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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Chris Beesley

Everton exposed why Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest were heading for Premier League extinction

Everton’s first clash with Nottingham Forest for over two decades plus this week’s 30th anniversary commemorations of the Premier League kicking off bring back memories of a dramatic clash at Goodison Park from that season when time was finally running out for the visitors’ legendary manager Brian Clough. Regarded by many as the greatest English football boss of all-time – and surely one of the most entertaining with his indomitable character that made him a true one off – Clough steered not one but two provincial and previously unfashionable East Midlands outfits (Derby County and then Forest) to the first League Championships in their respective histories while adding a brace of European Cups and quartet of League Cups with the latter.

However, by the time of the Premier League’s inaugural campaign, the old magic that “Cloughie” had for so long possessed, was rapidly starting to wane. Forest lost their pacy England defender Des Walker to Serie A side Sampdoria on the eve of the 1992/93 season while striker Teddy Sheringham was sold to Tottenham Hotspur just a week after netting the winning goal at home to Liverpool in their opening match of the campaign.

The team started to slide, and with the pressures of the job and his hard-drinking etched upon their manager’s florid face, Forest sunk into the drop zone. Several years later, Clough would state: “If I had not been drinking I’m convinced they wouldn’t have been relegated, although I don’t believe that was the only reason.”

Indeed, after Forest were swept aside 3-0 in a first half blitz by Everton on March 13, 1993, their manager’s idealistic but seemingly old-fashioned methods were coming under intense scrutiny. Three years earlier, Forest had been thrashed 4-0 at Goodison in a midweek match televised on ITV and when being broadcast live to the nation in the tunnel afterwards, Clough shocked his interviewer Gary Newbon by ending their conversation with a kiss on the cheek.

While Clough probably had his tongue firmly in his cheek back in 1990 when telling Newbon that he was “a very worried manager because I might be out of work tomorrow”, as the Premier League’s first season drew towards its close, that once seemingly preposterous notion appeared to be advancing towards a distinct possibility as the clock counted down on Forest’s 16-year top flight tenure under him. With Goodison Park bathed in warm sunshine, just a fortnight after Everton’s last Saturday home game against Oldham Athletic was hit by a flurry of snow showers when the hosts had surrendered a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 after a brace in the last three minutes from Blues old boy Neil Adams, captain Dave Watson made the unusual choice of attacking the Gwladys Street in the first half after winning the toss and it proved to be an inspired decision.

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Tony Cottee made no mistake in the 15th minute when Matt Jackson made a probing run into the penalty area on to Mark Ward’s pass. Brian Laws looked to have won the challenge but Jackson recovered the ball back to an unmarked Cottee who hammered his shot high into the net.

Cottee then struck again just 11 minutes later with a sweet near post header. Andy Hinchcliffe’s deep free-kick from the left was missed by both future Everton defender Carl Tiler and Watson but the ball fell to Ward on the touchline and he clipped a fine cross for Cottee to nod home.

Everton saved their best until last seven minutes before the break with a goal caused by the other big football change for 1992/93, the back pass law. A cross by Ward was volleyed back to goalkeeper Mark Crossley by Tiler and with the ball being picked up, referee Vic Callow immediately awarded Howard Kendall’s side an indirect free-kick inside the area.

Forest lined up almost their entire team on the goal line but Hinchcliffe still found the top corner from 12 yards out after Peter Beardsley had touched the ball to him. Reflecting on Clough’s woes in his Final Word in the ECHO, David Prentice wrote: “No-one ever really had Gordon Lee down as a soccer visionary.

“But when the former Everton boss told us: ‘A team of Mick Lyons would be more successful than a team of Duncan McKenzies’ we should have listened. His theory might not have held water back in the still skill conscious Seventies, but it certainly does now.

“In the nervy Nineties pace and power are more telling qualities than style and grace. But it looks like Lee hasn’t had an audience with Brian Clough for years.

“Still stuck in a pre-long ball and pre- back pass era, Cloughie is convinced that skill alone is enough to succeed in Nineties football. And for once in life he looks like being proved wrong.

“Saturday’s overly one-sided relegation clash underlined the route football is taking. Soccer is slipping into the fast lane – and while it’s been a painful lesson for Everton to learn, they are adapting.

“The return of battlers like Mark Ward and Ian Snodin has enabled the expression of Peter Beardsley – and Everton – to prosper. Fellow stylist Nigel Clough says his own side only know one way to play.

“But their one-way system looks like leading up a calamitous cul-de-sac. They could end up like footballing dinosaurs – an inability to adapt leading to Premier League extinction.”

Everton would finish the first Premier League season in 13th but while they were beating Manchester City 5-2 at Maine Road on the final day, Forest were bowing out of the division with a 2-1 defeat at Ipswich Town having already been relegated after a 2-0 loss at home to Sheffield United the previous weekend when Clough bid an emotional farewell to the fans at the City Ground.

BBC commentator Barry Davies, who like a policewoman when the manager emerged for the game, got a hug from the retiring gaffer, proclaimed: “The man with the green sweater. An embrace for the law on his last home appearance. Whatever his failings, whatever his foibles, he’s been a power of good for the game of football.”


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