x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Clough love will help Nigel

In a style applicable to the unremitting world of professional football, there is a period in time when actors suddenly discover they are hot property.

Brian Clough, right, watches his Derby County team in action. Clough, who died in 2004, led the Rams to the 1971/72 English First Division title.
Brian Clough, right, watches his Derby County team in action. Clough, who died in 2004, led the Rams to the 1971/72 English First Division title.

In a style applicable to the unremitting world of professional football, there is a period in time, a window of opportunity if you like, when actors suddenly discover they are hot property. Without yet peaking, they find themselves coveted, even if their potential has not reached a natural plateau. At the outset of 2009, there appears to be similarities between the pointed Michael Sheen and the capable Nigel Clough.

The Welshman Sheen, soon to be of Frost/Nixon film fame, is a thespian with peculiarly prominent features, Clough a manager with a particularly fabled father. Among the sackload of baubles in which he brought to the job, the departed Brian Clough was a titan of a coach who around 30 years ago cajoled the unfashionable Nottingham Forest into seizing English leagues and European Cups. He is remembered as a manager of some brilliance, but also as a flushed, drinker prone to eccentricities. Clough had bottle on and off the park.

Sheen is next year due to portray Clough senior in the Damned United, a film that will focus on the 44 days, perhaps a minor mishap in a gilded career, that he ran Leeds United. The film of Clough junior's life in management could already be said to be in some form of pre-production. Just hours after his appointment as manager of Derby County, Clough watched from the stands as his side overhauled Manchester United, of all clubs, 1-0 in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final on Wednesday, a win that would have hardly started his father in days of yore.

It was a night of some pride at Pride Park, but then he would not be a Clough without pride. Without pride, a person is lost. There appears to be ghostly parallels between the life and times of Nigel and his all-encompassing dad. In tailing the career of Nigel, the hand of his father seems to be offering guidance. Brian won the English league as manager of Derby in 1972, his son Nigel played under him for Forest in the 1980s when they were still ripe.

Once upon a time in the Midlands, it was all about Cloughie. This is a man who when asked about leaving Forest, apparently said: "Resignations are for Prime Ministers and those caught with their trousers down, not for me." Brian's liverish life was like a tragicomedy. One can recall Trevor Francis's header that helped his Forest side realise a first European Cup with a 1-0 win over Malmo in the final in 1979, but this is a figure loaded with tales, too many to trawl through.

In the 1980s British satirical programme Spitting Image, Clough was projected as a manager who put as much intensity into arranging his drinks cabinet as opting for 4-4-2. Nigel has assembled his own potential. He was a striker with Liverpool and England, but in a decade in management he has helped raise non-League Burton to the top of the Conference, the level before admission to the English professional circuit.

Like Clough, Sheen is on the rise. He will adopt the guise of David Frost, a movie recalling the British interviewer's bout with the US president Richard Nixon and all his post-Watergate revelations. Clough can be a revelation. He will not want to mimic all his father's foibles, but sometimes being a chip off the old block is like money in the bank. @Email:dkane@thenational.ae