At a time when many clubs’ owners have a revolving door installed for prospective and departing managers, most would do well to employ the services of the ever understated and underwhelming Nigel Clough.
The use of these adjectives is in no way derogatory towards the son of one of the most outspoken managers in football history, in fact, his understated and underwhelming demeanour are just some of the contributing factors that make managers like him essential in the rebuilding process of English football.
It’s fair to say Derby County were at rock bottom when Nigel Clough took over from the calamitous Paul Jewell in 2009. Now the fifth longest serving manager in all four divisions, Clough has (very gradually) completely transformed the clubs fortunes, albeit in his own unassuming way.
Clough’s strong focus on youth has taken time to bear fruit, but he’s now picking some of the ripest young talent from the tree in home grown quality players like Jeff Hendrick, Mason Bennett and the supremely talented England U21 international Will Hughes (remember the name). This is no surprise given that many of his backroom staff have strong affiliations to the club, (Darren Wassall, Craig Short, Andy Garner and Martin Taylor are all ex players) something of a rarity these days in the detached relationship between club and fans. Clough even takes the time to run the line for his son’s team down the local park.
Clough also has somewhat of an incredible UK based player bias, with a passion for developing British talent, very rarely turning to the temptations of bargain basement buys from abroad. Think of that what you will but I for one would prefer to see a young and hungry academy graduate given the chance to prove himself when called upon rather than bringing in cheap options from the continent to plug the gap (we’re entering Paul Jewell territory again).
Often the butt of jokes, Derby County’s restrictive scouting network rarely extends beyond England and Scotland, however, Clough’s ability to spot lower league gems (John Brayford, Kieran Freeman, Michael Jacobs and Craig Bryson to name but a few) on a budget is a skill that most managers simply don’t feel the need to develop nowadays, probably because they can pester the owner to throw a few more million quid their way in the desperate clamber for the big time. It also comes as no surprise that Clough used the least amount of players in the Championship last season with a grand total of 26, keeping faith with what he has to work with and taking the time to develop what he’s got. Compare that to Jewell who signed nearly the same amount of players during his fateful time at the club.
He also lets his players know he’s the boss. In a time when player power borders on the ridiculous, Clough is not afraid to remind his employees who’s in charge if they don’t toe the line. Just ask Theo Robinson who was swiftly dropped and shipped out on loan for tweeting the fact he wasn’t in the starting line-up before the team was officially announced to the press. A man of principles, much like his father. Add to all this the fact that Derby County are now playing some off their most attacking and attractive football in years, instilling a philosophy that made Nigel such a great player to watch during his playing days.
I don’t claim to profess that Nigel Clough is the most tactically gifted manager in the world, far from it, he makes mistakes on the pitch of that there’s no doubt (remember his only previous management job was at non-league Burton Albion) however, his passion for the club and desire to lay long term foundations is unquestionable.
The foreseeable future for Derby County Football Club is very, very bright, every club needs a Nigel Clough, the fate of our national team depends on it.