BY STEVE MITCHELL
In the opening few minutes of Jonny Owen’s new documentary film about the glory years at Nottingham Forest in the late 1970’s, you could be forgiven for thinking that we’re about to go on another nostalgic look back on the life of one of Britain’s greatest ever managers. Brian Clough or “Old Big ‘Ead” as he liked to be known, goes toe to toe with his nemesis Don Revie on live TV shortly after his sacking from Leeds United after just 44 days. You may also be forgiven for thinking that we’re about to witness the same clips of the great man that we’ve been watching for years; fortunately, you could not be further from the truth.
Cut to a blistering 70’s disco soundtrack, Owen skilfully fast forwards the viewer to the summer of 1975, when Clough – idolised by supporters, feared by directors – takes charge of burned out Second Division club Nottingham Forest. Using some wonderful rarely seen footage, Owen charts the rise and rise of this small provincial East Midlands club from Second Division strugglers, to European superpower in the space of just five years. What makes the movie so enjoyable is the way some of the characters involved with the club during this period – the intellectually supreme Martin O’Neill, the ever assured Peter Shilton and the combative “Kenneth” (as Clough used to refer to him) Burns to name just a few – give us an insight into just how the greatest manager never to get the England job put together a side good enough to beat Europe’s best.
What stands out the most during the 115 minutes of absolute nostalgic viewing pleasure Owen puts in front of us, is just how much affection the players from those teams felt for their manager and his assistant, the ebullient Peter Taylor. With training sessions sometimes consisting of a swift walk alongside the River Trent, followed by a swift pint down the local and pre-match team bonding mostly taking place in hotel bars up and down the country all anchored by a manager who sometimes wouldn’t be seen from one game to the next, it’s hard to comprehend just how this bunch of mostly journeymen footballers wrestled domestic and European supremacy out of the hands of Liverpool as we waved goodbye to the 1970’s.
The movie is a celebration not just for Forest fans, but for all football fans that grew up in an era when the game still had some ordinary values, when players played in front of the people at 3.00pm and shared a pint with them at 7.30pm. When the likes of uncompromising defender Larry Lloyd are almost reduced to tears on an open top bus parade through the city as the magnitude of what they’ve just achieved hits home; it makes you realise just what it meant to the players to bring so much joy to so many people that could never have imagined their football team would ever become the best in Europe. Yes, the central character in the movie is Clough himself (how could it not be?) but with some wonderful cameos from the players that made it happen, it’s a must-see for people of all ages who believe in fairy tales, whilst sadly being an all too timely reminder of how the beautiful game continues to lose touch with reality.
I Believe In Miracles – The Remarkable Story of Brian Clough’s European Cup Winning Team is now on general release across the UK
YOU CAN FOLLOW STEVE ON TWITTER @barafundler