Bye Old Big ‘Ead: When Brian Clough Managed For The Last Time On This Day In 1993

On this day in 1993, Brian Clough managed his final match in football
07:00, 08 May 2023

Brian Clough’s final game in football management came on May 8th, 1993 as defeat for his Nottingham Forest side at Ipswich Town secured relegation from the Premier League.

The saddest of ends for one of the finest managers England has produced who took Derby County from second tier obscurity to champions of England in just three years before leading Nottingham Forest from the second flight to the league title ahead of back-to-back European Cup wins.

After his playing days ended on Boxing Day 1962 with a serious knee injury playing for Sunderland against Bury, Clough began his managerial career with Fourth Division Hartlepool and at the age of 30 was the youngest manager in the Football League.

After two successful seasons he joined Derby County where he would quickly make his mark as one of the most renowned and respected faces in the game, leading the Rams to the Second Division title in 1969 and the First Division Championship in 1972.

By this time, Clough had not only established a reputation for his astute management style, but his erratic conduct too, often ruling without consulting his chairman or his shareholders and while his detractors found him arrogant and rude, no-one could deny that his methods worked.

It was after one of these of high profile fallouts with the Derby directors just 18-months after their astonishing title success that Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor resigned, with distraught fans taking to the streets demanding his reappointment falling on deaf ears.

Just two weeks later he was taking on a new challenge, this time at Third Division Brighton, where he stayed for just nine months before being lured to then champions Leeds United, following the departure of Don Revie.

Once again, his reputation got him into hot water, with his aggressive approach and inability to command the dressing room meaning he was sacked after only 44 days at Elland Road following a mutiny by his players in one of the briefest, yet most talked about, managerial stints of all time.

In 1975, Clough and Peter Taylor were reunited once more, this time at Nottingham Forest in what proved to be the most successful period of his career as Forest achieved promotion from the Second Division in 1977 and went on to secure an impressive haul of two European Cup triumphs, a League Championship, and four League Cup victories.

However, come the early 1990s, neither Brian Clough nor Nottingham Forest was what they once were and despite starting the decade with a League Cup final win over Oldham Athletic they could only finish 9th in Division One before losing to Spurs in the 1991 FA Cup Final – the one trophy that eluded Clough during his time in management.

Just two years later and after a miserable campaign in what was the inaugural season for the newly formed Premier League, Clough’s Nottingham Forest side’s fate was sealed when a 2-0 home defeat to Sheffield United confirmed second-flight football for the first time since Clough and Taylor had arrived 18 years previously.

A relatively meaningless 2-1 final day defeat to Ipswich on May 8th saw his son, Nigel, score the final goal of his dad’s reign; but by now it was all over for the man who had become affectionately known as “Old Big ‘Ead” who had let it be known that he would be retiring at the age of 58 after almost 1000 matches in charge of Forest. 

The fact that his last season at the City Ground ended in relegation is far from a fitting finale for one of the greatest managers and most divisive characters of his generation and clearly hurt Clough, who may have felt it tarnished his reputation at the club which he had transformed from no-hopers into European champions.

But those supporters who rose to acclaim Clough as he came out to wave goodbye to the Forest fans ahead of his final home fixture certainly knew his value to them as well as the city of Nottingham – and that’s all that really matters.

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