New e-book taster brings together some classic Cloughie stories

Nottingham Forest and Derby fans have been paying tribute to the memory of Brian Clough in the last few days, 10 years on from his death at the age of 69 on September 20, 2003.  

Supporters set aside their differences joined in a minute's applause when the East Midlands rivals met at the City Ground while at Forest's match with Fulham last week, the players entered the field with a guard of honour made up of Forest season ticket holders, all dressed in the green sweatshirt that was the great manager's matchday uniform.

Hundreds of Forest fans at the Capital One Cup match against Tottenham wore green sweatshirts provided by the competition sponsors, who are based in Nottingham.

Everyone who encountered Cloughie seems to have a favourite story about him, among them the Midlands journalist Dave Armitage, who gathered together 150 of them -- some of his own and a great many shared by others -- in a book cleverly titled 150 BC and had enough left over to follow up with a second volume, Clough Confidential.

Both are now available as Kindle e-books.  Alternatively, readers can sample a flavour of both books in Clough Gold, which draws on both in a collection of 50 stories as a taste of the entertainment on offer in the full versions.

Armitage has been covering football in the Midlands since the 1980s and was still a young and inexperienced reporter when he set foot in Clough's office at the City Ground for the first time.  Subsequently, he became on good enough terms with the maverick manager to be invited to his home in Derbyshire, although not on the occasion of one his own personal Clough stories.

That was the time he surprised Clough with an unusual gift of a couple of packets of seeds.  They were for a variety of sweet pea named 'Brian Clough' that he had spotted at the Shrewsbury Flower Show.  The young Armitage feared the gift might bring him only ridicule but in fact it was accepted graciously and gratefully by Clough, who recalled being asked some years earlier for permission to use his name and how beautiful the blooms were.

Months later, Clough spotted Armitage in the City Ground car park and hailed him in customary style. "Hey, shithouse," he said. "My missus was talking about you this morning.  You know those sweet peas you gave me.  She's grown them all up the back of our house and they are absolutely beautiful.

"She said 'You ought to ask that nice young man around to come and see them now they're out.'

"'Hey', I told her, 'I'm not having shithouse reporters up at my house'.  But thanks very much anyway!"

Clough Gold is available from Amazon as a Kindle e-book

Buy 150 BC from Amazon, Waterstones or WHSmith.

Buy Clough Confidential from Amazon or Waterstones.



FA Cup memories recreate the experience of bygone eras on and off the field

Books that fall into the category of football nostalgia can sometimes become a little tedious, particularly if the author is simply banging on about how the game was better in 'his' time and it is clear that his view of the past comes with a filter for the bad bits.

Readers might be forgiven for expecting Matthew Eastley's two-volume offering to be more of the same, a lament for a lost era by a writer who finds it impossible to see any virtue in the football of today.

But to suggest that Eastley's look back on the FA Cup finals in the 60s and 70s -- there is another about the 80s on the way -- amounts merely to an outpouring of discontent at the decline of a football institution would do his work an enormous disservice.

A corporate journalist by profession, and a lifelong Charlton Athletic fan, Eastley has told the story of two decades of Cup finals not by rehashing the well-worn details of what happened on the field but by revisiting each match through the memories of supporters who were there and for whom the occasion remains a highlight of their lives.

It is true that there is an element of 'things were better then' in his tone.  He notes that the FA Cup once occupied such a special place in the national psyche that people would dress up just to watch the final on the television and clearly feels a little sad that this is no longer the case. "In 1974, just after we had acquired our first colour television, my grandfather came over wearing a suit and tie, because it was FA Cup final day," he says.

You can't dispute Eastley's assertion that the Cup final stopped the nation, an event regarded as so important in the calendar that it would probably need war to break out for it not to be the lead story on the teatime television news.  Nor can you quibble with the fact that nowadays the teatime news is done and dusted almost before the Cup final gets under way, the traditional 3pm kick-off time seemingly consigned to history in the interests of TV scheduling.

Yet he has gone way beyond writing a book that is merely a feature-length grumble.  He has taken the Cup finals of both decades and constructed a back story for each one, based on countless hours of interviews with fans and extensive research, interweaving the fans' stories, some of them joyful, some deeply poignant, with the action from the game and all manner of other material, from snippets of family history to the music that was topping the charts.

The end result is fascinating and engagingly readable, a piece of social history as well as a football book and a credit to the author's journalistic skills.

From Barry Stobart to Neil Young: When the FA Cup Really Mattered: Volume 1 - The 1960s, by Matthew Eastley (Pitch Publishing).  Buy from Amazon , Waterstones or WHSmith.

From Ronnie Radford to Roger Osborne: When the FA Cup Really Mattered: Volume 2 - The 1970s, by Matthew Eastley (Pitch Publishing). Buy from Amazon, Waterstones or WHSmith.



Pietersen in profile: a dispassionate view ahead of the controversial star's own version of events

Kevin Pietersen's autobiography is due out next month, with a promise to reveal the detail of his parting of the ways with the England cricket team, until now shackled by the confidentiality clause that accompanied his dismissal.  Its impending publication has been a long time in the public domain, allowing rival publishers to offer something by way of competition.

More often than not, such spoilers are barely worthy of mention, old material rehashed in haste by a writer with no sources of information beyond a pile of newspaper cuttings or, these days, whatever he can turn up on Google.

Simon Wilde's book, On Pietersen: The Making of KP, is considerably better than that, being not so much a biography as an appraisal, in the form of a series of essays, by the Sunday Times cricket correspondent, who has reported on Pietersen's career in its entirety, certainly since he first crossed England's radar, and has diligently gone back to many of the coaches and fellow players who worked with the South African-born star in the days when a future with the Three Lions tattooed on his arm was not even a dream.

Each essay has a theme, some relating to aspects of Pietersen's character, others to his cricket in technical terms, such as his weakness against left-arm spin or his invention of new shots.  The format enables Wilde to cover all the significant moments in Pietersen's career and relate them to others.  It works very well.

No cricketer in recent times has intrigued and infuriated to the same degree as Pietersen and Wilde makes an honest attempt to understand the complexities of his personality.  It is a balanced account that acknowledges that he could be a divisive and disruptive presence but which also offers sympathy for him and a regret that he would ultimately prove too difficult for England to manage.

Simon Wilde is the author of several excellent cricket books, including objective portraits of Ian Botham and Shane Warne.

Buy On Pietersen: The Making of KP (Simon & Schuster) from AmazonWaterstones or WHSmith.