October 4th is the anniversary of the death of Peter Taylor, Brian Clough’s right hand man throughout the most successful spell of his managerial career. Here KARL HOFER pays tribute to the often unheralded number two.
“I’m not equipped to manage successfully without Peter Taylor. I am the shop window and he is the goods.” Brian Clough.
You have to wonder if there was ever a better number two than Peter Taylor..? Assistant managers are not the men that go down in the history books as the ones who delivered success to a club or have their names sung by the adoring crowd, but those in the game will appreciate what they bring to the table.
It’s a strange existence for sure, never heralded when times are good but just as culpable as the boss when things go wrong, the number two rarely stays when the manager exits…
But every great man needs a rock behind them and that’s exactly where Taylor, who died on October 4th 1990, came in.
Brian Clough is universally regarded as one of the truly great managers and arguably the most fascinating character in English football history. He has roads and stands named after him, statues erected in his honour, countless books written and films and TV documentaries made about him.
And rightly so.
It would be wrong to say that Taylor’s role in the success story that was Brian Clough’s career has largely been ignored, but it cannot be over stated.
As a player, Taylor’s career was pretty uninspiring. He played less than 250 games as a goalkeeper for Coventry, Middlesbrough and Port Vale before hanging up his gloves and taking charge of Burton Albion in 1962.
The most significant period of his career was his spell at Boro, that was where he met an up-and-coming striker by the name of Brian Clough. When Clough’s career was curtailed by injury he took over as manager of Hartlepool and Taylor was quick to join him.
They quickly established a successful partnership, and soon found themselves at Derby County, where they won promotion to the First Division in 1969 and incredibly brought the Championship to the Baseball Ground two years later, the first league title of the Rams’ 88 year history.
So it was quite a coup for third tier Brighton & Hove Albion to have the pair take charge of the South coast club after Clough’s mouth led to them leaving Derby. After eight not so successful months Clough left to replace Don Revie for an ill-fated 44-day spell at Leeds United, but Taylor stayed on the south coast, building a team that went on to win promotion the season after he left to join Clough at Forest.
Much as they are now, Forest were struggling in the second tier when Clough arrived in January 1975. A little over five years later, they had won the European Cup. Twice.
Clough had enjoyed a steady first season at the City Ground with Forest finishing in 8th spot in Divsion Two, but when Taylor joined him in July 1976 the clubs fortunes enjoyed a meteoric rise.
Forest were promoted the next season and in their first season back in the First Division Forest romped home to the title, finishing seven points clear of runners-up Liverpool. The next season they won the European Cup and would go on to retain it the year after, going down in history as the only club in Europe that has won the European Cup more times than their domestic league.
The twin European Cup successes were the pinnacle of the pair’s relationship. Relations began to deteriorate and Clough and Taylor had an almighty falling out following the publication of Taylor’s autobiography in 1980, that was entitled “With Clough by Taylor”. Clough was incensed that Taylor had not consulted him over the book
Six months after retiring Taylor became manager of Forest’s biggest rivals, Derby County. And when Taylor signed John Robertson without informing him, Clough was incensed, seeing this as the ultimate act of betrayal. Clough and Taylor never spoke again.
When their teams met in the third round of the FA Cup in January 1983, the two managers ignored each other.
In a tabloid article, Clough called Taylor a “snake in the grass” and declared that “if his car broke down and I saw him thumbing a lift, I wouldn’t pick him up, I’d run him over.” Taylor retorted that Clough’s outbursts were “the sort of thing I have come to expect from a person I now regard with great distaste.”
One of the most incredible double acts in British football was no more. Taylor once described their working relationship like so: “We just gelled together, we filled in the gaps… My strength was buying and selecting the right player, then Brian’s man management would shape the player.”
Following the falling out Clough’s Forest side, although often successful, would never hit the heights of the halcyon days of his partnership with Taylor. Just a year before his untimely death, Taylor wrote an article encouraging Clough to retire gracefully, before he was either forced out by his chairman or his ill-health got the better of him. Clough responded that Taylor’s comments were not fit to be in the “wrapper that we used to eat fish and chips in Middlesbrough.”
Taylor proved to be right.
Peter Taylor died suddenly whilst on holiday in Majorca at the age of 62. Sadly the rift between the pair had not been repaired, and when Clough was told of his death on the telephone he fell silent, hung up and wept.
Clough attended Taylor’s funeral but couldn’t bring himself to sit near the front. The grief he felt at the death of his great friend was palpable. It’s hardly a coincidence that Clough turned to the bottle a lot more in the years immediately after Taylor’s death, the deterioration in his health was public and obvious.
You can hear what Clough truly thought about Taylor from his words. He later said of Taylor’s knack of finding players: ‘He was always 24 hours ahead of me when it came to seeing things and spotting players. I don’t like to name drop, but Frank Sinatra once told me that the written word is the first thing in his business and the music comes later.
‘Well, in football, the man who picks the players comes first. All the bullshit comes later.’
Clough later dedicated his 1994 autobiography to his former assistant. “To Peter,” it read. “Still miss you badly. You once said: ‘When you get shot of me there won’t be as much laughter in your life.’ You were right.”