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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 September, 2004, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
My memories of Cloughie

By Neil Warnock
Sheff Utd boss and BBC Sport columnist

It was obviously a massive loss this week with the news that Brian Clough had died.

It was only a few weeks ago that I was having a dinner with him and a few guests in Sheffield and he was full of himself - the stories were flowing.

It was like a blow when I heard the news that he had passed away.

However, I think it's appropriate that all the stories have come out and everybody's given their own personal memory of Brian. And there have been some crackers.

When I was at Notts County I had four-and-a-half years on the opposite side of the Trent.

Former Nottingham Forest boss Brian Clough
We all just used to be in awe of him, just being in his presence
I had two great afternoons where I was meant to meet him at 12pm for lunch and he turned up about 1.30pm. He'd obviously had other things to do. It was a period when he was drinking quite heavily.

He came rushing in one time, he'd just had a shower to freshen himself up and was full of apologies.

I had four or five hours with him and it was just riveting listening to him and his stories. He actually told me how much he admired me and the job I was doing at Notts County which was just great coming from him.

He thought it was virtually impossible to do what we were doing in getting promotion to the top flight in consecutive seasons.

We used to have a tiny training ground and it was at the side of their 24-acre training ground.

The players would walk alongside the Trent and he'd come across our training pitch with his Labrador dog and his assistant Ronnie Fenton.

He'd just look at us on our small little pitch kicking lumps out of each other and he'd stop and shake his head.

We all just used to be in awe of him, just being in his presence.

I remember when we were in the top flight we actually drew 1-1 at the City Ground. I went in his office afterwards and he was quite astounded we had managed to get a draw because we didn't have anything like the quality they had.

He really appreciated what we were doing with what we had.

I joked with him when he said about keeping the ball on the floor and I'd say that my players at Notts County couldn't pass water let alone anything else and he'd just smile.

My first memory of him was when I was at Scarborough.

His third team played my reserves in a game re-arranged for a Sunday morning. He turned up in his green jumper and sat in the stands.

I was down in the dugout and all of a sudden I could hear someone shouting "Neil, Neil."

The referee had made a couple of bad decisions and he was screaming from the centre stands: "Neil, I think you ought to give him your glasses, young man. "

I also remember I had with me my son James, who I think was four at the time.

I wanted to go and speak to the players, so I left him outside the dressing room.

At the end of half-time I came out and couldn't find James. I was scared stiff, I didn't know where he was.

In the end I wandered towards the manager's office and found James coming towards me.

He was carrying presents like you've never seen. There were Easter eggs, chocolate bars, tractors and all sorts - he couldn't get enough in his arms.

I said to him "I've been frightened to death, where have you been?" and he said "Don't worry, dad, I've just been in Brian's office for a cup of tea."

There was my son at four-and-a-half calling him Brian and I to this day have always called him Mr Clough.

I remember doing a sportsman's dinner with him in Nottingham and he was obviously a bit worse for wear when he arrived. He spoke first and got the place laughing their heads off and I had to follow him.

Silencing Cloughie

It was just after he had slapped a supporter and got fined by the FA.

When I got up to speak he started heckling me from the side table. So I shouted back: "It's all right for some; you smack them round the cheek then give them a kiss and you get away with murder."

The room erupted and he started clapping and said "well done" and never said another word.

So maybe I can claim to be the man who silenced Cloughie.

My favourite story this week has been Martin O'Neill's when he was furious at being dropped into the reserves and he asked Cloughie why he was playing for the reserves.

He responded: "It's quite simple, young man, you're too good to play for the third team!"

Talking to him a few weeks ago I think he realised that this period was the best and I don't think those times will come again.

I don't think he'd get the enjoyment that he got out of the game now because there's too much pressure on everyone and the managers in particular.

Directors are having more of an input and they were not his favourite people.

I hope we have a minute's silence at the weekend
When I saw him recently he was fine and looked fit as anything. He wasn't drinking and said he felt well. He looked really full of himself and he was humorous, as he always was.

There were only 20 of us and I took my son James along.

I told Brian about the story when I was at Scarborough and he put his arm around James and said: "Now then, so you're the young man are you" and they had a good chat.

We had some photos taken of me, James and Brian and I got them signed. They were lovely and I'm so pleased we managed to get them.

The last thing he said to me was "good health and happiness son - see you again" and that was it.





THE NEIL WARNOCK COLUMN

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