2 December ~ Thanks to the multitude of TV interviews, newspaper articles and biographies that have appeared down the years, Brian Clough probably has a more substantial archive than any other football manager. Had one the time to dig through these sources, it should be possible to prove something I am sure I once heard him say: that his biggest regret in football was not related to working at Forest, Derby or even Leeds, but walking out on Brighton & Hove Albion to join Leeds in 1974 for his infamous 44-day reign.

There could be many reasons for this, such as the fact that it caused a major rift in his partnership with Peter Taylor, albeit one that was ultimately repaired. But I remember Clough saying that he could have taken Brighton to where he took Forest, their opponents tomorrow. Clough believed that he could have taken the club to a League title and two European Cups, if given sufficient time. Of course, we will never know. For Brighton fans it is interesting speculation, but no more. For Forest fans who actually experienced the drama and success of Clough’s reign, it is an irrelevance.

All clubs yearn for a Brian Clough to waltz into their club and turn them into world beaters in the space of a few years. Even if Gus Poyet does not achieve that, he may yet become only the second Brighton boss, after Alan Mullery in 1979, to lead the club into the top division (where, incidentally, they did the double over European champions Forest in their first season).

It may help that the Seagulls have no equivalent figurehead, whose astonishing achievements have been a millstone round the necks of his successors. The Albion have had good managers, but Mullery and Steve Coppell soured the memories with their Palace connections, Mickey Adams spoilt things with his disastrous second spell and Barry Lloyd is dismissed as a loser by most, despite getting the club to within a play-off victory of the top league on a shoestring budget, in 1991.

Brighton's run of nine games without a win through late September and October was the first significant blip in Poyet’s two years in charge. The last four games have brought three wins, but the forward line is hardly firing on all cylinders. Forest, on the other hand, are having a torrid season. Steve Cotterill’s appointment was a boost after the debacle of Steve McLaren’s reign, with its public airing of conflicts over transfer funding. However, their improvement in results through late October and early November was severely set back by the midweek 4-0 home stuffing by Leeds, which has left them back in the bottom three.

Brighton have been far from invincible at the Amex, as Palace fans will gleefully remember. There is only nine points between Brighton and Forest, though one is in seventh place and the other in 22nd. It is a tough one to call, but I’m sure Clough would just have given one or other team the ball and told them to go out and enjoy themselves. Drew Whitworth

Comments (4)
Comment by Adam Wilson 2011-12-02 12:32:56

The title of this piece once again relegates Peter Taylor to the role of bit-part player in the great Clough story. It's hard to call Clough's time at Brighton an 'era' surely? Taylor's solo record at Brighton compares favourably to that of the early Derby years - struggles in the first full season (19th in 74-75) then a huge leap in year 2 (4th in 75-76, promotion lost by only winning one match out of the last 8). When Taylor left to join Clough at Forest, Brighton then went on to an, ahem, Clough-esque acceleration, winning two promotions in 3 seasons with largely Taylor's team. Credit where it's due, one again, zips away from one of the greats of English football.

Comment by t.j.vickerman 2011-12-02 13:09:47

Ahhh...always makes me think of a similar great 'what if...' at Huddersfield. After 3 years of managing Second Division Town, Bill Shankly left for a mediocre fellow Second Division outfit we'd walloped 5-0 just a few weeks back after the board refused to stump up for a couple of unknown Scottish players he was keen on. This proved the final straw after the board accepted Man City's bid way below Shankly's valuation for Denis Law.

The first signings Shankly made for Liverpool...Ian St. John and Ron Yeats. Still, we built Leeds Road's floodlights with the Denis Law transfer fee...

Comment by jonmid 2011-12-02 13:16:16

another what if is Wolves is what if SAF had joined the club in the 80s, he turned it down owing to the club's financial problems

Comment by drew_whitworth 2011-12-03 18:49:10

A good point Adam: Taylor deserves more credit for his time at Brighton than he ever gets, including - it seems - from myself. Mea culpa.

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