A terrible knee injury in 1962 ended Clough’s career as a free-scoring striker, but it released him at the age of 30 to become a legendary manager


Brian Clough is sometimes underestimated as a player because so much emphasis is placed on his many managerial successes. But as a goalscorer he was up there with the best, even bearing in mind that only one of his League goals was scored in the First Division.

He scored 197 League goals in 213 appearances for Middlesbrough and 54 in 61 for Sunderland. This is a better strike rate than the great Jimmy Greaves’s but maintained over a shorter period when Clough was in his prime.

Stan Anderson, who played alongside Clough at Sunderland – and also, incidentally, was worthy of more than the two England caps he was awarded – is in no doubt about Clough’s quality as a potent striker.

‘People either liked or disliked Brian Clough and I admit that when he first came along I thought what a pain in the arse he was,’ Anderson says. ‘And when he said things like, “If you get it and knock it in the box, I’ll stick it in the net for you,” you’d think, “Is he bloody kidding or what?”

‘But then you got to know the bloke and that’s what he did. A number of times playing alongside Brian I used to think, “What the hell’s he going there for?” ’

Anderson cites an occasion during a Sunderland match when he pushed a pass down down the line for Harry Hooper to run after. ‘Harry then hit this ball that struck the fullback, came out, hit somebody else and there was Brian standing three yards out and sidefooted it into the net. I was thinking, “How the hell did you manage to be in the right place for that one”.

‘It’s a knack, I suppose, being in the right place at the right time even though it looks as though it’s the wrong place. Somehow the ball seemed to fall to him and he knocked it in.’

Anderson was injured and sitting in the stand when on Boxing Day1962 Clough, who at the time ‘was scoring goals for fun’, received the injury that effectively ended his career. The match  was against Bury at Roker Park.

‘The match wouldn’t have been played if it was today,’ Anderson says. ‘There was ice all over the pitch.

‘Chris Harker, the Bury goalkeeper, came out and went down for the ball. No problem at all. But because Cloughie couldn’t stop he went over the top of Harker and tore all his knee ligaments. That was the end of his career and cost us promotion. We’d have walked promotion if Cloughie had played the rest of that season.’

Sunderland would miss out on goal average to Chelsea.

Surgeons operated on Clough’s knee soon afterwards to repair the torn medial and cruciate ligaments – and it is hard to argue with the likely accuracy of thoughts attributed to Clough by David Peace in his novel The Damned United:

But no one tells you anything, anything you don’t already know –

That this is bloody bad. This is very fucking bad –

The worst day of your life.

Clough did play again but only a handful of games before retiring as a player aged 29. ‘But football is a life of disappointments really,’ Anderson says.

Anderson also knew Clough well as a fellow manager. ‘He used to make me laugh,’ Anderson says, ‘but eventually things would get to the point where I’d say, “Now look Brian, don’t try to kid me because I know you”.’

When they were players together, the kidding was just that, inconsequential. It was when they were managers with opposing interests that Anderson was glad to be forewarned of the kind of antics in which Clough specialised.

When manager of the Fourth Division club Doncaster in the mid Seventies, Anderson had in his charge a young player called Terry Curran. He describes Curran as a good footballer but one who had difficulty doing what his manager wanted despite being told this was the only way he’d make the most of his talent.

‘Then one day,’ Anderson says, ‘this lad John Quigley, who was my coach, said, “Guess who I’ve seen coming into the ground? Peter Taylor [Brian Clough’s assistant at Nottingham Forest]. He was wearing a big scarf, a hat and dark glasses.’

‘How do you know it was Peter Taylor?’ Anderson said.

‘I know Peter Taylor,’ Quigley said.

Anderson already knew that Clough and Taylor were interested in buying Terry Curran and had been manoeuvring to get him as cheaply as possible. It was no surprise when, not long after the poorly disguised Taylor had been spotted by Quigley, Anderson took a call from Clough.

‘Hi Stan, how are you keeping?’

‘Fine, Brian. Kept them out of the bottom four and we’re pushing for promotion.’

‘They tell me you’ve got a lad called Curran there.’

‘Well you should know because Peter Taylor was here on Saturday.’

‘No he wasn’t.’

‘Brian,’ Anderson said, ‘he was here on Saturday because two or three people saw him. Don’t kid me, because that’s what you’re doing.’

Caught out by Anderson, Clough pressed on, unabashed.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’d heard of him before and I think that I’d like to sign him.’

‘OK,’ Anderson said, ‘but he’ll cost you quite a bit of money because he’s only young.’

‘Aye,’ he said, ‘come down and we’ll talk.’

Anderson had planned to go down to Nottingham on his own, but Ben Rayner, the Doncaster chairman, insisted on coming too. Anderson was not happy: ‘I knew Cloughie would tie Rayner around his little finger.’

After they arrived at Forest’s City Ground there was a brief exchanage of pleasantries before Clough came straight to the point: ‘How much do you want for him, Stan?’

‘Seventy-five grand.’

‘A bit high that.’

‘How about this, Brian: would you sell me Ian Miller and Dennis Peacock as part of the deal?’

‘Aye, 30 grand.’

‘Come on,’ Anderson said. ‘For a start neither of them is playing in your first team.’

‘Look,’ Clough said, ‘we’ll make it £55,000 for Curran plus you get Miller and Peacock.’

The two managers shook hands on it, before Rayner piped up: ‘Oh no, we want £60,000. I can’t go back to the board and say we’ve only got £55,000 for him.’

Anderson pointed out: ‘You’ve got two other players as a well, Mr Rayner. The deal is 75 grand and I’ve knocked him down to 20 grand for Miller and Peacock.’

He wouldn’t listen, Anderson says, and in the revised deal Clough confused Rayner by agreeing to pay more for Curran but wanting more in return for Miller and Peacock.

‘Going back in the car,’ Anderson says, ‘Rayner said to me, “By, good deal that. Good deal.” I said, “Do you realise you’ve just cost the club thousands.”

‘After I’d explained it to him he didn’t know what to say. Cloughie had pulled a fast one on him. He was brilliant.’

Quite how brilliant the football world was soon to find out as, in particular, fans of Derby County and Nottingham Forest remember with special fondness.


This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing.