One of the things I like most about this Time Machine journey I’ve chosen to embark on this year is that every so often, I learn something quirky I genuinely didn’t know.
Like this one, today – two of my favourite all-time managers were appointed at new clubs on the same day but in different years.
For one, it was another club on the journey to becoming one of the most famous managers of all time.
For the other, it was his final port of call – but a port in which he stayed for many years and achieved miracles (along with a partner in crime for the early part).
The second is probably far easier to guess than the first, but on this day, January 6th, in 1954 and 1975 respectively, Bill Shankly and Brian Clough were unveiled as the new managers of Workington and Nottingham Forest.
Before arriving at Workington, then of the old Third Division North, Shankly had been in charge at Carlisle (where he started his professional playing career) and then Grimsby Town.
Life in Cumbria as a manager was challenging – the club’s location made signing players more difficult, even with the famous Shankly charm. Despite the hardship, Shankly transformed a club that was struggling in the bottom half of the Third Division North, leading them to finish in the top three in the 50-51 season. He resigned off the back of this – claiming Carlisle’s board had failed to pay him an agreed bonus for finishing in 3rd place.
Shanks was interviewed for the Liverpool job at this time, but was unsuccessful and ended up at Grimsby. The club had been twice relegated in recent seasons, falling from the First to the Third Division at Shankly soon took about getting them playing good football – so much so, he claimed that ‘pound for pound the best football team I have seen since the war’.
Three years later, Shankly resigned citing homesickness and a lack of ambition from the board – and Workington was the next stop.
Between January 6th 1954 and November 15th 1955, Shankly managed 85 matches for Workington and won 35 of them – enough to transform them from a side needing to apply for re-election, to a team finishing in 8th place in his one and only full season.
It would be another four years until he arrived at Anfield.
The other managerial legend to start a new job on January 6th, but this time in 1974, was none other than Brian Clough.
Clough had been away from football for 16 weeks, licking his wounds following his infamous 44-day tenure at Leeds United.
Forest were mid-table of the Second Division and had fired Allan Brown following a December defeat to local rivals Notts County.
The popular perception was that Clough was a finished man following his failures at Brighton and Leeds and in some ways, the popular perception wasn’t completely inaccurate. Apart from Peter Taylor, Clough traditionally struggled and it was only when Taylor rejoined Clough in July 1976 that things started to truly hot up at the City Ground.
Clough led Forest to 8th in the Second Division without Taylor and then the club scraped promotion in the 1976/77 season. Not many would have believed that by the 18th May 1980 Forest would win the First Division and the European Cup twice.
Shankly and Clough – two managerial legends both taking on new challenges on a 6th January, a quirky fact unlikely to be matched unless Pep and Jurgen find themselves on the job market at the same time in the next decade or so…