Extraordinary book about extraordinary times recreates the golden era of Nottingham Forest

A guest review by Jeremy Culley, editor of www.lostintheforest-nffc.co.uk

ALL clubs with distant glories are beset by the same problem.

Younger fans are forced to cling to past triumphs of which they have no recollection, experiencing a mixture of frustration at missing out and blissful ignorance of just how bad the current crop are compared with the stars of yesteryear.

In the same way that those of a certain vintage describe their partying days in the 1960s and 70s with wistful smiles and glints in their eyes, older Forest fans turn to children and grandchildren and say: "I've been there and done it all, me. Munich, Madrid the lot."

Sadly for those fascinated by their ancestors' memories of European Cup and Wembley success, their own tales of watching Forest away may extend no further than Yeovil, Grimsby and Woking in the LDV Vans Trophy.

Daniel Taylor has done much to ease their annoyance, however.

'I Believe in Miracles: The Remarkable Story of Brian Clough's European Cup-Winning Team' recounts the glory days of the late 1970s and early 1980s so skilfully and vividly readers almost feel they didn't miss out at all.

Told through the eyes of the players who made it all happen, the eccentricities and magic of Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor are revealed in all their glory.

And lifelong Forest fan Taylor, who writes for The Guardian, manages to weave together the comic and maverick side with the impact the astonishing achievements of Forest at that time had on the wider city of Nottingham.

He vividly portrays a crumbling provincial club with a disenchanted fanbase living in a city rife with growing post-industrial social problems.

Brian Clough's unique management style transformed Nottingham Forest
Brian Clough's unique management
style transformed Nottingham Forest
But then in sweeps Brian Clough, a manager whose potential brilliance is without question but one whose career hangs in the balance after a disastrous spell as Don Revie's successor at Leeds United.

He shakes down and reinvigorates some of the club’s journeyman stars, transforming the careers of Martin O’Neill and Ian Bowyer, and moving portly winger John Robertson away from chip shops and chain smoking to scoring the winner in the European Cup final at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.

The achievements are widely known but the anecdotes from the players involved are not.

And Taylor brings them together wonderfully, illustrating the fearless spirit in the Forest camp.

A brilliant story comes from Larry Lloyd, a towering centre-half from Liverpool and a slightly opinionated character with whom Clough perennially clashed.

David Needham had been signed from Notts County as cover when Lloyd became injured and performed so extraordinarily well that his more renowned teammate faced a battle to get back into the side.

Clough dealt with it in the expert way only he could: by making them both feel a million dollars.

Watch the goals from Forest's 1978-79 European Cup campaign

The team was announced and Lloyd was in it.

Clough told Needham: “David, you’re probably wondering why I’ve left you out and you’re entitled to. David you’ve done ever so well since I bought you. You know you’ve done brilliantly and I can’t fault you. David you’re a lovely boy. If my daughter were looking to bring home a man to marry, you’d be that man. You’re that nice I’d have you as a son-in-law.

“You see him over there, Larry Lloyd? I hate that f***ing b*****d. Absolutely hate him. And that David is why you’re not in the team. You’re not a b*****d like Larry Lloyd. And son, I want a b*****d in my defence.”

Another story is how Forest were taken to an FA Cup replay with Queens Park Rangers.

The inability to finish off the Hoops had the regrettable effect of cutting short a Spanish getaway for Clough.

In the run-up to the match, there was no sign of Old Big ‘Ead until five minutes before kick-off.

Lloyd recalls: “There he was, tanned and healthy, but with a face like thunder. ‘You f***ing b*****ds’ he shouted. ‘You’ve dragged me back from Majorca to get you through this FA Cup tie against a load of s*** from London’.”

Forest won the match 3-1.

Watch the goals from Forest's 1979-80 European Cup campaign

Clough was not like most managers, taking his players for walks in the park rather than training in European stadia, and keeping them up late drinking wine and playing cards instead of sleeping before a big match.

And author Taylor, in a more subtle way, has written something unlike most football books of its kind.

Released to accompany the film of the same name, it reads as if the players have gathered in a living room or cosy bar to share anecdotes over some scotch or a bottle of wine.

It is not a biographical or historical account of Forest’s greatest triumphs, but an intimate, charming and incredibly funny insight.

Buy I Believe in Miracles: The Remarkable Story of Brian Clough's European Cup-Winning Team, by Daniel Taylor (Headline)


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