Tuesday 30 December ~
Most of us have experienced dreams or nightmares on the same repeated themes, whether it's falling from precipitous heights, sitting an exam without revision or going to work with no clothes on. For Chris Hutchings, however, the nightmare is a reality. He keeps being appointed as a football manager as successor to his friend Paul Jewell, only to be sacked soon afterwards, then hired again as Jewell's assistant at another club. Today the pattern has repeated itself at Derby County, although at present Hutchings is only the caretaker. Indeed, he has been given two matches in which to prove his suitability for the job - sharply contrasting cup ties against Forest Green Rovers in the FA Cup, then Man Utd in the Carling Cup Semi Final. Meanwhile Derby and their managerless local rivals Nottingham Forest are both said to be interested in hiring the boss of the top non League side in the country, who also happens to be the son of both clubs' most successful-ever manager.
If Nigel Clough were to leave the current Conference leaders Burton Albion to take on either of the clubs with whom Brian Clough won League titles it would be only the fourth time that a club has been managed by father and son. The most recent case was Kevin Bond whose turbulent spell at Bournemouth fell a long way short of emulating his father John's record there in the early 1970s. The other two instances both involved Fulham. Harry and Joe Bradshaw were in charge at Craven Cottage in the decade either side of World War One while the two Bill Dodgins, senior and junior, both managed the club between the late 1940s and early 1970s - Dodgin junior was also one of his dad's successors at Brentford during that period.
While Derby and Forest can both lay claim to the elder Clough, Nigel's direct ties are to the latter, with whom he spent the best years of his career, winning fourteen England caps. If he is considering a move to the City Ground, the recent travails of of another former England player may give him pause for thought. Paul Ince moved up three levels in going from MK Dons to Blackburn in August and, irrespective of whether he was given enough time, he clearly found the gap a difficult one to breach. Nigel Clough had an indifferent start to his spell at Burton who finished in the bottom half of the Conference in his first three seasons in charge, but his side has steadily improved over the last three years and currently hold a seven point lead at the top. Clough has had five years more experience in management than Ince but they have all been at the same level, three steps below the Championship.
As with Ince, it's unlikely that a manager who hadn't previously been a famous player would get a chance of such a move upwards. And, as is the case with Darren Ferguson, he has an almost impossible legacy to live up to. Burton has a unique record in football history in that three separate clubs from the town have been League members in the distant past. While Nigel Clough has a strong chance of adding to that achievement it would be a shame to see him pass it up. The way Forest and Derby are going, it's not as if he won't get other opportunities.