Friday, 28 October 2016

Daniel Taylor's book shows pre-Clough parallels with present day

After last Saturday's televised disaster against Cardiff City I felt it was high time to finally pluck Daniel Taylor's I Believe In Miracles from the shelf. I can't have been the only Forest fan in need of cheering up after that display. This, I felt, was bound to do the trick. Taylor is a top class journalist and letting him loose on the material from Jonny Owen's magnificent film was bound to be a winning combination.

Indeed, so it proved. It was great fun, superbly put together and provided plenty of laughs along the way. While fans might well have been over the events of these years a fair few times in the past there was still scope for something new (for me at least) along the way.

The book doesn't just re-tell the film either. While Owen made the most of the footage - particularly Clough at his sparkling best - and an excellent soundtrack, Taylor's book makes the most of the opportunities a book provides.

Perhaps the best example of this comes in the early chapters - and it was here that there were some eerie parallels with the club's current predicament.

When Clough breezed into the City Ground crowds had declined (even dipping below 8,000), the ground was in dire need of a little TLC, the club wasn't being run in a professional way, the left back position was a problem and the best talents had left.

On that last point, Taylor quotes Clough's assessment on arrival that:
"One of the greatest tragedies, to my mind, is the way quality players have been allowed to leave over the last five or six years."
As Premier League winning Wes Morgan, England squad member Michail Antonio and Bundesliga high flyer Oliver Burke all show, Clough could well have been describing the club right now.

Fawaz's failed ownership makes the committee of the 1970s look like the board of a FTSE 100 company, yet its clear that leadership off the field is a problem shared by both eras. While the ground and the crowds it attracts might also be talking points now we can, at least be grateful for the fact that we're not yet at 8,000 nor are we in need of a cat to chase away mice on the terraces.

Then there's the team of 75. That early Clough line-up is described by Taylor as a 'tired, depressed side with low morale and a tendency to slip into basic ineptitude' and as an outfit that conceded 'all manner of goals'. The lines could've been taken from Saturday's match report.

The situation in 1975 makes the success by the end of the decade all the more remarkable. Yet we can also see that Clough did struggle to get going at the start.

After winning his first match, Clough didn't garner a victory in any of the next 15 fixtures. Even after a year in charge, Clough's record was a meagre 11 wins in 41 matches. I've written before (for Seat Pitch here) how those sorts of numbers in the modern day would have earned Clough the sack from Fawaz (and a fair few other chairmen to be fair).

It's a point Taylor makes too. He writes:
"Clough was probably fortunate it was not the era of knee-jerk chairmen, cut-throat media and irritable internet bloggers, for there was little doubt the bloodhounds would have been on his scent."
It would be foolish to say that Montanier can go on to get anywhere close to Clough, of course. But Taylor's text certainly shows the folly of judging anyone this early on. Clough won two of his first 17 games, Montanier has won six. That doesn't mean he should be immune from criticism, last Saturday was poor after all. But it does, for me at least, show that even the very best need time to get things right.

Taylor shows how Clough and, crucially, Peter Taylor, came to run the club in their own way - calling the shots and running rings around the committee. Fast forward to 2016 and the single most significant figure at the club will be whoever takes the club from Fawaz. Whether it's - as we suspect - a consortium led by John Jay Moores or a late new bid from Evangelos Marinakis, their leadership off the field will be crucial in building a club befitting the tough environment of the Championship.

Yet there's probably one way in which the Clough era is still relevant to the current off the field considerations. The joyous events in the rest of the book established the club's name beyond these shores. We might be ridiculed as fans for being stuck in the past, but you can't help thinking that it's this past that means that, despite everything that has happened in the last few years, there are still several investors considering parting with big money to buy us.

That doesn't necessarily mean we'll attract the right buyer - Fawaz had been attracted by the past glories after all - but it does make us stand out from the crowd a little and helps people see beyond the current trials and tribulations. Investors must think that because we've been a success in the past that we can - within reason - be successful again in the future. You can guarantee that they'll mention it in their first press conference. We can only hope that they are right.

In some respects this is Clough's final miracle. The last bit of his stardust still - 12 years after his death and 23 years after he left the dugout - lingers and could well help us get our ticket out of the mire. It won't last forever, but for now the achievements of Clough, Taylor and their merry men are still making us a more attractive proposition. It's another thing to be thankful for.

Speaking of thankful, we're lucky to have a prominent writer of Taylor's talent on the scene. His book is a real treat and brings to life the men behind the miracle - a group of players who are only now getting due recognition.

The parallels between the pre-Clough era and the modern day certainly give food for thought. Let's hope we don't have to fall further to fall before things look up once again.

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