They said it: Brian Clough

28 May 2020
  • Nottingham Forest made it back-to-back European Cups 40 years ago today

  • Brian Clough was the brains behind that achievement

  • We recall some of the best ‘Ol Big 'Ead’ quotes

If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, Brian Clough must be one of the most exalted managers of all time. He is certainly one of the greatest. Cocky, outspoken and abrasive, 'Ol Big Head's' love of the limelight and penchant for controversy made him football's first celebrity manager, and provided a blueprint for the likes of Jose Mourinho to follow.

Yet while some of Clough's legendary one-liners would make Mourinho appear self-effacing by comparison, no-one could accuse the late, great former Nottingham Forest manager of failing to back up his words with deeds. With Peter Taylor at his side, he led two provincial clubs - Forest and Derby County - out of England's Second Division and onwards to glory, winning the league title with both and claiming two successive European Cups with the former. Throughout, the secret to his success lay in an unrivalled ability to motivate players.

"He was England's version of Muhammad Ali," is the view of Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill, who played under Clough at Forest. "A more charismatic man you could not meet. He was a truly brilliant manager. I don't think Brian would disagree with that either... he would have been the first one to say he was the greatest of all time!"

Clough is certainly destined to remain one of English football's most memorable and beloved characters and, here, invites you to sit back and enjoy some of the classic quips that have helped forge a legend.

"I wouldn't say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one."

"The river Trent is lovely. I know because I walked on it for 18 years."

"Rome wasn't built in a day. But I wasn't on that particular job."

"Telling the entire world and his dog how good a manager I was. I knew I was the best but I should have said nowt and kept the pressure off. Because they'd have worked it out for themselves." On his biggest mistake

"I'm sure the England selectors thought if they took me on and gave me the job, I'd want to run the show. They were shrewd, because that's exactly what I would have done." On being overlooked for the England manager's job

"If I had an argument with a player, we would sit down for 20 minutes, talk about it, and then decide I was right."

"I gave my players a version of the same message at ten-to-three every Saturday: 'I would shoot my granny right now for three points this afternoon.' They knew how important it was to give everything in the cause of victory. Every time. That's why my granny enjoyed more lives than my cat."

"If God had wanted us to play football in the sky, He'd have put grass up there." On the long-ball game

"At last they have appointed a manager who speaks English better than the players." On Sven-Goran Eriksson's appointment as England manager

"John Robertson was a very unattractive young man. If one day I was feeling a bit off colour, I would sit next to him. I was bloody Errol Flynn compared to him. But give him a yard of grass and he was an artist. The Picasso of our game."

"I want no epitaphs of profound history and all that type of thing. I contributed. I would hope they would say that, and I would hope somebody liked me." On how he would like to be remembered