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The return of Clough

December 5, 2015

For any Albion fan, it’s our own version of “where were you when JFK got shot?” or “where were you when Lady Di died?”

Where were you when you heard Nigel Clough had become manager back in 1998?

I was 12 years old, up in Scotland in sad circumstances for my late Grandad Jimmy’s funeral.

I was flicking through the ‘Football in brief’ section on teletext and it just appeared on the screen, something like “Nigel Clough is the new player/manager of Doc Martens Premier side Burton Albion”


From that day on, our football club changed forever.

There was a buzz of excitement about the Albion that I hadn’t seen before. It was the talk of the town with TV cameras at Eton Park, the big newspapers writing about us, we were even on Football Focus with the BBC camera’s following us upto Morpeth Town for our FA Cup qualifier!

It was like the club had become famous overnight.

It was like our team name had changed overnight as well, as we became “Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion.”

Need a bloody long scarf to fit all that on.

My Dad and me had started doing the away games around that time, and I remember us getting back to Eton Park late after Weymouth away. The team coach pulled in at the same time, and as we headed back to Dave & Veronica’s car Cloughie was walking alongside asking how our journey back was.

I was a bit star struck (absolutely knackered too after travelling all that way for a 0-0) but yeah, wow, we’re stood chatting to Nigel Clough, he’s telling us about stopping at Tesco in Dorchester!

The next 9 years were some of my favourite times supporting the Albion.

Constant progression, the Doc Martens cup win, that special Unibond season, fantastic Cup nights under the floodlights, *Pub Team 3-2 Boston Utd*, Trophy runs, the move to Pirelli, Man Utd, some of the football we witnessed as Macca, Gilroy and co. tore teams apart, incredible comebacks like York and Salisbury, a formidable team spirit, and the ultimate in finally becoming a football league club..

I feel privileged to have seen those years under Clough. Yes it wasn’t always rosy as Clough himself said in one of his last interviews, those early Conference years were tough going with some low days. I mean I’ve never even seen a 4-7 scoreline on FIFA but after Telford came to town, I sure have seen one in real life.

They were the best days ever.

So it made me feel ever so slightly awkward when asked on Radio Derby if Nigel Clough was the right man to replace Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

As I said on the radio, the fairy-tale is Cloughie comes back and leads us to the Championship. A Hollywood script-writer would refuse to write that, citing it far too unrealistic.

But, at this minute in time, I just don’t think he’s the right man for the job..

Before you shoot me down, let me explain my thinking and reasoning.

Before Jimmy Floyd took over, I thought we would one day reach League 1. After that it’d take a good few years of growing off the field before we aimed any higher.

Jimmy has blown all that out the water.

Look at us. Look at our football club, 20 games in, sitting top of League 1. Look at us in this last fortnight going to in-form Wigan and putting in the ultimate classic away performance to leave there with all 3 points. Look at us tossing all the speculation about Jimmy to one side and in what was one of our poorer showings this season, but still thrashing Colchester 5-1.

Look at us beating a Millwall side playing in the Championship last season in what was one hell of a battle.

He has pushed the boundaries. These players CAN do this, they can and have a chance of getting us into the Championship.

At the recent fans forum, Ben Robinson was asked how far the club can realistically go.

I can’t remember exact quotes, but Ben said something along the lines of you’ve got to dream, if you don’t have dreams then what’s the point?

And that’s exactly right, what is the point of settling for being bang-average? Let’s strive to be the best we can be, it’s how Jimmy has got the players thinking and it has worked.

Look at all the big clubs in League 1, League 2, even the Conference. Wigan, Coventry, Sheff Utd, Portsmouth, Luton, Oxford, Bristol Rovers, Wrexham, Grimsby – big names, but we’re top of the bunch.

So here is my thinking. Since Clough, the club has evolved through Pesch, Rowett, Jimmy, to where we are now.

This set of players responded superbly to Jimmy Floyd and David Oldfield. They took everything on board, won a league title, and now top League 1. An immense team ethic has been instilled along with strong discipline and sharp focus, no one is getting carried away.

So seen as this set of players responded so well to someone like Jimmy; a massive name, a former Premier League star, eager to prove himself in management, I thought it may be the way for us to go again.

We are in a unique and maybe once in a lifetime position and if we want to make it count, I thought having someone unique and with that ‘x-factor’ (can’t believe I’ve used that word) and instant impact that Jimmy had was what we needed.

I don’t necessarily see Nigel Clough as being that person?

It doesn’t mean I am totally against today’s news that Cloughie has agreed a deal in principle. It will be intriguing and exciting to see how he does with this squad – but also scary, he is a club legend in my eyes and I don’t want that to change.

And he’s a far better option that 99% of names on the bookies odds lists!

There are off course positives to Clough coming back. For a start, we know he will stay around! Not a dig at Jimmy because I don’t begrudge him his move, but it gets boring when it becomes all about the manager and less about the club we support.

I also think it could boost crowds? People interested in how it’ll work out 2nd time around? I don’t know, just a feeling I have.

One thing I did think earlier, how Clough instilled belief in promising young strikers and got them performing. Dale Anderson, Shaun Harrad and Greg Pearson gave their all for Cloughie and improved as players, could he be the man to get Timmy Thiele rocking and rolling?

Very interesting times lie ahead. None of us know how it will end up, and considering the position the club’s in it’s a bit of a thankless task.

But yes it has torn me, my head saying one thing and my heart the other.

I want my doubts to be proven wrong.

I want the fairy-tale to be completed.

And I can’t wait for the goose-bumps when we sing “Nigel Clough’s Yellow Army…” for the first time.

Welcome home Nigel.

(It best be confirmed now after writing all this!)



From → The Albion.

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