Boro Fund


O'Neill pays tribute at special fund-raising dinner


Martin O'Neill was the star speaker at a special dinner which raised £1,600 for Middlesbrough's memorial fund. The former Cloughie player and now Aston Villa boss is pictured with Barbara and Nigel Clough (photo courtesy of Middlesbrough Evening Gazette).

More than 100 people attended the dinner at the Tall Trees Hotel in Yarm (September 27th, 2006). Joining O'Neill and the Clough family on the top table was Forest legend and O'Neill's assistant at Villa, John Robertson.

O'Neill described Cloughie as an "absolute genius...he was out on his own." He went on: "There is absolutely no question that he was the most charasmatic manager in football. He was fantastic. And on any given day, he was the best manager there was.

"Brian and I had a difference of opinion about my abilities as a footballer - I thought I was good and he said I was rubbish. Having watched the videos again, I see that he was right."

O'Neill signs autographs

During a question and answer session, the editor of this website asked O'Neill to think of the most important thing he had learned from Cloughie. After thinking deeply, he replied: "I learned from him, but I decided not to copy him. You couldn't do that because he was unique." O'Neill then described how he had once attempted to copy Clough - and came unstuck.

"On the eve of the League Cup Final against Southampton, he had us drinking champagne and orange juice until midnight. We had to carry Tony Woodcock upstairs. The next day, although we were losing 2-0 at half-time, we won 3-2. I tried a similar method when I was manager at Wycombe. I let the players go out for a drink the night before a match...and we lost 6-0...or was it seven?"

John Robertson described Cloughie as a genius at making the right footballing decisions. "He had the belief that he would do it, but I don't know where he got it from. If I knew that, I'd bottle it and sell it."

Nigel Clough had the audience laughing with his memories of family holidays in the Scilly Isles. "We seemed to be the only family that went there on holiday...and that's because Dad was petrified of flying!" There were also anecdotes from former Middlesbrough players John Hendrie and Craig Hignett.

Hendrie remembered signing for Newcastle despite hearing that Cloughie had wanted to him for Forest. He said: "I remember Forest came up to St James' Park and hammered us 3-0. As I walked up the steps at the end I saw Brian and he didn't say a word. Just a wink that said 'Should've signed for us son'."

Craig Hignett remembered feeling the wrath of Cloughie as a youth player at Liverpool. "We were in the dug-out and there was a nasty tackle which set some of the players laughing. Brian walked over, leant in and said 'Stop laughing young men'. We didn't dare say a word for the rest of the game."

In a poignant moment, Brian's widow Barbara read the poem she recited at the memorial service. Other family members at the dinner included Brian and Barbara's son Simon, daughter Elizabeth and grandson Stephen; and Brian's sister Doreen.