wsc299 Harry Pearson reviews the latest biography of Brian Clough, that includes an analysis of the great manager's approach to tactics

Just as evangelical Christians are supposed to address difficult situations with the words "What would Jesus do?" there is an apparently burgeoning legion of football folk who react to any player-related crisis at a club by asking: "How would Cloughie have handled this?"

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.

Football With A Smile
by Gary James
James Ward, £19.95
Reviewed by Ian Farrell
From WSC 283 September 2010

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Unless there are any new revelations, legal estate challenges or hauntings to report, you might reasonably ask what the point is of putting out an updated version of a posthumous biography. Though it is coming up to the 20th anniversary of Joe Mercer's death, the first thought about this reworking of Football With A Smile, originally published in 1993, is that it's really to capitalise on the moderate publicity generated by The Worst Of Friends, the recent novel about his time managing Man City alongside assistant Malcolm Allison. But, opportunistic or not, it nevertheless comes across as a heartfelt attempt to reassess Mercer's standing 17 years on, and see his legacy given the respect it deserves. Those who've read the "faction" have a chance to read the facts.

The Necessary Skills To Be A Great Gaffer
by Musa Okwonga
Serpent's Tail, £9.99
Reviewed by Pete Green
From WSC 284 October 2010

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We've all questioned whether football management is really the arcane practice it's made out to be. And we know those simulations, however "authentic" they become, must be a million miles from reality. But there isn't a Football Manager addict alive who hasn't indulged themselves just a little by wondering idly, as they've steered Huddersfield Town to a ninth consecutive Champions League title, whether they could be the new Clough or Shankly given a pop at the real thing.

The Peter Taylor Story Volume One
by Wendy Dickinson & Stafford Hildred
Matador, £17.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 286 December 2010

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Gus van Sant makes films – Elephant, Final Days – that focus on a series of incidents viewed from complex mesh of different viewpoints. Maybe one day he'll turn his attention to the story of Brian Clough. Certainly there are already more than enough angles available on the bookshelves. Indeed, with new volumes appearing almost monthly (two more Clough biographies are slated for next year, and another one on Don Revie is on the way) it's hard to avoid a feeling that what we have here might be, to bowdlerise the words of Nigel Tufnell, "too much perspective".

Manchester United 1972-1977
by Sean Egan
Cherry Red Books, £17.99
Reviewed by Joyce Woolridge
From WSC 290 April 2011

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"We wanted a gentleman as well as a good football manager," pronounced Manchester United chairman Louis Edwards on appointing Dave Sexton, simultaneously delivering a hefty backhanded swipe at the previous incumbent, Tommy Docherty. In this heavyweight volume (literally – it runs to 578 closely packed pages with appendices of player biographies and statistical tables), Sean Egan provides more than ample evidence for the case for and against Edwards's verdict on the United manager who has probably divided opinions most sharply, both during his time at the helm and since.

The Rivals Who Changed the Face of English football
by Roger Hermiston
Mainstream, £10.99
Reviewed by Roger Titford
From WSC 293 July 2011

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There has been such a veritable swath of titles about these two managers in the last few years that you would imagine a joint honours degree in Cloughology and Revienomics to be possible. Is there space for yet more? Yes, this is a terrific read. Roger Hermiston has an easy and mature style. His research looks meticulous yet is modestly displayed. He is a journalist rather than a writer and it shows in the quality of access he gains and the digging he does.

by Bobby Gould and David Instone
Thomas Publications, £15.99
Reviewed by Ed Wilson
From WSC 294 August 2011

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As a goalkeeper-clattering centre-forward, Bobby Gould played for nine clubs across the Football League, from Arsenal to Hereford United. His managerial career included an FA Cup win with Wimbledon, relegation with West Brom and a failed tilt at World Cup qualification with Wales. It's probably safe to assume, then, that he didn't struggle for raw material when putting this autobiography together.

Scotland's Great Football Bosses
by Michael Grant & Rob Robertson
Birlinn, £18.99
Reviewed by Craig McCracken
From WSC 298 December 2011

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Scotland's uncanny knack of producing football managers of the highest calibre over the past century continues to perplex and fascinate in equal measure. Few footballing subjects have inspired as much analysis, with Michael Grant and Rob Robertson's book being the latest addition to this busy genre.

Reluctant Champion
by Andrew Fagan and Mark Platt
Aurum Press, £20
Reviewed by Seb Patrick
From WSC 300 February 2012

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By anyone's standards, Joe Fagan was a remarkable success as a manager. In the first of just two seasons in the top job at Anfield, a treble of trophies that included becoming the fourth and last English manager to date to win the European Cup immediately guaranteed his place in history. But unlike the men who preceded and succeeded him, Fagan has generally survived in the records only as a name, rather than as a personality.

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