Book Cover

An Insider's Account

"I went home with his instructions my only thoughts, my head stuffed with an unthinking compliance. He had looked into my eyes and I had obeyed." Don Shaw's descriptive account of his meetings with Cloughie give a clear indication of just how closely involved the Great Man was with the campaign to reinstate him as Derby County manager, following his acrimonious resignation in 1973.

Shaw tells the inside story of Cloughie's epic rise and dramatic fall at Derby in a book which is cleverly constructed, weaving between the heady days of success at the Baseball Ground and the often deep despair as the Protest Movement, led by Shaw, tried to keep him at Derby. The book vividly describes Clough's power struggle with the club chairman Sam Longson - a battle which ultimately left Derby reflecting on 'what could have been.'

It's a fascinating page-turner which gives a dramatic account of what went on behind closed doors. Shaw describes his secret meetings with Clough and his frustrations during the various attempts by the Protest Movement to retain the services of the Master Manager.

There is a clear sense of Shaw's anguish that many of the 30,000-plus Derby fans failed to actively support the Movement set-up to keep Cloughie. Even when Shaw made a public appeal for supporters to boycott a match, to show their anger at the Derby board and their support for Brian, the ground was still virtually full. Only a small perentage of fans stayed away.

"The Derby fans could have done more to save him," says Shaw. "We only had 800 signed-up members of the Protest Movement. Maybe the majority were too concerned with their own lives to take up the cudgels on behalf of a football manager. Maybe they did not care enough, or failed to realise his genius."

Shaw also reflects on missing-out on years of future success for Derby. "Clough, winning the First Division Championship with Derby, had me joining a cavalcade in the street hooting my car horn, my eyes prickling in joy. And when Nottingham Forest won their first European Cup a lump came to my throat, not for Clough and his team, but for what could have been at Derby."

The book also reveals more about Cloughie's special brand of man-management. Shaw says Brian kept a record of the birthday of each player's wife and then sent them flowers - without the player knowing. The grateful recipient would then thank her husband for the gift.

"The team could be in Rome, Moscow or Leipzig when the celebratory day occurred and Clough would despatch flowers to the wife, but in her husband's name," says Shaw. "The delighted wife would call her husband at the hotel. 'You are lovely. And it's your big game tonight. I wouldn't have minded if you'd forgotten.' The player, mind working feverishly, would say, 'Glad you got them.'

"Later Clough would casually ask: 'Oh, it was your wife's birthday today. Did you send her flowers?' And the player, covered in confusion, would stammer 'Yes, she got them, thanks boss,' and race on to the pitch that night, determined to pay him back by playing a blinder."

Shaw also discloses that Cloughie paid-off a player's £700 gambling debt, without telling him. So when the gambler realised his account was clear, he was unsure who had paid it, although he suspected it was Old Big 'Ead. Brian enjoyed the player's nervousness and awaited the next game with interest. "He was highly satisfied to see him play 'out of his skin,'" says Shaw.

Unusually, the book says that Cloughie relied on fear alone to motivate his players during the Eighties at Nottingham Forest - an observation at odds with accounts from some players and the Clough family. Players have been quoted as saying that they could never have performed in such a relaxed style if they were fearful.

Nevertheless, Shaw remains in awe of Cloughie's motivational powers. "He may not have been a hypnotist in the true meaning of the word, but when he talked and eyeballed his players he gripped them to the point of complete surrender. I know, because I was gripped, too."