What is it about Brian Clough that you find so inspiring?
Cloughie was the most charismatic manager football has ever known. He had an aura around him. Even people with no interest in football were fascinated by what he said. He spoke his mind and his unpredictability kept everyone on their toes, including his players.
As a journalist, it was a fantastic experience to interview him – you never knew what he was going to say next. But what he said would give you material that was like gold-dust. I’m looking forward to sharing some of those memories at the book festival. His achievements speak for themselves. We’ll never see his like again.
How long have you been writing about him?
That’s an interesting question because, as I’ll explain at the book festival, my first written work about Cloughie dates back to when I was a schoolboy, about nine years old. I suppose that’s an indication of how long ago my interest in him actually began.
When you met him in the flesh, did the man measure up to the legend?
Absolutely. In fact, even more so. They say it’s not a good idea to meet your heroes, because often they don’t live up to your expectations. But that was never the case for me and Brian Clough.
I met him on a number of occasions, both as a fan and a journalist, and was never disappointed. He gave me a big hug when I met him at a personal appearance and he gave me priceless quotes when I interviewed him.
What is the most rewarding thing about such focused research?
It’s great to discover stories and quotes buried away in the archives and then turn them into something people want to read and enjoy.
When Amberley Publishers asked me to write Brian Clough Fifty Defining Fixtures I knew the research would be a huge challenge because of the different football clubs he was associated with over a period of nearly four decades.
It was really rewarding to piece it together, find more great quotes from the archives, and put the matches into the context of his overall career too.
What do you find challenging about writing biographies?
I think one of the most challenging parts is discovering lots different pieces of information, either through research or interviews, and then putting them altogether into a coherent and entertaining format that readers will enjoy. And it’s also one of the most enjoyable parts of writing.
If you had to choose another figure to write about, who would it be?
I was the ghost-writer for a book telling the story of one of Brian Clough’s close friends and it was a project that I really enjoyed.
So I’d like to ghost-write another biography sometime, with someone who has another fascinating tale to tell.
Are there any other biographers whose work you particularly admire?
I really enjoyed another Clough biography called ‘His Way’ by journalist Pat Murphy.
Who would you like to write the biography of your own life?
That’s an interesting question! Collaborating over a biography involves a huge amount of trust between the subject and the writer.
The journalist John Lawson, who has now retired, won the trust of Brian Clough when he worked as a newspaper reporter. If John was to return from retirement, he would be my choice because he wrote so well and had great integrity.
Is football your first love or do you have another passion?
I have a soft spot for music from the Eighties. Just recently I’ve been to see some come-back gigs by the likes of the Electric Light Orchestra, Boy George with Culture Club, Rick Astley and ABC. Great memories.
Which book deserves more readers?
I’ve recently finished the autobiography of Trevor Francis, Cloughie’s £1M signing and the scorer of the winning goal in Nottingham Forest’s European Cup victory in Munich forty years ago. It’s called One in a Million and is a real eye-opener, especially with the tales from his managerial career.
Who or what are you most looking forward to seeing at Newark Book Festival?
It will be fantastic to return to Newark, the town where I started as a reporter for The Newark Advertiser more than thirty years ago. I had a great time there and was named Midlands Sports Reporter of the Year.
The National Civil War Centre, where ‘In The Top One’ is being held, is just up the road from the old Advertiser offices. So it’ll bring back some marvellous memories.