All Life's a Game

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'All Life's a Game' page

The Brian Clough philosophy that transformed a region

By Trevor Frecknall

Imagine Sir Alex Ferguson persuading his club’s vice-chairman to close his shop early and chauffeur him to reserve matches. Or Jose Mourinho making a record signing without clearing the deal with his club’s owners. Or Arsene Wenger gambling a professional contract on a teenager who had suffered two broken legs and turning him into an England international. Or Harry Rednapp locking up a rival team because he felt they had let their manager down. Or the football club that finished sixth from bottom of the npower League Championship in the 2010-2011 season – Derby County – earning promotion next spring, winning the Barclays Premier League 12 months later and carrying-off the European Champions League trophy in both 2014 and 2015.

Impossible? Of course! Ridiculous? Absolutely! Except there’s one manager who did all that – and more.

Brian Clough’s the name. Nottingham Forest lived the dream. He arrived at the City Ground from third-tier Brighton and Hove Albion, having burnt his boastful boats at two of the most powerful clubs of his era, Derby County and Leeds United. It was, said cynical supporters, “like throwing an anchor through a sinking ship”.

Not content with saving Forest from relegation to the then-Third Division, he led them to a League title, two European Cup triumphs and masses of success in the League Cup ... and still found time to wage a political war alongside the mineworkers’ leader Arthur Scargill, upset football’s officialdom so consistently that he was repeatedly snubbed when he was the people’s favourite to become manager of England, and found a variety of ruses to hide his drinking from his nearest and dearest.

How he did it all is told in a book written by Trevor Frecknall, who was sports editor of the Nottingham Evening Post through Clough’s reign at Forest. They were not friends. Their first meeting ended with Clough kicking Frecknall out of the City Ground – literally – with the phrase: “Don’t take it personally ... just remember all life’s a game.”

Along the years, mutual respect grew to such an extent that the last time Frecknall covered a Cup Final, Clough asked him to carry Forest’s newly-won trophy out of Wembley on the team bus.

What happened between those two dramatic moments is told in All Life’s a Game. It gives a unique insight into how the best manager never to lead England bent rules of the road to get to matches on time, risked arrest by allowing alcohol on the team bus, even persuaded customs officers to bend their rules and yet never tolerated players who argued with referees.

Frecknall’s 75,000 words, richly illustrated by the Post photographers who accompanied him to the big occasions, give a raw insight into how football clubs worked before agents transformed footballers into millionaires; and how managers ruled supreme – none moreso than the inimitable Brian Clough.

All Life’s a Game, published by Brewin Books with a recommended retail price of £14.95, is available via this website for £13 including post and packing in the UK. For a copy signed by the author, send a cheque (made payable to T and GM Frecknall) to Clough Book, 9 Main Street, North Muskham, Newark, Notts, NG23 6EZ.

This page was added by Trevor Frecknall on 20/06/2011.

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