Darren Fletcher on the Incredible Experiences He Had With Brian Clough - Including Being Shoulder Tackled

May 19, 2020, 5:49 PM GMT+1
Darren Fletcher On The Incredible Experiences He Had With Brian Clough | Voices of Football Bonus Ep
Darren Fletcher On The Incredible Experiences He Had With Brian Clough | Voices of Football Bonus Ep | 90min Football

Brian Clough. Whether he was winning European Cups, claiming to be the 'top one' in the business of football management or getting into a scrap with someone or other, virtually everyone who has worked with, against, or even in close proximity to the legendary Nottingham Forest boss has a story to tell about him.

And the modern day voice of European football, Darren Fletcher, is no exception to that rule.

Clough led Forest to two European Cups and a First Division title among a host of major honours, and his career - one of the greatest the English game has ever seen - was nearing an end just as Fletcher was starting out his own.

There was more than enough time to fit in a few colourful memories, however, and speaking as part of 90min's 'Voices of Football' series, Fletcher recalls one of his first encounters with Clough's iron personality.

"Forest were going to play Plymouth in a cup tie, so my sports editor and myself drove all the way down to cover this game," Fletcher said.

"Clough came out about half past seven and sat at the side of the pitch, and he was happily signing programmes for the young supporters. It was a big deal for Plymouth, they didn't play teams like Forest too often.

"My boss said to me - obviously knowing what was going to happen - 'go on, take the recording device down and interview him. He likes you.'

"So off I go, he's sat in front of the big main stand which is pretty full. As I'm walking along, I can hear him say 'get away from me', but I'm thinking he must be talking to somebody else, because he'd told me previously to come and see him again.

"As I get nearer, I hear him say again 'I told you, get away from me.' Now I'm thinking he must mean me, but now you've got nowhere to go, you're in front of all these people and the stand has got your boss sat in it watching you, so you've got to make every effort.

Brian Clough
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"I end up getting really near to Clough, and he's stood up, walked away from the youngsters where he was signing autographs, pretended to trip over, and literally shoulder-charged me away. In front of all these people.

"I go back up to the commentary position, and my sports editor said to me 'let that be lesson number one. He's a very, very awkward man to deal with, forget what he says to you, he'll speak to you when he wants to, and when he doesn't, he won't.'"

Clough would step down from management in 1992, a departure that was attributed to ill-health, reports of a struggle with alcoholism and allegations of corruption. He remains to this day a fabled, legendary name in management, but the sour note on which his tenure ended meant that the media had little to no interest in working with him beyond the dugout.

That was until Fletcher's radio station - lowly Century City Radio - reached out.

"A couple of years passed [after retiring], maybe even longer than that, I started working with Garry Birtles, who had won European Cups with him at Forest. I remember saying to him at the time: 'we never hear from the gaffer.'

"Everybody called him the gaffer, whether you worked for him or not you called him the gaffer.

"Garry called Nigel, his son, and he said he would love to. He said no-one had asked him to do anything since his retirement. Can you imagine that? I found this astonishing.

"We decided to have him in once a month to do a phone-in, where he would come into the studio and people would phone in to talk to Cloughy. He said brilliant, he'd love to.

"Every month he would come in, and then when we'd finished, he would stick around for an hour or so, just to reminisce and tell his stories. I sat there listening to what he was saying thinking I'd got the golden ticket.

"We got word that he fancied doing a bit more, so I said 'does he fancy doing a bit of co-commentary?' Yeah, he'd love to.

Brian Clough, Peter Taylor
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"Now, we're turning up at the occasional ground, myself and Garry, with Brian Clough as the co-commentator. To put this into perspective, we're not BT or Sky - we're not even 5Live or talkSPORT - we were Century Radio East Midlands. We're inconsequential on the scale of it.

"Most people when we asked for the press pass thought we were taking the mickey. They didn't believe he was coming, but we'd turn up at the ground with Cloughy in tow, and he'd do co-commentary.

"He was sharp as a razor. Within five minutes, he spotted an issue with the Forest team, and said if they fixed that, they'd be fine. They were a couple of goals down, but they eventually made the change he'd called for after five minutes, and at that point the game turned around, and they were the better team for the remainder.

"He saw it right away."

The sharpest thing about Clough was arguably his wit, however, as Fletcher remembers fondly.

"I remember one time he'd brought his grandson with him to sit in the commentary position, and he was chatting away. I remember saying to him 'Brian, I could just stop commentating and just sit and listen to you.

"Straight back he said 'Son, I think the audience would appreciate it.'"