FA Cup Third Round. Derby won 2-0 thanks to goals from Archie Gemmill and Andy Hill.

However, it was the Rams signing of John Robertson which proved the death nail. Clough felt betrayed, claiming that Taylor hadn't the courtesy to call him. Any remaining bridges when burnt when Clough remarked "We pass each other on the A52 going to work most days of the week. But if I saw him (Taylor) thumbing a lift. I wouldn't pick him up, I'd run him over." The pair never spoke again

In 1990 Peter Taylor died of a Heart Attack whilst holidaying in Majorca. He was aged just 62. A pale looking Clough attended the funeral. He must have regretted not making peace with his long time friend. In the decade following Taylor's departure Forest did win 2 League Cups. They also reached the 1991 FA Cup Final. But the Reds fluffed their big chance. They led a distinctly average Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 thanks to a Stuart Pearce free kick, chances were further improved when Paul Gascoigne was carried off. In fairness Gazza should have been sent off for committing two horrendous fouls. The second of which was punished by Pearce's free kick. Spurs were missing their best player and the man who almost single handed got them to Wembley. But Terry Venables side rallied after half time, Paul Stewart equalised on 50 minutes before Des Walker headed into his own net in extra time

Victory would have been the perfect moment for Clough to bow out. The FA Cup was the trophy that eluded him. Both as player and manager. Instead he announced his retirement midway through the 1993-94 season. By which time Forest were bottom of the newly formed FA Premier League. The inevitable relegation was confirmed when Sheffield United won at the City Ground. Wearing his trademark green jumper, Clough saluted a defiant Trent End. His face was blotched showing visible signs of the alcoholism that would plague the rest of his life.