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Provided You Don't Kiss Me by Duncan Hamilton

Release date: 04th May, 2007
Publisher: Fourth Estate

List Price: £14.99
Our Price: £8.99
You Save: £6 (40%)
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On Duncan Hamilton's first day as a greenhorn sports journalist, he was detailed to visit Brian Clough's office at Nottingham Forest. He was sixteen and, as the Forest manager caught sight of the new reporter in his midst, he offered him and early morning whiskey; Hamilton politely refused.

Early-morning drinking eventually became an established feature of Clough's tenure at the City Ground, although even as he slowly descended deep into a particularly destructive form of alcoholism, he generally managed to direct a Forest side which frequently exceeded expectations.

In the occasionally Stalin-esque desire to erase everything that happened in football prior to the Premiership's advent, we sometimes overlook Clough's remarkable record. It's worth noting that his Forest side were twice crowned European champions - that's the same number of times as Manchester United have managed it.

Tales of Clough, his management style and his Forest sides are legion, but Hamilton's unique insight into how the man operated over two decades is what makes this book so compelling. Clough once took him aside and said, "Look Duncan, you're a journalist. One day you'll write a book about this club. Or, more to the point, about me. So you may as well know what I'm thinking and save it for later when it won't do any harm to anyone." It's entirely fair to say that Hamilton was one of the few people Clough trusted; indeed, the reader might be left with the impression that this book's content could have comfortably exceeded 250-odd pages.

Clough's abrasive style was not to everyone's liking, a determining factor which prevented him from managing England, but his real talent was his ability to turn journeyman professionals into outstanding performers. Kenny Burns, John McGovern and Archie Gemmill were three such players, although when Clough unearthed genuine talent such as John Robertson or Peter Shilton, he used a mixture of bullying and shoulder-clenching to get the best out of them.

On one occasion, he famously said that Robertson, the Scottish winger prone to carry a bit of weight, was a player who 'lived out of a frying pan' and that he should take the words "professional footballer" off his passport.

Clough always ensured his sides played to their respective strengths, which meant they were not averse to a spot of rough stuff.

Centre back Larry Lloyd used to calculate his disciplinary points on the pitch with fellow defender and hard man Kenny Burns, in order to establish which of them would be least affected before taking an opposing forward out of the game.

However, Hamilton doesn't limit himself to Clough's glory years, for as he deteriorated as a result of his increasingly heavy drinking, so his ability to find adequate replacements to maintain Forest's top-flight status also waned. Nevertheless, he remained a supremely confident man, even after Forest were relegated, but the magic touch had long deserted him - some would say it accelerated once he and Peter Taylor parted company in acrimonious circumstances.

The book's press release refers to it as a 'strikingly intimate portrait' of one of football's most unforgettable characters. At one point in his career, Clough was the managerial embodiment of the football supporter: he said what they were thinking, approached the game in a way they appreciated, but gradually, many in his audience found his drink-fuelled actions and utterances offensive. Hamilton doesn't shirk the opportunity to address this tragic aspect of Clough's career which for once ensures the press release is not simply spin.




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