The Brian Clough Philosophy

Now you are going to read the story of one of the most explosive names in football history – Brian Clough. How he transformed mid-table second division team into one of the dominant squad in world football? If you are wise enough, you can relate it to how to run a successful business!

Brian Clough? Who?

As a football player, Brian Clough had a career cut short by Injury.  The England international spent most of his club career in second division and only had the chance to play two matches for England national team.  After retiring from international football he set foot into coaching career.

When Clough took charge of Nottingham Forest in 1975, they were an unremarkable mid-table second division team. What I am about to tell you is an absolute fairy tale stuff! I cannot explain you the whole story but what I can do is tell you how he did it.

When I say this, trust me, I have spent more than seven years reading books and stories related to business management, and without any doubt I can say, this is something worth reading. (I could have talk about this whole day long, you will read more about this in my own book in few years, hopefully)

The inevitable ‘Peter Taylor’?

On the day Brian Clough resigned from Derby County Football Club in 1973, one more person left the Club! Peter Taylor, Assistant Manager of Derby County FC. When a reporter asked Peter Taylor “Will you stay with Brian Clough?” His reply was “Yes, Whatever happens!”  The relationship they had was so magnificent. Clough was a hungry young manager and what he needed was a man who is a fantastic judge of ‘which players to choose’. That’s how they became the perfect duo. Two years later when Clough joined Nottingham Forest, he hired Peter Taylor as his Assistant Manager.

Brian Clough once summarized “I am not equipped to manage without Peter Taylor”. Clough knew that he was never a great judge of players. What he can do best is to inspire players to perform to their maximum potential with consistency. But he didn’t know whom to choose and when. That made Peter Taylor an inevitable part of his system.

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do, we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs

If you are looking for people to hire, first find out qualities we lack and nullify it by hiring. The perfect way to build a team is to accept our flaws and compensate it in the right way. It is all about finding the harmony.

His relationship with players and trainers

Clough brought Jimmy Gordon to be his club trainer in Nottingham Forest FC. He had been club trainer for Clough in his previous clubs such as Derby County and Leeds United.

Clough demanded Nottingham Forest owners to buy two players, John O’Hare and John McGovern. John O’Hare and John McGovern were the players he worked with when he was at Derby County. Clough have worked together with these players for long period and he knows how they play. He found them perfect fit for his plans.

Once a reporter asked John O’Hare on working under Brian Clough and his famous reply was “It could have been any club, but I am working for the man himself, so it suited me down the ground”

“Shared values and common interests, much more can be built on these than gratitude alone” – Horst Koehler (Former German President)

There are a plenty of prospects available in the market, we just have to pick the things we need. A company or organisation have more than enough financial stability doesn’t mean they need to purchase the hottest prospect available.

There is a huge difference between what we can do and what need to do.


Brian Clough Philosophy

His philosophy was simplicity. He was a kind of person who love to keep everything simple and transparent.  Let’s listen to Clough’s advice to a player during training session “You work hard, if you work hard you have a chance of playing well, if you play well you will enjoy it.” –as simple as that!

When asked about an important match which is going to happen in the upcoming week, Clough reply was priceless, “I personally don’t like to talk about things that are not there yet, we are going to go home, have couple of beers perhaps on the couch and we going to get ready for Saturday, I am not kidding, that’s just far as it goes.”

Complexity is your enemy, any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to keep things simple. – Richard Branson (Founder of Virgin Group)

One Hell of a Ride!

The players in Nottingham Forest were slowly getting transformed by a unique brand of man management. He turned the average into extraordinary! The biggest contribution he gave them was confidence. He never over-trained them, he gave them equal number of off days as the training days. Clough could live with his players making mistakes, only thing he couldn’t stand was not giving your 100%.

In next three years, they got promoted from 2nd division to 1st division English league (What we now call English Premier League). Not only they got promoted to first division, the same year they became champions of the league- Champions of England! They beat the mighty clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. You think this is where it ended? The next year they became European Champions, not once but twice! Three seasons ago, they were a mid-table trailing team and two years later they became the best football club in the world!

Brian Clough is a paragon for quality leadership and how it can influence a team. It effected everybody, not only the players and the club, but also the employees, people of the Nottingham. They were just having the time of their lives.










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