Sunday, 18 July 2010

What Might Have Been For Sunderland and England If They Had Made Clough Manager

What might have been.  Four of the most important words in the lexicon of sport, or politics, or any other walk of life you might want to mention.

They are the four words that and England fan or Sunderland fan might utter after hearing the name Brian Clough.

Up until Kevin Phillips came along, he was our top all time goal scorer.  He scored 61 goals in 54 appearances before his career was cut short by injury.  He coached Sunderland's youth team and said that he learned so much about managing from his manager at Sunderland, Alan Brown.  

There was a time when Brian Clough, a born and bred North Easterner and manager of true and rare genius, would have done anything to manage Sunderland.  Needless to say, we didn't appoint him when we should have done and he went on to win the European Cup with both Derby and Nottingham Forest.  The board members who were so memorably lampooned by another Sunderland great, Len Shackleton, thought him too much of a risk.  In the years after Clough and Sunderland parted company, Sunderland's history has been that of one trophy and too much under achievement with glimmers of daylight.  Thanks to Niall Quinn and Steve Bruce, the future looks brighter now.  But, if Brian Clough had become Sunderland manager when he should have done.  What might have been...

And then there is England.  Since 1966, we haven't beaten a top flight footballing nation in a knock out round of the World Cup.  Of course, Clough was interviewed for the England job in 1977 but the job went to Ron Greenwood and the years of hurt were condemned to continue for much longer.  The people who ran the England football team wanted somebody safe.  They turned down genius and they got failure.  As Clough said about not getting the England job:

"I'm sure the England selectors thought if they took me on and gave me the job, I'd want to run the show. They were shrewd because that's exactly what I would have done"

What might have been?  The question again comes to mind from tonight's evening of programmes on BBC2.  Always an impossible question to answer.  But, surely Sunderland and England would have both had a much more successful time if their boards had the courage to have appointed Brian Clough a few decades ago.

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