Brian Clough Sacked! Brian Clough and Leeds United: Divorced almost before they married

Jock Stein and Brian Clough. Two very different characters. Two different paths to the very top of their profession. And two significant common denominators:

• Jock Stein was offered the manager’s job (and declined it) at Leeds before Brian Clough was appointed – though he did accept the post in August 1978.
• Both men, astonishingly, reigned at Leeds United for just 44 days.

CloughLeeds

Clough: My players are right behind me

But whereas Jock Stein resigned the manager’s role to fill the vacant Scotland post and left Yorkshire amicably, the same cannot be said for Brian Clough who, on the 12 September 1974, was unceremoniously sacked.

Though this cloud did have a silver lining. He left with a handsome payoff of around £100,000 which set him up for the rest of his life.

To many it seemed a strange appointment. Why would Leeds employ a man who had been highly critical of previous manager Don Revie (who had left to manage England) and had branded the Leeds style of play cynical and dirty – which Clough felt undermined the more skilful football they often produced.

And why, after such criticism would Cloughie take the job? He must have known it could be a poisoned chalice. Perhaps not because later he said he didn‘t realise the extent of the dislike and resentment waiting for him at the club.

In his defence Clough said he took the job so he could try to win the European Cup (as League champions Leeds had already qualified for the competition).

Looking back he could see the funny side of the experience when he wrote in his autobiography in 1994, “Did I say the European Cup? I hardly lasted long enough to be given my own teacup at Leeds.”

His brash style upset a team of seasoned professionals almost from day one when he reportedly told them that they could throw their medals in the bin because they had not won them fairly. But then Clough was never short of an opinion or two.

Yet such was the enigma of the man that before the Charity Shield match in August against Liverpool he telephoned Revie, a man he held in disdain, to ask if he would like to lead the team out at Wembley as it was Revie’s team that had won the league the previous May. The offer was declined. And Liverpool won 6-5 on penalties after the match finished all square at one goal apiece.

Things didn’t really improve after that. During Clough’s time in charge Leeds won only once in six league outings and sat in 19th place in the table with just four points. It was the club’s worst start in 15 years. Something had to give.

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Brian Clough is warmly welcomed to Elland Road by Leeds chairman Manny Cussins. The young lad with the ball at the front is the current Derby County manager Nigel Clough, then 8 years old.

Leeds chairman Manny Cussins acted swiftly and wielded the sword. Cloughie was on his way after just 44 days in the job.

He left Elland Road with his ego dented. But he wasn’t known affectionately as ‘ole bighead’ for nothing. After his experience at Leeds many clubs wouldn’t touch Cloughie with a barge pole. However one did, Nottingham Forest. And the rest as they say is history.

But what of Jock Stein? He steered Scotland to within touching distance of the upcoming World Cup in Mexico. Then on the 10th September 1985 at the end of a World Cup qualifying fixture against Wales at Ninian Park Stein collapsed. He died a short time later from a heart attack. Sadly he didn’t get to see the fruition of his labour in the Mexican sunshine, the task of guiding the team at the finals fell in the lap of a certain Alex Ferguson, then manager of Aberdeen.

by Richard Bowdery.

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