When Hartlepools welcomed Brian Clough as their manager on October 29th, 1965, no-one could have predicted the huge impact the former goalscorer would have in football management. Cloughie used the humble surroundings on the north-east coast as a fantastic grounding for what would become the greatest managerial career in the sport.

"Hartlepools won't be at the bottom of the Fourth Division for very much longer," he told guests at his testimonial dinner at Sunderland, just a couple of days before he started the new job. And in the outspoken style which would become so familiar, he added: "If you want to see some good stuff from Saturday onwards, get yourself down to a little place called Hartlepools. It won't be a little place for very long."

Cloughie had been recommended to the Hartlepools chairman, Ernie Ord, by the former Sunderland and England forward Len Shackleton, who wrote a well respected column for the Sunday People newspaper. The move followed Brian's terrible knee injury while playing for Sunderland on Boxing Day, 1962, which effectively ended his outstanding goalscoring career. After a brief comeback, he coached Sunderland's youth team.

At just 30 years old, he was the Football League's youngest manager and was appointed on a two-year contract. His first match was a 3-1 win at Bradford City on Saturday October 30th, 1965. Soon afterwards, he brought-in his friend and former Middlesbrough team-mate Peter Taylor as coach. They went on to form an unbeatable managerial partnership in the years to come.

Hartlepool Mail
Hartlepools had previously sought re-election to the Football League, finishing in the bottom two of the Fourth Division four times in the previous five seasons. "We were the scrubbing rags of the scrubbing rags," Cloughie would later reflect. But he helped to paint the run-down stadium and made fund-raising appearances at social clubs to tackle the club's financial plight. He even learned to drive the team bus in an emergency.

On the field, he injected greater confidence and also introduced new training methods as well as a fresh scouting system. Cloughie won his first three matches, including victory over Third Division Workington in the FA Cup. But there followed a disappointing spell of seven games without a win.

United finished the 1965/66 season 18th - six places above the bottom. In the following campaign, Cloughie's first full season as a manager, they finished a highly impressive eighth. He had made a number of key signings, including young forward Tony Parry and tough centre-half John Gill.

With new floodlights installed and a transformed team, Cloughie had laid the foundations for success at Hartlepools (the 's' was dropped in 1967 when the boroughs were united). United were promoted the following season - but Brian was not there to see it. He and Taylor had left to join Derby in May 1967, again after a recommendation (to Rams chairman Sam Longson) from Len Shackleton. Under Cloughie's management, Derby won promotion from the Second Division within two years and became First Division champions in May 1972.

During his time at Hartlepool, he had given a debut to a teenager who would become one of his most trusted and successful players. On the final day of the 1965/66 season, he introduced John McGovern to the first team, in a 1-1 draw against Bradford City. Cloughie would go on to sign McGovern at Derby, Leeds and Nottingham Forest.

Thanks to Cloughie's incredible man-management, Forest were transformed from an average Second Division team to European Champions in less than five years. And the player who held that wonderful silver trophy aloft, not once but twice, was John McGovern, who had made his debut for Hartlepools as a 16-year-old apprentice all those years ago.