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In Their Fathers’ Footsteps

When Paul Ince was appointed manager of Blackburn Rovers in June 2008, there were a flurry of articles about Alex Ferguson’s influence on several high profile or upcoming managers who had previously played under his management.

For example, TimesOnline had this to say:

Ince becomes the fourth of Ferguson’s United old boys to take charge of a Barclays Premier League team next season, joining Mark Hughes at Manchester City, Roy Keane at Sunderland and Steve Bruce at Wigan Athletic. Look down the leagues and you will see Darren Ferguson, Sir Alex’s son, at Peterborough United, Mark Robins at Rotherham United and Simon Davies at Chester City. Take into account his time at Aberdeen and you can add Alex McLeish at Birmingham City, Gordon Strachan at Celtic, Mark McGhee at Motherwell and Neale Cooper at Peterhead.

Look farther afield and there is Laurent Blanc at Bordeaux and Henning Berg at Lyn Oslo.  ….

In January last year, following Alex McLeish’s appointment as manager of Birmingham City, a writer on FootballFancast sought to answer the question “What is Sir Alex Ferguson’s real legacy to the football world?”

Several of the examples given in the two articles above were always questionable – either the player did not play under Manager Mentor (MM) Ferguson for long or for much of their career (for example Simon Davies, Mark Robins, Laurent Blanc, even Mark Hughes), or the player had a difficult relationship with Ferguson, and was sold by MM well before the end of their playing career (for example, Paul Ince and Gordon Strachan).

The reflected glow on Ferguson as mentor, especially in relation to his four “proteges” who were managing in the Premier League, has also lost much of its shine over the past month or so, with Roy Keane resigning, and Paul Ince sacked, due to poor results, and Hughes under pressure at Manchester City, where despite the club spending lavishly, the team has been highly inconsistent and have struggled in both league and cup competition.

Steve Bruce, the remaining “protege” in the Premier League, has managed several clubs in his managerial career, and although he has largely shown himself to be a competent manager, he has never looked likely to scale the heights of greatness. The same can be said of Mark McGhee with Motherwell in Scotland.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the “protege” manager who has achieved the most over the past couple of seasons is Alex’s son, Darren.

Having taken over at Peterborough United on 20 January 2007 with the club in 10th place in League Two (the fourth tier of English football), the younger Ferguson led Peterborough to automatic promotion the following season, just behind the champions, Milton Keynes Dons, then managed by Paul Ince.

Fortunately for Darren, he wasn’t poached by a bigger club, and has been able to consolidate his progress at Peterborough – this season, they have been challenging in League One for successive promotions, and are still in the FA Cup, after earning a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion of the Premier League.

Another outstanding manager over the past 40 years was Brian Clough, one of only two managers to win the title with two different clubs (Derby County in 1972 and Nottingham Forest in 1978 ) in that period (the other being Kenny Dalglish), and who led Nottingham Forest to successive European Cup triumphs, in 1978 and 1979.

Unlike Dalglish, Brian Clough twice took over at clubs struggling in the Second Division, and without rich owners funding the purchase of expensive players, before turning them into title winning sides that went on to achieve a great deal in the European Cup. Even Derby County:

The following season Derby reached the semi-finals of the European Cup, but were knocked out by Juventus 3–1 on aggregate in very controversial circumstances. It later emerged that the West German referee had received gifts from the Italian side before the match. Clough himself accused the Juventus team of being “cheating bastards” and then questioned the Italian nation’s courage in the Second World War.

Darren Ferguson, like his father, had a mediocre playing career. On the other hand, Nigel Clough, like his father, was a talented footballer.

Brian Clough scored 197 goals in 213 league matches for Middlesbrough between 1955 and 1961. “He then signed for Sunderland and scored 54 goals in 61 league games. Unfortunately for Clough on 26 December 1962, he injured his knee during a match against Bury after colliding with the goalkeeper. It turned out to be a cruciate ligament injury, which usually ended a player’s career [in those days].”

While Brian Clough won only 2 England caps, Nigel Clough played 14 times for England. He enjoyed a degree of success at Nottingham Forest, and for whom he is the club’s second highest goalscorer of all time, before moving to Liverpool. Like Darren Ferguson at Manchester United, Nigel Clough played under his father’s management at Nottingham Forest.

Nigel Clough had been manager of Burton Albion since 1998. He led them into the Conference National in 2002, and to top spot in Conference National this season, where they currently have a 13-point lead.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Nigel Clough was appointed manager of Derby County on Tuesday (6 January 2009).

Brian, who died in 2004, took the club from the old Second Division to become champions of England and European Cup semi-finalists during his spell in charge between 1967 and 1973.

The Rams, relegated from the Premier League last season, are currently five points above the Championship relegation zone.

Nigel Clough watched his new club beat Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United 1-0 on Wednesday in the first leg of the League Cup semi-finals.

Watch a young Nigel Clough in action in the clip below (at 5 mins 41 secs):


2 thoughts on “In Their Fathers’ Footsteps

  1. Several asides:

    • Simon Davies was sacked as manager of Chester City in November 2008, but he was subsequently re-appointed as youth team coach.

    • Mark Robins’ achievements at Rotherham United should not be under-estimated. He took over at a club in deep financial trouble, and which incurred points deductions in three successive seasons (10 points deducted in the past two seasons, and 17 points this season), and has led them to relative safety.

    • Nigel Clough’s replacement as manager of Burton Albion is Roy McFarland, one of Brian Clough’s first signings after he took over at Derby County in 1967. McFarland played 434 times for Derby between 1967 and 1981. McFarland also had a stint as manager of Derby from 1993 to 1995.

    • Perhaps the most successful Ferguson or Clough protege is Martin O’Neill, who played under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest from 1975 to 1981, and after successful spells at Leicester City and Celtic, has now led Aston Villa into the top four in Premier League.

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