Brian Clough was known to always get his man when it came to transfers. Able to try all sorts of tricks in the transfer market, as well as being very persuasive, meant few slipped through his hands. But back in 1971 when he was Derby County manager, he lost out on one of the most wanted around.
Ian Storey-Moore was a striker at Nottingham Forest in the late 1960s. In the 1966-67 season, his goals saw them finish second in the league to Manchester United. At the time this was their highest ever league finish. That United side went onto become the first English side to lift the European Cup twelve months later.
He also scored regularly in their FA Cup run which took them all the way to the Semi-Finals. His hat-trick in the Quarter-Finals saw them beat Everton.
He was the club’s top scorer in each season he played for them. In fact, in 236 appearances he scored an impressive 118 goals.
He came to Alf Ramsey’s attention during the friendlies played in the run-up to the 1970 Mexico World Cup. In January 1970 he earned his only England cap in a side captained by Bobby Charlton against a Netherlands team including Johann Cruyff, Ruud Krol and Wim van Hanegem. But Storey-Moore was essentially a winger, and as we all know Ramsey had long since lost his love affair with them.
In December 1971 he scored, what many Forest fans have labelled, the best goal scored at The City Ground, against an Arsenal side six months after they’d won the double.
Three months later he was off.
March 1972 he was called to manager Matt Gillies office and told they had accepted a record fee of £200,000 from league leaders, Manchester United. At the time Forest were rock bottom and staring relegation in the face. United were in the top six.
He met United boss Frank O’Farrell in a hotel to discuss terms. They couldn’t agree. Gillies by now had obviously spent the money in his head. So keen to find a home for his star striker he picked up the phone to Derby County manager, Brian Clough.
Clough and his assistant, Peter Taylor, dropped everything and made their way to the hotel. According to Storey-Moore, they burst in, coats off and said;
“Sign here, we want you to come to Derby”.
Clough and Taylor were ambitious, having taken the club up from the Second Division three years earlier. They were definitely in the market once a player of Storey-Moore’s ability became available. They agreed terms and the player signed on the dotted line.
Derby were going well in third and keen to close the ground on Leeds and Man City above them. Taylor took Storey-Moore to the hotel where the Derby team were staying while Clough sorted the paperwork out at Forest.
Four of five hours later Clough joined them. They toasted the deal. Next day it all kicked off, literally.
At the Baseball Ground for the match against Wolves, Clough proudly paraded his new signing to the home fans. He got a tremendous welcome. Derby won the game 2-0 and all seemed to be going really well.
But back at Forest things weren’t quite so settled. Forest Chairman, Tony Wood, was none too pleased about the idea of Storey-Moore going to their nearest rivals. He blocked the move.
By Monday, Matt Busby, now a director at Manchester United, was in Nottingham and between them they resurrected the deal and Storey-Moore was going to Old Trafford after all.
The main problem was although the player had signed all the forms, Clough hadn’t. There was already tension growing between Clough and his Chairman, Sam Longson, who was starting to get itchy about some of his manager’s acquisitions.
It was the most controversial transfer of the season.
Storey-Moore started well at United scoring five times in 11 matches to the end of his first season. But two years later injury cut short his career. He’d damaged ankle ligaments in 1970 ruining his chances of making the England World Cup squad. Four years later in training the same injury flared up after a challenge and that was the end of his career in England, at the age of 28.
He should’ve been the new George Best, whose career was effectively over at this stage. Storey-Moore had the good looks, the fashionable haircut and the skill. He was the left-sided player Clough eventually found in John Robertson. After a year out of football he moved to the States, joining Chicago. The NASL was still in its infancy and not fully established but a welcoming place for players unappreciated at home. He played ten consecutive games in the first half of the season but only four substitute appearances in the second half.
He gave up playing and moved back to England. He became manager of Burton Albion at the end of the decade, where he was succeeded by Neil Warnock. Later he was a scout for Forest and then set up as a bookmaker.
It was a sad end to a career which promised so much and can really demonstrate how luck plays a huge part in a player’s fortunes. Of course, his success can also come down to choices and being in the right place at the right time.
Had he been allowed to join Derby County he’d have picked up a League Championship medal three months later. They were Champions again three years later. Whereas United were a club in decline. Perhaps he was lucky as the season he had to stop playing was the season they went down.
Of Clough, he says the man never spoke to him for years. Blamed him for being made to look a fool. They met at a function many years later, but Clough blanked him.
It was a bizarre transfer, one of many Clough was involved in throughout his career. But as with the few players he lost out on he generally came out on top.