THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

21 years with Clough and Taylor
by Maurice Edwards
DB Publishing, £16.99
Reviewed by Mark Rowe
From WSC 279 May 2010

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Peter Taylor and Brian Clough – the author, their long-time scout, puts them in that order – were an East Midlands phenomenon. The region’s publishers love this story for its guaranteed readership; few local sports reporters of that era have not published memoirs. Maurice Edwards learned scouting from Taylor, when he was starting as a manager at Burton Albion, so long ago that David Pleat was a teenager.

As a Burtonian like Edwards, I was surprised and delighted to read of the town’s central place in football history. The signing of Britain’s first £1 million player, Trevor Francis, began when Francis switched into Edwards’s car outside the town hall. With characteristic attention to detail, Edwards – by day a well-off Burton sub-postmaster and newsagent – gift-wrapped a box of Cadbury’s milk chocolates for Francis’s wife Helen.

The book is full of such kaleidoscopic stories but what is lacking is more reflection on the scout’s life – all we get are eight pages at the start. What I would like to know is what the scout sees that is missed by casual spectator and whether the unsocial hours and the anonymous, spy-like sameness gets you down. Edwards, who is still working at the age of 83, reckons he’s seen over 4,000 games in 40 years of scouting and enjoyed it. If there is pressure in such an insecure job, where you might only be as good as your last report, he doesn’t feel it, or show it.

We do get some secrets, however. At Derby: “Peter was gambling heavily on football results. I knew because I was putting the bets on for him.” When at Forest, Clough and Taylor each bet £1,000 to lose both of their European Cup finals, as “insurance money” in case they didn’t get their win bonus.

Edwards’s verdicts are sure, as you’d expect – he spotted Garry Birtles in local non-League – though he didn’t recommend Taylor buy the unknown Kevin Keegan from Scunthorpe. Taylor had “a natural gift for spotting the talents of players and sizing up how different teams functioned”. Clough was “second to none”, a “born leader” but Edwards was not an intimate: “My relationship with Brian was almost all on the football side.”

Oddly, Edwards ends on the same note as Duncan Hamilton in his award-winning Provided You Don’t Kiss Me. Both feel Clough in some undefined way lives on. It seems no one wants to accept that he was mortal. Buy A Right Pair, shelve it next to Hamilton, read the first eight pages yourself and give it your dad for his birthday if he lives in the Derby-Nottingham-Leicester triangle.

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