The managerial partnership of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor is probably the most well-known of all such collaborations in the English game, and certainly the most successful.
In the seventeen years from the time they first joined forces at Hartlepools United in 1965 to the time that Taylor ‘retired’ from Nottingham Forest in 1982, the two men working in tandem won two league titles, two European Cups, and two League Cups.
Besides, promotions and lesser trophies such as the Charity Shield, European Super Cup and Anglo-Scottish Cup were won in their time together.
Unfortunately, as is common knowledge, the two men fell out in later life and spent the last years of their lives estranged and not on speaking terms. It was a sad way for things to finish and not at all the way things should have gone.
Although many were saddened by the ultimate turn of events, many others were not overly surprised as the two men often shared a tempestuous relationship.
The purpose of this article, therefore, is to examine some of these differences and to have a look at not just the reasons for their final falling-out, but at the general and gradual erosion of their relationship.
Brian Clough was appointed manager of Hartlepools United in 1965 and he knew straight away that he wanted Peter Taylor by his side for his first foray in management. The Hartlepools Chairman, Ernie Ord, wasn’t convinced that his club either needed or could afford an addition to the management team but had to back down eventually, and so Taylor was appointed.
Solid if unspectacular progress was achieved at Hartlepools before Clough, with Taylor in tow, was approached by Derby County to take over the reins at the Baseball Ground.
After a slightly slow start with not much discernable progress in their first full season at the club, success was achieved in their second campaign with promotion secured in 1969.
As Derby became used to life in the top flight, so the profile of Brian Clough continued to rise. Always good for a quote and a controversial opinion or two, Clough was rarely out of the newspapers or off the TV screen. While he was busy attracting the headlines and scorn in equal measures, Taylor was more reserved and working diligently in the background.
Seemingly happy to stay out of the limelight, the quieter Taylor concentrated on his strengths which included the uncanny knack of spotting players with raw talent that could fit into a system. Clough for all his brashness and clever quotes knew he owed a debt of gratitude to Taylor.
“I am just the front of the shop,” he would say, “Peter is the goods in the back. I couldn’t possibly manage without him”.
At this point in their careers, the two men were as close to being one as is humanely possible. They really were joint managers in all but name as their skills, talents, characteristics and personalities complemented each other perfectly.
And yet….not all was quite as rosy as it seemed.
Unknown to Taylor, Brain Clough had been offered a pay rise of some 5000 quid per year. This deal had been cooked up between Clough and Derby Chairman, Sam Longson, on the quiet and when Taylor eventually found out about it he was both incredibly hurt and extremely angry.
For a while, it looked like their working relationship was at an end, and Clough for his part had to do some considerable tap dancing to prevent Taylor from quitting.
It wasn’t the last time that money would drive a wedge between the two men.
The league title was secured in 1972 and the European Cup semi-finals reached the following season, and it was this period that saw Clough at the height of his popularity and notoriety. He was making both new friends and enemies at an alarming rate and while continuing to charm the media, he was creating foes on the board of Derby who wanted him to tone down some of his comments and stop appearing on TV quite so much.
They weren’t the only ones who thought perhaps Clough should spend a little more time on the day job.
While Clough was busy wooing and being wooed by the TV companies, Taylor continued to coach, scout and train on behalf of Derby. The fact that Clough was taking two or three days off every week to fulfil lucrative media duties and other promotional work while he, Taylor, was busy on the training field became, in time, a bone of contention.
Taylor considered that he was doing the lion’s share of the work while Clough was getting not just the majority of the acclaim, but the financial rewards to go with it.
In October 1973, things came to a head with regards to Clough and Traylor’s working relationship with the Derby board, and the two men resigned. Their resignation was designed as a ploy to persuade the board to back down from its insistence Clough cut back on his media work and contentious statements. To their surprise and dismay, the board called their bluff and their resignations were accepted.
Both men were actually heartbroken to leave Derby, and both blamed the other. Clough maintained it was Taylor’s idea to resign while Taylor thought that it wouldn’t have been necessary in the first place had Clough not been so outspoken and stubborn in his ways.
While Taylor reluctantly accepted their time at the Baseball Ground was over, Clough did not and he allowed himself to get involved in movements to get the two of them reinstated. Clough held various meetings with some of the Derby players designed at pressurising the board to give him and Taylor their jobs back, and at one stage strike action by the players was a real possibility.
Taylor’s refusal to get involved in such moves was another chink in their relationship.
When it finally became obvious, to Taylor anyway, that they were not going to be reinstated at Derby, the pair of them had to find alternative sources of employment. Mike Bamber, the Chairman of third division Brighton and Hove Albion, moved swiftly and audaciously swooped for them.
What quite possessed Clough and Taylor to swap the heights of the top flight with Derby for the depths of a third division relegation battle will always remain a mystery, nevertheless, it was for the south coast that they packed their bags and headed.
Once again the official billing was Clough as ‘Manager’ and Taylor as ‘Assistant’, but now more than ever Taylor felt an imbalance in the respective men’s workloads.
Clough’s heart was never in the job at the Goldstone Ground and he didn’t care who knew it. While Taylor was present every day, Clough was seldom seen at the ground except on match days and instead spent his time in the television studios or on the after-dinner circuit. He famously flew to America for a Muhammed Ali fight and showed next to no interest in events at Brighton.
Whilst Taylor was getting on with what was undoubtedly a job in difficult conditions, Clough, seemingly at least, couldn’t have cared less.
Clough was never going to last long at Brighton and obviously saw the position as merely a stepping point on the way back to the top. However, nobody could have predicted what would happen next.
Brian Clough’s 44-day period in charge at reigning League Champions, Leeds United, is well-documented. In one of the most baffling episodes in the English game ever, somebody thought it was a good idea to charge Leeds United’s most voracious critic with the honour of becoming their manager after Don Revie acceded to the post of England manager.
Other than Cussins and Clough, there seemed barely another person within the entire footballing fraternity who thought this relationship was destined for anything other than a spectacular failure.
Peter Taylor certainly didn’t see how it could possibly work and adamantly dug his heels in: whatever Clough thought he could achieve at Elland Road, he was going to have to do it solo. Taylor wasn’t leaving Brighton.
Clough was both shocked and angered by Taylor’s refusal to up sticks once more and join him at Leeds, and in later years he claimed Taylor would have come had he been offered more money.
As well as feeling the whole project was doomed from the start, Taylor felt a sense of loyalty to Brighton, though, and for a long time the relationship between the two was extremely strained and it looked as if their partnership was over for good.
As it turned out, they worked separately for the next two years before Taylor finally rejoined Clough in the summer of 1976 at Nottingham Forest where Clough had landed in January 1975.
Success came quickly at Forest as promotion was achieved in 1977 and, quite remarkably, the league title and European Cup in the two years that followed. The European Cup was retained in 1980 and thrown into the mix were two League Cup successes in 1978 and 1979.
For all of the success that Nottingham Forest enjoyed between 1977 and 1980 with Clough and Taylor at the helm, it wasn’t all plain sailing. The two men had their fair share of fallings-out during this period and one such disagreement arose from a disagreement over which of them should lead the team out on their frequent trips to Wembley.
When Forest reached the League Cup Final in 1978, Clough requested permission for Taylor to join him at the head of the Forest side as they made their way out on the hallowed turf. He reasoned that as Forest in effect had two managers, it would make sense for both of them to be allowed the honour.
When the powers-that-be at the Football League refused Clough’s request, he threatened to walk alongside Taylor regardless while Taylor wrote later that he thought Clough might step aside and let him lead the team out. In the end, Clough did neither and proceeded to take his place alone at the front of the Forest team – a decision that Taylor said upset him greatly.
The following August Forest were back at Wembley for the Charity Shield and this time the topic of who was going to lead the side out wasn’t even broached. So disappointed was Taylor that he refused to even attend the game and instead spent the afternoon ‘scouting’.
Taylor finally got his chance to lead a team out at Wembley when Clough agreed to step aside in respect of the 1979 League Cup Final against Southampton.
In 1980, Peter Taylor wrote a book. It was mostly autobiographical but it detailed his working relationship and friendship with Clough, and indeed, Taylor titled the book, ‘With Clough By Taylor”. It was actually a fascinating book that gave great insight into how they worked together and was not short on detail.
However, Clough was not amused. Taylor hadn’t informed him of the book’s publication and certainly hadn’t asked for permission or offered any cut of the proceeds.
The book detailed some of their falling-outs together with Taylor’s opinions on Clough’s idiosyncrasies and perceived weaknesses. It was a book written with warmth and respect, in the main, but Clough was far from happy about it.
As 1980 turned into 1981 and then 1982, Forest began to lose some momentum and slipped out of the running for the major honours. Clough sensed that Taylor was ‘tired’ and beginning to lose motivation.
He accused Taylor of becoming lazy and of no longer finding him the right players. Instead of scouting players over and over again as had been his wont throughout his career, Taylor was now beginning to rely upon reports from other scouts and managers and the result was several players were coming into Forest on Taylor’s recommendation that just weren’t up to the mark.
Clough, understandably, was not happy, and Taylor resented having his judgement called into question. Whatever the truth of the matter was, it is undeniable that players such as Stan Bowles, Asa Hartford, Justin Fashanu, Ian Wallace, and Peter Ward, in particular, were just not cutting the mustard.
All of this was having a detrimental effect on Peter Taylor and so he went to his old mate and suggested they both quit and went into retirement. Clough, however, had no intention of retirement, and, indeed, would continue in management for more than another decade.
He did agree with Taylor that he, Taylor, had ‘shot it’, though, and so arranged for a pay-off for Taylor who left Forest in the spring of 1982.
Although disappointed with Taylor’s timing and being left in the lurch, Clough was fairly stoical and understanding and wished his old friend well.
Taylor’s ‘retirement’ didn’t last long. Just a matter of months after leaving the City Ground for the last time Taylor was tempted back into football and back into management. When he phoned Clough to tell him he had been offered the manager’s role back at their old Derby County stomping ground, Clough was incredulous.
He felt a strong stinging of betrayal. Here was Taylor just months after declaring he was finished with football making a comeback, and not just at any old club, either, but back at Derby where they had enjoyed so much success and then left in such an acrimonious manner a decade or so earlier.
Clough couldn’t believe it and their friendship was over forever.
By the time the two sides were drawn together in the FA Cup in 1983, Clough and Taylor were no longer on speaking terms. Derby hosted Forest in the cup and the two men studiously ignored each other all afternoon and didn’t exchange a word either before or after the game.
The final nail in the coffin was, of course, the matter of John Robertson’s free transfer from Forest to Derby in the summer of 1983. A free agent at the time, Robertson signed for Derby and Taylor with neither man bothering to let Clough know in advance. When Clough heard of this ‘deception’ he vowed there and then to never speak to Taylor again.
He kept to his word.
Peter Taylor died in 1990 and Clough, overcome with remorse, wept copiously at the news. Clough lived another 15 years with a sense of regret on his soul at the parting of the ways of what had been a truly wonderful, but often contentious relationship.