Brian Clough: Nobody Ever Says Thank You

Jonathan Wilson Orion Publishing 2012
March 26, 2018

This is as thorough as you’d expect from Jonathan Wilson. Brian Clough’s life – not just the triumphs, not just Derby and Nottingham Forest, but the whole thing.

Much of who Clough was has, in the years following his death, been condensed down into a simple version of the truth. He liked a one-liner, he was brash, and he was very successful. He also, obviously, suffered greatly at the hands of his nemesis: alcohol. Rarely however is there much discussion of the person beyond the anecdotes.

Wilson provides one. Most importantly, he does so without any agenda: he presents Clough – as a child, as a young player, and as a manager – in black and white, rather than with any determination to paint him in a particular way. Some of the stories, the most famous ones, will make you laugh, others will make you feel great emphathy for Clough, but many more will remind you of the contradictions which lay within his personality.

"We didn't have much in Corby apart from the steelworks. There was a lot of Scottish and Irish immigrants and he was a working-class icon because of his support for the Labour Party. When I was making my debut at Charlton away, I was seventeen and really nervous. About five minutes before we went out, gaffer said to me "How are you feel?" Then he added "Glover, there is a lot of unemployment in Corby since the steelworks closed, isn't there? I said yes. So he said "Don't become another unemployed one."

The expected trawl through his career is here, done with the usual Wilson flair and texture, but it’s the person beyond the dugout who truly fascinates – and who is so vividly explored. Clough deserves his place in history, what he achieved was remarkable, but his career is littered with fallings out, bursts of temper, and behaviour which was downright strange; Nobody Ever Says Thank You chronicles it all and, as much as it’s possible to, charts where that volatility came from.

Duncan Hamilton’s Provided You Don’t Kiss Me has been peerless for a long time – and it remains so – but this is exceptional, too, and it’s hard to imagine anyone providing a more complete account of Brian Clough’s life.

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