CAMPAIGN GOES TO DOWNING STREET
Campaigners who've been trying to get a posthumous honour for Brian Clough say they are disappointed with the government's response, after it emerged that another sportsman was given a Knighthood after he died. Organisers wrote to the Prime Minister, urging him to look into the matter, following what has been described as a dismissive initial response from a Downing Street official.
Campaigners presented a 7,500-name petition at Ten Downing Street in October, 2004. The three folders included signatures, letters and e-mails from around the world. Pictured above, left to right, are campaign organiser Marcus Alton, campaigner Sarah Clarke and the Derby MP Bob Laxton. The photo is courtesy of the Press Association.
An official letter dated just a few days after the Downing Street visit said that posthumous honours were given only for gallantry. The letter from Margaret Pickersgill in the Honours Unit said Tony Blair had sympathised with the aims of the petition. But the official said the current statutes did not allow Mr Blair to make nominations for posthumous Knighthoods.
However, research has shown that a Knighthood was given to the golfer Henry Cotton in the 1988 New Year's Honours List, after he had died.
Commenting on the reply from Downing Street, campaigner Mike Simpson said the letter was a poor response to a cause which received overwhelming public support. He said the case of Henry Cotton showed there was some form of precedent for bestowing honours posthumously.
"The speed with which the reply was written shows they have not looked into the matter seriously," said Mike. "The strong feelings of thousands of fans around the world have been dismissed with one swipe of an official's pen. We have now sent a further letter urging Tony Blair to look into the issue again, especially after it appears that a posthumous Knighthood has been given to a sportsman previously.
"They have even ignored the request for some other honour to be considered. We have said all along that for a man who re-wrote football's history books, then the history books should be re-written for him. You cannot escape the fact that a Knighthood was bestowed posthumously on Henry Cotton, whatever excuse the officials may come up with in response. They must look into this further and not simply cast aside the views of so many people."
The chairman of the Nottingham Forest Supporters Club, Paul Ellis, said: "The response received so far has been very poor, especially after so many fans took the time to support the campaign. It hasn't been given the consideration it deserves and I hope they will seriously think again in order to reflect such strong public opinion."
There has also been criticism of Downing Street's response in Cloughie's birthplace. Stuart Bargewell, the chairman of the Middlesbrough Official Supporters Club said: "The reply received so far just isn't good enough. When you consider all that Brian Clough achieved, the officials should pull out all the stops to recognise his genius, and not try to fob us off with a standard reply. We collected two-thousand signatures before one game at the Riverside Stadium and the fans who backed this campaign deserve a better response."
Bob Laxton MP wrote to Tony Blair asking for further consideration of a posthumous knighthood for Brian Clough. Said Mr Laxton: "There is no doubt that this campaign, with such strong support from fans of so many different clubs, should be considered seriously. I have written to the Prime Minister and will continue to work to ensure it's given the attention it deserves."
The petition had been presented to Ten Downing Street on October 26th, 2004. Said Marcus: "It was a moment I'll never forget. As we stood on the steps of Number Ten, the sun was shining and the sky was a clear blue. I think that was a sign from Cloughie that he was giving his thumbs-up, his approval."
The campaign had begun some time ago. Fans had contacted the website after the sad news of Brian Clough's death, saying there was now even more reason for the campaign to succeed. E-mails continue to be received.
Marcus added: "Sceptics may say the campaign is unlikely to succeed, that posthumous knighthoods are so rare. But I believe that for a man who re-wrote the history books of our national game, the history books should have been re-written for him. The committee of MP's wanted the honours system changed because it's too secretive and doesn't reflect public opinion. Well, that should have started - with an honour for Brian Clough."
Fans across the country and around the world have supported the campaign. There are photo's of supporters handing over their forms, including supporters from Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest, Derby County and Burton Albion. See them HERE.
Fans believe Cloughie should have been made a 'Sir', alongside Alex Ferguson, Bobby Robson and Trevor Brooking.
A former political spin-doctor has revealed how Buckingham Palace blocked attempts to introduce posthumous knighthoods. In his book 'Power Trip', Damian McBride describes how Gordon Brown wanted the honour introduced when he was Prime Minister, in order to recognise the wartime codebreaker Alan Turing.
McBride, Gordon Brown's former aide, says: "As for me, I thought the proposal would go down a storm with supporters of football clubs whose managerial legends had died unrecognised." But he adds: "I then encountered the combined strength of the senior civil service and Buckingham Palace officials. They were not having it - not under any circumstances."
He says the officials told him that receiving a knighthood was like being given membership of a special club - and that you ceased to be a member when you died. McBride was told that the Queen didn't want to do it and that Mr Brown would have to speak to her if he felt so strongly. "Game, set and match," says McBride, who knew the PM would not raise the subject if he had no chance of success.
McBride says the whole episode left a bitter taste. He was later left to reflect on the fact that if anyone was ever stripped of their knighthood following their death "it will knock a bloody great hole in the one supposedly incontrovertible argument that 'membership of the club' ceases to exist after death." He added: "I haven't given up yet."
This website's petition initially focussed on the weekend of August 28th, 2004, when many of Cloughie's former clubs were at home. Supporters at Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Sunderland and Hartlepool have been signing-up. Fans have also added their support at Burton Albion, where Brian's son Nigel is manager. The club has officially backed the campaign and the first name on the form was chairman Ben Robinson. Hundreds of Brewers fans also signed, thanks to the efforts of their fanzine editor Karl Savill.
In Middlesbrough, the official supporters club collected more than two-thousand signatures in just ninety minutes before the match against Crystal Palace. The website editor was presented with the completed forms outside the Riverside Stadium. At Forest, the supporters club helped to collect names as fans queued-up to sign before the City Ground match against Coventry. Even the Sky Blues boss Peter Reid signed-up after stepping off the team bus. The BBC TV cameras filmed supporters adding their names and the editor of this website was interviewed.
There was more tremendous support at Derby County, with a pile of forms being signed, thanks to the help of individual fans and the supporters club.
The Southbank Bar near Forest's City Ground collected over seven-hundred signatures and one fan from Thailand (originally from Middlesbrough) has sent signatures too. E-mails continue to be received from around the world.
Cloughie's MP Bob Laxton agreed to help present the petition forms to officials at Ten Downing Street. He said: "Brian had an outstanding record, both as a footballer and manager. I can think of few other footballing figures who would be equally worthy of some national recognition of their work in professional football."
Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren backed the campaign. He told the club's official website : "I emphatically support the campaign to get Brian Clough knighted. Cloughie was a legend of the game."
McClaren added: "Of course, all football fans remember him for his outstanding qualities as an outspoken and successful manager, but Middlesbrough supporters will tell you that he was a wonderful striker too.
"He scored two-hundred goals for Boro at a rate of almost a goal-a-game so he was obviously something special. But there is no doubt that his managerial achievements, especially with Derby and Nottingham Forest, make him a very obvious candidate for a knighthood."
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker has already backed the campaign. Referring to the Master Manager he told this website: "He was indeed a great manager and also quite a character." Commentator John Motson gave his backing just days before the sad news that Cloughie had passed away. Two leading managers have also praised the Master Manager. The Charlton boss Alan Curbishley said, "he'll always be a Sir in my eyes."
Curbishley added: "As time goes by, especially in football, many fans can only just remember last week's results, let alone last year's. Talk of Arsenal's and Manchester United's managers' achievements are highlighted everywhere. Brian Clough's career as a manager is second to none, a feat that will never be equalled again. His domestic and European successes are there for everybody to see, and I was lucky enough to firstly play against and secondly see his teams perform."
The Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy has added his backing to the campaign. He told the website: "For Brian's commitment and achievements in football over the years, I think he would be a worthy recipient of a knighthood."
When Cloughie's name was missing from the last Queen's Birthday Honours List, the feelings of many fans were summed-up in this e-mail from John Pinkney:
"I awoke to find the legend has been missed off the list again. Arise Sir Trevor Brooking. Yes, nice bloke but not in the same class as the master manager. Brian Clough must get a knighthood."
The officials have previously saluted a drag queen (Danny La Rue) but once again failed to bestow a knighthood on the football king, Brian Clough. Thanks for all your e-mails of support following the latest honours list.
If you would like to find out more about how you can join efforts in the campaign, please e-mail via the link above.
Support for the campaign continues to be overwhelming. Coverage on BBC Radio Five Live proved that he's the fans' choice. Unfortunately, the government has failed to listen.
However, hundreds of e-mails in support of a knighthood for Cloughie have been received by this website so far. Fans cannot believe that Danny La Rue shares the same honour of an OBE with Brian Clough, yet Alex Ferguson, Bobby Robson and now Trevor Brooking are all 'Sirs'. How many European Cups have THEY won in consecutive seasons? It was only when Arsenal beat Cloughie's record of forty-two unbeaten matches that these achievements were appreciated by many in the media.
Even though the petition has now been handed in, you can still offer your support. Previously, government officials in the Honours Unit have replied to this website by saying Cloughie remains under consideration for the ultimate accolade. But we must keep the pressure on them.
Further big names backing the campaign in recent months are the former Forest goalkeeper Peter Shilton and the ex-Reds manager, Paul Hart. Hart played under Clough in the Eighties and has been quoted as describing the Master Manager as "a genius".
He told this website: "I give my full support to the campaign to try and obtain a knighthood for Mr Clough. Good luck with your endeavours."
Previously, the Honours Secretary Diane Macfarlane, based at the government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport, sent a letter which said:
"Please be assured that Mr Clough's contribution has not been overlooked. He remains under consideration for future honours rounds."
Another letter was received from the Nominations Unit at the Cabinet Office. Case Officer Jean Greenwood wrote:
"I can well understand your disappointment that Mr Clough has not yet received a further award. The competition for Honours is highly competitive and it is inevitable that the number of nominations we receive far exceeds the number of awards available and, at times, good candidates do not succeed against stronger competition.
"I can confirm, however, that Mr Clough's claims continue to be considered fully and carefully."
Political support is growing. The Rushcliffe MP and keen Forest fan, Kenneth Clarke, has backed the knighthood bid. Several months ago, the former Chancellor wrote to the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Smith, to put Clough's name forward for consideration.
In reply, Mr Smith sent a personal letter. He said: "Nominations and letters of support are extremely valuable to the honours process so I am very grateful that you have written.
"I will ensure that Brian Clough's case is given full and careful consideration at the appropriate time."
Mr Clarke says: "These things are treated with strict confidentiality and we will now have to await developments."
The campaign has won the backing of the former chairman of the House of Commons all-party football committee, Joe Ashton. He said he would make a personal recommendation that Old Big 'Ead be knighted.
Meanwhile, Clough himself has commented about this website's campaign for him to be honoured with a knighthood.
Appearing on a radio phone-in, he was asked by a caller whether he knew anything about it.
"I knew nothing about it at all," he replied.
"I've got a couple of achievements along the line somewhere. You get to know nothing about these things until they are actually on your doorstep."
Speaking on 106 Century FM, he joked about who was responsible for putting his name forward.
"I thought it was my next door neighbour because I think she felt that if I got something like that, I would have to move."
The show's host, Darren Fletcher, added:
"Not taking anything away from Sir Alex Ferguson, surely if he has got one when he has won the stuff he has at Manchester United, you deserve one for what you won at clubs like Derby and Forest?"
The Master Manager replied: "That's extremely kind". He went on to explain that while youngsters are now queuing-up to play for United, he had to buy fish and chips for the parents of youngsters he wanted to sign.
A host of former Clough players have backed the campaign. John McGovern, Trevor Francis, Garry Birtles, Viv Anderson and Steve Hodge have all supported the move. BBC Match of the Day host Gary Lineker has also written to the website to back the campaign.
Said Lineker: "I wish every success for the campaign to get a knighthood for Brian. He was indeed a great manager and also quite a character."
Garry Birtles told a phone-in on East Midlands radio station 106 Century FM: "There's no doubt he deserves a knighthood for what he achieved." Phone-in host Darren Fletcher said the programme was fully behind the campaign.
Former Forest captain John McGovern said a knighthood would be a fitting tribute. He told BBC Radio Derby: "Any honour that is given to Brian Clough is fully deserved due to his fantastic record in football. A unique man with a unique record. They broke the mould when he stepped down from the English game. There is no other manager to touch him."
Ex-Derby County manager Jim Smith has added his name to the campaign. He said of Clough: "He truly deserves this prestigious award for everything he has achieved in the world of soccer. I add my support."
Former Reds favourite Steve Hodge said the Master Manager should have received the honour many years ago. Speaking at a Forest Legends evening at the City Ground, he said:
"He should have received it even after the first European Cup, when he had already won the Championship twice with unfashionable clubs."
There was applause as Hodge concluded: "The words genius and great are used far too often in football. There are few great, great managers, but he was one of the best and he should definitely be a Sir."
Further messages of support are needed to ensure Clough is honoured in the right way. In the words of his ex-England colleague, Jimmy Greaves, the Master Manager's OBE puts him in the same league as Carol Vorderman and Floella Benjamin.
In his weekly column in The Sun newspaper, Greavsie says Clough deserves being elevated to a 'Sir' just as much as Sir Alex Ferguson did. Cloughie's success rate with smaller clubs speaks for itself.
"I can think of few men more worthy of the honour in the recent history of our game. Why he has been ignored, I do not know. I can only believe he is not a big enough establishment figure to get what he deserves, " says Greavsie.
The column ends with Greavsie saying that, even if a knighthood is not given, his worldwide army of fans will always consider him a king.
Of course, that is true. But the establishment should still recognise the will of the fans, the people who pay their money week-in, week-out. They want him honoured for the pleasure he gave them and his outstanding contribution to the national game.
In recent months there has been huge media interest. In a detailed article, The Mirror's David Moore quotes many of the comments on this website. He also says: "The Labour government have shown they are keen to honour leading sports personalities from the past...so Clough, a lifelong socialist despite his millionaire status, stands out as an obvious candidate."
And with tongue firmly in cheek, he says: "The mind boggles over what might happen when Clough, certain to be a less than silent knight, steps up to meet her Majesty. One can imagine the Buckingham Palace banter right now: 'Hey, young lady, just watch what you are doing with that sword.'"
The campaign has been reported on television, BBC local radio around the country, the main BBC sports webpages, SkySports.com and in many newspapers, including the Evening Telegraph in Cloughie's beloved Derby.
The campaign has also featured in Nottingham Forest's matchday programme (Huddersfield game) and Derby County's official website.
Support has been offered by the Australian and New Zealand branch of the official Forest Supporters Club (Nottingham Forest Supporters Down Under).
The chairman and founder of the branch, Todd Street, wrote: "There could be no more suitable an honour for a man so loved by so many people."
The campaign also has the backing of the Sunderland Independent Fanzine, Ready To Go. The popular website has set-up a special page to encourage fans to send messages of support.
Many fans say that Cloughie deserves a knighthood just as much as Sir Alex Ferguson who was honoured last year. Mr Clough has been overlooked for far too long and it's time the matter was put right. E-mails can still be sent to the website, and more will go to Mr Blair to keep the campaign alive.
There's been Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alf Ramsey. Why not honour the Master Manager in the same way?