The Damned United: What lead to the failings of Brian Clough at Leeds United.

Brian Clough. One of the most famous names of the managerial world. Winner of the old Division with Derby County and European Championship winner with Nottingham Forrest, it’s often left to ponder what happened during his short 44-day period in charge of one of football’s superpowers, Leeds United, back in the early 70’s.

Let’s take it all the way back to what earthed Brian Clough, although not naturally known for his playing career, Clough didn’t follow the path many managers take in terms of being a poor player come star manager. Clough scored 197 goals in 213 games for his hometown of Middlesbrough and although his playing career is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, it was ended early by injury. Here was where Brian Clough began to make a name for himself in the managerial world.

Moving from Derby County in 1974, after a brief spell at Brighton and Hove Albion, Clough joined Leeds United, something that at the time would shake the footballing world, why? You ask. Well, Brian Clough was hardly Leeds United’s biggest fan. For many years his rivalry with the Yorkshire Whites manager Don Revie would rule the back pages and more often than not some front pages of the daily newspapers, Clough often openly spoke out that he believed Leeds United cheated their way to titles and silverware and dammed them unworthy successors of many of their accolades. This, I’m sure you can now understand, is why the footballing world held its breath when Brian Clough was to be named Don Revie’s predecessor in 1974.

Known widely for playing a possession and passing based 4-4-2 system, this was one of the main reasons why Leeds United owners and directors at the time felt Clough would be the perfect man for the role. For many years Leeds United had been at the pinnacle of English football, playing a very similar, somewhat more aggressive, footballing style of play. Brian Clough’s famous system wasn’t the only thing he would take into Elland Road, as mentioned previously Clough on many occasions was known for bashing and criticising the Leeds United players before his arrival, something that began to see the start of his steady decline during his 44- day reign. Many of the current Leeds United squad were massively aware of Clough’s media comments, something that had made the players already cautious with his arrival being imminent, it would be in the following days that Clough would meet with his squad including Leeds United legends Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles and proceed to tell them to throw their winning medals in the bin because they ‘never won anything fairly’ something that has never been seen in the modern game.

Many will argue although Clough didn’t help himself whilst in the Leeds role, he did inherit a squad on its last legs. Many of the first team players had been under the power of Revie for a little over 10 years and would be coming to the end of their careers, making Clough’s role hard to motivate and have the players put results together. However, it should be made known that Clough did try make changes to his ageing squad to better results, spending more on transfers in his 44 days than Don Revie did during his whole 13 years at the club. So, why did Brian Clough take the role? Well, I think it’s clear to see that although, at the time, Brian Clough may have been an outstanding manager, he took the role as Leeds United boss as he believed he could get one over on his bitter rival Don Revie, something you could argue would be virtually impossible due to his counterparts winning tendencies and overall cohesion between fans and players.

It’s certainly inventive for one to think what could have happen if Brian Clough’s reign could’ve been not only longer but also one not shadowed by self-malevolence. It was very clear to see his manager qualities and what teams could achieve under his power, however, on this occasion a failed assignment but one that is often looked back on fondly by fans as one of the last mainstream stories of managerial rivalries.

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