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I Believe In Miracles

Brian Clough stand

This is a sequel, of sorts, to Fairytale Adventures. Ella Reilly, occasional guest poster here at ITBOTN, noted that comparing Leicester City to the original miracle side, Clough & Taylor’s Nottingham Forest of the late 1970’s, was apt. But, she said they really deserved their own post. So here it is.

In January 1975, Division Two side Nottingham Forest appointed Brian Clough as manager. By 1980 they’d won almost everything.

Lets put it in perspective. Last season Huddersfield Town finished 16th in the Championship (the retitled Division Two). To emulate Forest’s success, this season they would have to finish eighth. Next season they would have to win the Championship. Then, in their first season back in the top flight, they’d have to win the Premier League. Then win the Champions League the year after. And retain it the following season. Without finishing lower than 5th in the Premier League.

Currently, Huddersfield are 18th in the Championship. It’s almost impossible to imagine, isn’t it?

But it happened. Yes, they paid an eye-watering £250,000 for Peter Shilton and spent the first million pounds on a footballer when signing Trevor Francis. But Shilton signed after winning Division Two, Francis after they’d won Division One. In two seasons that brought a league title and then a European Cup, Clough signed six players in total. In comparison, Leicester signed eight players in the 2015 calendar year.

The achievement is often overshadowed, understandably, by the sheer force of personality that was Brian Clough. It’s telling, in documentaries made which look back at their success, his former players refer to him as Mr Clough. Not the gaffer. Not boss. Mr Clough. Enough said, I think.

Watch the side play though. Here at the start of their title winning season. Or here, as they swiped aside that famous Liverpool team. They were astonishingly good footballers, relying on a pace driven passing game that wouldn’t look out of place in the modern era.

Robertson, Woodcock, Withe, O’Neill (and later), Birtles and Francis were all ruthless but also possessed the confidence in each other’s abilities to create great team goals. Not forgetting the defence of veteran Larry Lloyd partnering converted striker Kenny Burns, showing the benefits of having an uncompromising poacher turned gamekeeper at the back. And Viv Anderson, an attack minded defender who’d slot right into the marauding mindset of modern right backs. This wasn’t just a good team. It was a great team. They have the medals to prove it.

It would be unbelievable for Leicester to win the league this year and then go on to dominate the Champions League for the next two years. But it was just as incomprehensible back in 1977 as Forest sat at the summit of the table and refused to give it up.

For more on Forest’s remarkable achievement, go and watch ‘I Believe In Miracles’, a documentary about their miracle run, released last year. For more on Leicester, just keep watching. And believe.

Categories: English/UK Football

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John Palethorpe

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