“I’M not equipped to manage successfully without Peter Taylor. I am the shop window and he is the goods.” Brian Clough.
As a number two you’re never going to go down in the history books as the man who delivered trophy-after-trophy to your club or had your name sang by the rapturous crowd, but those who really know the game will appreciate what you bring to the table.
Was there ever a better number two than Peter Taylor? Brian Clough is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating characters in football history, but every great man needs a rock behind them and that’s exactly where Taylor, who died today in 1990, came in.
Whereas Cloughy has had stands, trophies and roads named after him and books written and movies made about his life, Taylor’s role in their partnership has largely gone criminally ignored.
As a player, Taylor’s career was no great shakes. He played less than 250 games as a goalkeeper for Coventry, Middlesbrough and Port Vale before hanging up his gloves and taking charge of Burton Albion in 1962.
The most significant period of his career was his spell at Boro where he met an up-and-coming striker who went by the name of Brian Clough. When Cloughy’s career was curtailed by injury he took over as manager of Hartlepool and Taylor was quick to join him.
They quickly established a successful partnership, and soon found themselves at Derby County, where they won promotion to the First Division in 1969 and won the title two years later.
After Cloughy’s mouth got him the sling at the Baseball Ground the pair joined Third Division Brighton. After eight months Clough left to replace Don Revie for an ill-fated 44-day spell at Leeds United, but Taylor stayed on the south coast, building a team that won promotion the season after he left to join Clough at Forest.
Clough and Taylor’s time at Forest is the stuff of legends. In the first season after winning promotion to the First Division, Forest romped home to the title, finishing seven points clear of runners-up Liverpool. The next season they won the European Cup and would go on to defend it the year after, going down in history as the only club in Europe that has won the European Cup more times than their domestic league.
This, however, proved to be the peak of the pair’s relationship. After relations began to degenerate,
Clough and Taylor had an almighty falling out following the publication of Taylor’s autobiography in 1980, that was entitled “With Clough by Taylor”. Cloughy was incensed that Taylor had not consulted him over the book, and when Taylor became manager of Derby, Forest’s biggest rivals, and commenced to try and sign some of his players, Clough was incensed, seeing this as the ultimate act of betrayal.
The managerial pairing that had seen Clough established as one of football’s greatest ever bosses was no more. Taylor once described his end of the deal thusly: “We just gelled together, we filled in the gaps… My strength was buying and selecting the right player, then Brian’s man management would shape the player.”
Following the falling out, the pair would never speak again, and Clough’s Forest side would never hit the heights of the halcyon days of his partnership with Taylor. In the year before he died, Taylor wrote an article stating that Clough should retire gracefully, before he was either forced out by his chairman or his ill-health got the better of him. As he was so often during their partnership, Taylor proved to be right. Clough, meanwhile, typically understated that Taylor’s comments were not fit to be in the “wrapper that we used to eat fish and chips in Middlesbrough.”
Taylor died suddenly, aged 62, whilst on holiday in Majorca. When Clough was told of his death on the telephone he fell silent, hung up and cried heavily. Clough attended Taylor’s funeral and later dedicated his 1994 autobiography to his former assistant. “To Peter,” it read. “Still miss you badly. You once said: ‘When you get shot of me there won’t be as much laughter in your life.’ You were right.”
We’ll raise a glass to one of football’s greatest ever number two’s tonight, so enjoy this footage of his greatest ever triumph.
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