In a documentary on The Pogues, one of the many musicians with whom the Celtic punk band collaborated spoke of how finding a gap or a space in the recording sessions in which to make a sound with their own instrument was quite a tricky thing. Given the sheer amount of instruments The Pogues used and how many were crammed into their recordings meant that one had to listen very carefully for a momentary space in a song and pluck or blow or clang or hit in order to get in there.
Similarly, the market for books with Brian Clough as the subject is becoming an increasingly cluttered space. This is no bad thing; more to state that with each publication, one wonders what new angle can be taken. Marcus Alton has found a space in which to pluck or blow or clang or hit his instrument though.
Using archive reports and analysis, Alton takes a unique look at some of the key matches that tell the story of the most charismatic figure the game has ever known. The author knows a thing or two about his subject too. Alton is a BBC radio journalist and has worked for the corporation for more than a quarter of a century. He began his career as a sports journalist and news reporter on the Newark Advertiser. In 2005 he was part of the BBC team that won silver in Frank Gillard Awards for its reporting of the death of Brian Clough and his memorial service. He is also the author of, ‘Young Man, You’ve Made My Day’, ‘Champagne Memories’ and ‘The Day I Met Brian Clough’. He also instigated the campaign for the bronze statue of Clough, which stands in the centre of Nottingham.
In short, Alton knows a thing or two about Brian and you are in safe hands with him at the helm.
The bitesize entries for each game are meticulously researched and offer team line-ups, context, a match report and perhaps most interestingly, an exploration of the significance of the game in terms of the man himself.
We all know about the big games as manager of Forest and Derby and you can no doubt correctly predict which games are selected for analysis. Of course, this doesn’t diminish the excitement of revisiting such fixtures. Yet perhaps the greatest pleasure comes from learning about Clough the player and goal plunderer for Middlesbrough and Sunderland and also his two appearances for England. Beyond his bombast, Clough was so nervous when dining with the national team prior to his debut that his breakfast of bacon and beans ended up in his lap. Luckily for him, Tom Finney came to his rescue in arranging for his trousers to be cleaned and returned to Clough within a few hours.
As he made his way in the management game, key games are covered too and again, learning more about the remarkable job he and his mate Taylor did with Hartlepools as they learned on the job on the ropes is a fascinating read. It would be easy to overlook the short stints at Brighton and Leeds but Alton tackles the 8-2 shellacking he received at the hands of Bristol Rovers while helming the Seagulls head on. No stone is left unturned.
Occasionally, Alton is perhaps over reliant on certain sources in covering the action of the matches selected: John Lawson of the Nottingham Evening Post does crop up on numerous occasions regarding Forest games, as does lifelong Derby fan Ron Stevenson regarding Derby games. Nonetheless, this is a trifling matter and each entry is enlightening and entertaining.
Besides, one can never read enough about Brian Clough. Ever.
You can buy Brian Clough: Fifty Defining Fixtures here