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Duncan Hamilton was the journalist on the Nottingham Evening Post charged with dealing with Nottingham Forest and their mercurial manager Brian Clough. In return for dealing with footballs equivalent ofan unexploded bomb for fifteen years he got unique access to and insight into events at the City Ground over a period where Forest were the best team in Europe.
This book, along with the book and the film of the Damned United have raised Clough in the public conciousness again. The thing is, for me and posibly my generation, he never went away. I was there at Elland Road when Leeds ended Forests 46 game unbroken run: I remember the players and the matches described here : I remember listening to the commentary on European games on the radio.
To that extent then the portrayal of Clough as irascible, unpredictable, brilliant , unpredictable;keen on his money yet capable of great generosity; comes as no surprise.
What does come through and what gives the book perhaps even more poignancy is Cloughs realisation that the world is changing and leaving him behind. As he reluctantly approaches his retirement he says:
"Football is a terrible game ,you know. It's got a bit of Sky TV moneynow, and a lot of people are coming to games who wouldn't know Stanley Matthews from Bernard Matthews. The stands are full of people who cant tell you anything about the game unless it happened after 1990. They're either so conceited or so stupid that they believe football was invented just five minutes before they became interested in it.......I look around at football and I dont recognise what it's changed into"
He's not alone in that sentiment.
Duncan Hamilton had made available to him a unique opportunity. He has made the most of it. This an honest and honourable book about a remarkable man.
Some of you may have noticed that I reviewed the film 'The Damned United' very recently, based on the book of the same name about the ill fated 44 days that football manager Brian Clough spent at Leeds United. It was not an area that I had that much interest in, but my partner's brother was insistent that I went. Some people may also be aware that I reviewed a book recently that I was forced to read as it was lent to me. For those loyal readers I would first like to thank them both (hi Mum), but also prepare them for this review of 'Provided You Don't Kiss Me' a book lent to me by my partner's brother! A double whammy of pressure reading! Oh joy; it's also another bloomin' thing on Brian Bloomin' Clough....
With all the recent hoo-ha over Clough's success with Derby and failure at Leeds it is sometimes hard to remember that he is best known for being the manager of Nottingham Forest, the team he took to the Championship top spot and European success two years in a row. 'Kiss Me' is the tale of these Nottingham days as told by reporter Duncan Hamilton who was there and had an insight into the great man. Read how Clough was able to turn another unfashionable team into greats and then how he slowly lost his grip on the game through drink. Clough is remembered as one of the greatest British managers of all time, can 'Kiss Me' show that he deserves this accolade?
You may have guessed by my opening paragraph that I have just about hit Clough breaking point with my recent reading of 'Damned United', then watching the film. Whilst those two pieces of media come from the same source 'Kiss Me' tackles the issue of Clough in a different era and in a different way. Whilst 'Damned' was a work of fiction based in fact, 'Kiss Me' is reportedly non-fiction. This means that the book does not take a straight narrative look at Clough's life and instead a series of chapters looking at different aspects of the man.
On a positive note Clough does come off the page very well. Hamilton has some interesting stories about the good times and the bad times. He is never too shy to discuss what the drink did to the man, but also how generous he could be. When you are dealing with someone as larger than life as Clough it must make life a little easier. Hamilton touches on what made Clough such a noticeable manager and TV presence throughout is coaching career. Hamilton is also eager to give Peter Taylor some of the credit as it feels like the best time in Clough's career were when they were working together on a common goal.
With some interesting anecdotes and catchy quips by Clough, 'Kiss Me' certainly has its moments. However, they are a lot further apart than in 'Damned'. I blame this solely on the author and his constant inclusion of himself into the narrative. Hamilton writes about what happened as he was there, however, we are too often introduced to what he felt and what he did during the time; not Clough. No disrespect, but I am not that interested in the life of a newspaper man in the 70s and 80s. Whilst David Peace, the author of 'Damned', was criticised for suggesting he knew what Clough was thinking, Hamilton seems to have got away with it. However, even if the book is non-fiction I feel that Hamilton is as guilty as Peace at putting thoughts into another man's head. For all the primary sources that Hamilton uses he still spends a lot of time second guessing what Clough was up to.
It is clear from the writing that the relationship between the reporter and the manager was a close one, almost father and son at times (as Hamilton would have us believe). This means that the book takes on a little too much hero worship and does not provide the clinical eye I would expect from non-fiction. Only the chapter on Clough's drinking problem feels real and starts to introduce things I did not know about. I am not saying that the book had to be warts and all, but the unpleasant nature of Clough was sidelined too often.
This has to be the last thing I read about Clough for a while, but it was nice to read more about his successes than his failures all the time. The charismatic and eccentric nature of Clough means that he always made good copy, both when alive and now dead. Hamilton has such good source material that he is bound to write at least some interesting stuff and he does. However, the overly personal viewpoint and constant references to the author over Clough means that this is the lesser of the two Clough books I have read. One for fans of 80s football only.
Author: Duncan Hamilton
Price: amazon uk - £4.85
play.com - £6.99
Someone once said that 'sport is life', and for many working-class Brits that is certainly the case with football, even Middle-England slowly realizing the beauty of our national sport over their ponsy arts and class. But, alas, the game has slowly been priced out of the working class and Premier League is the new opera. Going to the match on Saturday and being in the stand is as close as it comes to being out on the pitch for many and the match was that bond that held communities together.
Brian Clough, a new breed of manager at the time of his peak, encapsulated that blue-collar need to work hard to get success and that ethos flowed through his player's, bringing his team's great success, including those two astonishing European Cups for Nottingham Forest, something that could never happen again to a provincial team in the modern money obsessed era. The characters have all but gone in the game and men like Clougie are just but a Technicolor ghost in the memory of the beautiful game.
Today Clough would be a dinosaur, millionaire players telling him exactly what he can do with his school teacher discipline and silly comments by slapping in a transfer requests he couldn't refuse. He admits most of the theatre was just that and mind games to get the job done, although he certainly didn't tolerate fools. But that's what players needed to keep them in line in those days (and some say today) and that's how Clough took unfashionable Midlands clubs like Derby County and Nottingham Forest to the championship and beyond. Duncan Hamilton, who wrote this book, recalls those humble days, remembering Forests striker Peter Davenport, European Champion, using the bus to go to the library with his pile of books. Stuart Pearce, then a jobbing electrician, would use the club program to advertise his services. How football has changed, and this book will take you through it.
Duncan Hamilton, a local Nottingham sports writer, was lucky enough to arrive on the Nottingham Post at the time Clough was about to do his magic at Forest, their 20 year relationship the story to be told here. Transfixed by images of Bobby Charlton carrying the European Cup up on his shoulders like his dad would carry coal, a young Duncan would never be good enough to play the game form money but dreamed of capturing the great football stories on pen. When Hamilton took an intern job at the Post he was only 18, a stuttering A-Level student in the days when only clever people with money went too university. His first assignment was to interview Clough, comfortable in his new office at the City Ground after the great mans rehearsal at Derby County for what was to come. Hamilton, dressed in a freshly ironed shirt and armed with printed questions, although greeted with a bellowed, 'who the f**k are you!', the two seemed to bond pretty quickly, mainly because Duncan's dad was a coal minor like Cloughies and lived a corner kick away from the pits, Hamilton's speech impediment the clincher, a gauche weakness the Forest manager knew he could exploit to his benefit from day one.
Cloughie would get journalists, like players, scared early on and so onside, both slowly earning each others respect, the only way he wanted to do things. Hamilton would earn enough trust from Clough to eventually ghost columns for him, a skillful way for Clough to get at people in the game and a bond that would see Clough tell Hamilton all his secrets so he could write this book on condition he would only divulge the darker secrets when the great man was gone. Both men kept their promises.
In the first couple of chapters of the book Hamilton uses it to have a swipe at the modern game and how sports hacks today are 'toss me a cliché' objective slaves, having to ring players agents for permission to speak to their clients, a few quid expected to come agents ways for their trouble. This was the main reason the author walked away from writing about football. As Cloughie grumbles in the book, 'the only agent in my day was 007'and the only shafting going on at clubs were the players with each others girlfriends, not the clubs by the agents'. But football has become big business now and local papers aren't, more than ever sports writing once again a buffer to stop the adverts spilling out. You do what you are told to write or you lose your place at the mangers table for that all important quote that keeps you in the job. In the halcyon days it was all about the trust between player, manger and hack, but at least you wouldn't get sued for telling the truth. Its all about engineered quotes in the media today and the old Hollywood saying that the 'lead always gets the close up' could easily be applied to newspaper print. On a side note that's certainly my experience of this game and your editor's choice of headline can change the whole tone of your article.
The honest and sometimes sad 300 pager follows their relationship from Hamilton's first day at work to the news of Cloughs death from stomach cancer when Hamilton had moved on to the Yorkshire Post and away from sports reporting, 11 long years after Clough had retired, the once wet behind the ears18-year-old reporter living with his mom, now 45 and breaking down in tears in his lonely flat at the moment he realized his other dad had past away. The book is clear in that Clough had few friends in life and few of those shed a tear for him, and the ones he had he eventually pushed away with his giant ego and autonomous power, including his great mukka, Peter Taylor, probably the saddest aspect of this tale. Clough just could not accept anyone else had what he had because he believed the press he was effectively writing and so never showed regret. He wouldn't to be loved and respected a little too much, the word hubris never far from sports writer's lips.
The early days...
The son of good, honest blue-collar mining stock, young Clough was a sensational striker in the North East, scoring 197 goals in 213 games for Middlesborough, before cruelly struck down by injury when at Sunderland at the tender age of 27, at the time the top scorer in all four leagues with 25 goals that year and 7 England Caps. When Clough had to walk way he persuaded his team mate in Peter Taylor to join him in management, the two first turning up at Mansfield Town where Cloughie described the early days of their management partnership as ;'everything we touched seemed to turn to lead'.
The glory days...
Derby County would see it click; Taylor's distinct knack of scouting players that Clough could mould in to a good team players the key to their successful championship. Bringing the championship to Derby County was a quite a feat back then and with Liverpool, Man United and Arsenal going through transitional periods after Shankley, Busby and Chapman, respectively, it was an opportunity for a new style of manger to make their mark, Clough diving in head first as your would expect.
Clough and Taylor would come into Hamilton's life when they arrived at Forest, the Nottingham Posts carton showing Cloughie striding down the Trent from where he had always lived in the city and where, indeed, he owned a family newsagents, the portentous caption reading: 'Clough walks on water'. It was weeks after his disastrous move to Leeds United to replace Don Revie, where he lasted just 44 days, pi**ing off the revered and brutal championship winning side by telling them they 'won the league by cheating so they should throw their medals in the bin'. The club threw Clougie out instead, a huge payout setting him up for life.
'Old big Ed', as he was affectionately known, hit the ground running at Forest, the book intimately charting Cloughs & Taylor's dramatic journey to two championship and those European Cup wins, breaking Liverpool's increasing strangle hold on the domestic game. The documented decline seemed to start as quick as the success had arrived, Taylor's biography causing a rift between the two, breaking up the partnership, Taylor heading off to Derby to see if both men really could do it alone, which of course they couldn't. Forest would go on to win two more League Cup finals with Clough but he never did achieve the FA Cup win for the domestic sweep, the Gazza final that would eventually lead to Cloughs ignominious relegation in 1993, booze long since his master, his faced blotchy and his tempers wild, a shadow of the man that had the balls to change the footballing world we know.
The man and his dream...
There's no doubt Clough was a genius, a supremely confident man who was driven by his convictions, and the more he talked himself up the more he had to perform, bringing the swagger to the East Midlands. Football is all about confidence and belief and Cloughie had bags of it. But he wasn't a sophisticated coach, just getting in players that new their job and where to be at what time on the pitch, and if they showed off he would knock them down a peg or two. When Trevor Francis became the first million pound signing in British football, Clough famously told him to make the tea for the rest of the team, telling him there and then that his price tag and ego were as relevant as the one hanging off the T-bag, Francis the man who would slot the winner against Malmo to win the European Cup.
But it was Clough's unique foresight that gave him the edge over other mangers, Kenny Burns an example of that extra sense. The bustling player had been signed as a centre-forward after scoring 19 goals the previous season for his club. But Clough played him in defense, utilizing his all round skills and ability to get forward and support the midfield, another piece of the jigsaw in place. Shilton, of course, was one of the most critical pieces, conceding only 19 goals in their first championship season. How ever strict and critical Clough was its interesting to note that many players that left his teams nearly always returned or followed him to his next club. He picked winners and they wanted to see their face reflected in silverware.
It's interesting how he used the Anglo Scottish Cup to start Forest on the road to glory. Clough believed that winning is what bonds a team, how ever important the trophy.18 months after that win they were back in Division one and on the way to being champions. Clough knew keeping the players focused was the trick and was critical to their success. Sometime he would do odd things that were contrary to concentration before a big game to keep them guessing and on the back foot, often taking his players out drinking before big cup semi-finals, as was the case in Amsterdam for a European cup semi, dragging them around the red-light district and joining the players with a lap dance or two as they supped champagne. One suspects Sir Alex doesn't have that particular trick in his coaching manual.
Clough would build a new team in the late 80s for those two League Cup wins but by then the booze was doing its worse and Duncan Hamilton had to share those whisky headaches on lazy afternoons at the City Ground. It was times like this the two guys had their most intimate conversations, Clough once asking about life and death, only because he didn't want to end up in a rest home, shouting at the nurse: where me tablets, sh*thouse!' Everyone was called sh*thouse at one point under Clough, especially the directors.
Clough, as you would expect, is quite forthright on his England interview, claiming he was polite and knew he wouldn't get it, even though the FA would later admit he had interviewed the best. They did offer him a peripheral part-time coaching job alongside the safe choice of Ron Greenwood (the Steve McLaren of the day), but as Clough put it:" they would rather me pi**ing out of the tent than pi**ing in it". The F.A was a gentleman's club and the Forest manager certainly wasn't one of those.
If there's a heaven then there's no doubt who would be manager of the football team! That familiar and iconic figure in the baggy green sweater with his arms folded in disgust would be barking away from the celestial touchline, no arguments from the assembled eleven, no halo around his head, God carrying the slop bucket and half-time oranges. What's your first name God? Now get that bag of balls son! The guy really was a force of nature and Hamilton's beautifully written book peels away some of those layers. The author is not quite brave enough or disloyal to dish the real dirt on a guy he clearly admired and respected, but you do get enough from this book to get the honest opinion on Clough the man, as you do, Peter Taylor. They really were the story of the seventies in football.
The book opens strongly with Hamilton's comparison of today and then, immediately attracting two generations of football fans. It also doesn't read in chronological order but hops around to give that now and then approach to give the book a more interesting narrative. It was a bit of a disappointment that Hamilton and Clough didn't talk about bungs and service stations when they were tipsy although the author does flesh out some of the most infamous Clough stories, stuff that would be libelous if he was alive today, especially towards the referee who seem to throw Derby County's European Cup semi-final, something that rankled with Clough until his final breathe.
As this was voted the Daily Telegraph Sports Book of the Year who am I to say it isn't. Its certainly well written and an interesting read and any football fan will enjoy it, especially the older ones, pining for the old days when the game was pure and the working man was welcome in the grounds, and if you ran on the pitch when you shouldn't you got a clip-around-the-ear from the manager and the coppers. If you want football without the big four then this should be your spring read.
Duncan Hamilton was a journalist at the Nottingham Evening Post for over twenty years. He was to gain access to Brian Clough's Nottingham office on his very first day at the newspaper as a nervous sixteen year-old journalist. Brian Clough was one of the self-proclaimed giants of the English game who brought unlikely success to two of the most unfashionable English football clubs: Derby County and Nottingham Forest. Hamilton would become an integral part of Clough's world, and eventually one of the few journalists who would gain his trust. As such Hamilton was fortunate to have access to every aspect of the club, and he does a good job of painting a vivid portrait of Clough's eccentric personality and draws some light on his seemingly innate capacity as a manager who was always ready to put down his critics in the media and the boardroom. Hamilton was able to record all the successes, the misfortunes, the arguments and the drink that eventually led to Brian Clough's demise as one of Britain's greatest football managers. Given Hamilton's location and work on the local Nottingham newspaper, the book focuses on the time when Clough was at Forest and less on his earlier period and initial success at Derby County.
The story seems a fairly accurate and honest character portrayal of Brian Clough. It is especially poignant in describing Clough's downfall as an alcoholic whilst at the same time transmitting the sense of affection held by the author for his subject. This is a book that provides an analyses of Clough's personality and character rather than a chronological account of his successes as a football club manager. We learn about the importance of his partnership with Peter Taylor, his co-manager and joint founder of success at Derby County and Nottingham Forest, and how he struggled without him after their bust up. We also see the warmth of the man as he sticks a few twenty pound notes into the hand of a hard-up fan for his young son.
Hamilton's story portrays a different football era, before the over hyped media controlled and TV obsessed present age with its routine interview protocol after every game. In Clough's time there was no live football, few matches were recorded, not every referee decision was scrutinised not every manager's comment was analysed. One of the questions the book raises is whether Clough could have fitted in or lasted long in the current set up. He spoke his mind and didn't like rules except his own. Clough had little respect for directors of football clubs who he considered were merely businessmen without any knowledge of the game. He probably wouldn't have lasted long with some of the present club owners as he always liked to be in control.
The book is full of stories that portray Brian Cloughs eccentric style of management. Hamilton tells of how Clough believed in the important details that could win matches even before a football was kicked. In 1979 when Forest were due to meet Southampton in the League Cup final, Clough noticed his players were extremely anxious on the coach down to London. On arriving at the hotel in the evening he invited all the players into a private room and ordered a stack of champagne bottles. "No one leaves until you've drunk that lot" he tells them before locking them in the room. There were lots of bleary eyes the following morning, but the players were all relaxed and went on to win the final 3.2 that afternoon.
From his first day on the job sitting in Clough's office Hamilton presents an intimate portrait of one of the unforgettable characters of English football, through the incredible league triumph and double European cup victories, and on into the desperate period of the mid-eighties through which Clough's love of the bottle would play an evermore damaging role. It is also the author's story of his own coming of age in the football world as he is educated and guided along by 'old big head' himself.
The book at 260 pages is not too long and is fairly accessible to read. I guess this is understandable given the fact that it was written by a journalist of a local newspaper. It probably is a book solely for football aficionados. Even taking into account the poor literary reading level of your average football supporter, most should be able to get through it, although Chelsea supporters may struggle.
Some Famous Cloughy Quotes:
On his own success:
"I wouldn't say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one."
On dealing with players who disagree with him:
"We talk about it for 20 minutes and then we decide I was right."
On not getting the England manager's job:
"I'm sure the England selectors thought if they took me on and gave me the job, I'd want to run the show. They were shrewd because that's exactly what I would have done."
Referring to Sir Alex Ferguson's failure to win two successive European Cup:
For all his horses, knighthoods and championships, he hasn't got two of what I've got. And I don't mean balls."
On the importance of passing the ball to feet:
"If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he'd have put grass up there."
Published price: £14.99
Present Amazon price: £8.94