With hours until the Young Lions face Scotland, Head Coach Kenny Swain recalls life with Cloughie.
Scotland U16 v England U16
Sky Sports Victory Shield
7.45pm, Thursday 29 November 2007
The Falkirk Stadium, Falkirk FC
£5 for adults, £2 for U16s, all pay on the night
He rubbed shoulders with Muhammad Ali and Frank Sinatra, famously dismantled Don Revie's desk with an axe and worked miracles with Nottingham Forest - no wonder Brian Clough is still revered.
Two European Cups, League Championships with Forest and Derby, Clough's trophy haul is almost as well-known as his innate ability to get the best out of players who were in the twilight of their careers.
Kenny Swain found himself in that position. The England U16 Head Coach feared his career was disappearing in front of his eyes after finding himself languishing in Aston Villa’s reserves in the 1982/3 season - quite a fall from grace considering he lifted the European Cup less than 12 months earlier.
Fortunately for Swain, one man still had faith in his ability and after watching him play for Villa’s second string, snapped him up on loan, a move which would eventually be made permanent.
"I had heard Everton were looking at me," recalled Swain, a lifetime Toffees fan. "But I couldn't believe it when Cloughie was there.
"After we spoke he said ‘you know where the ground is don’t you?' I said ‘yeah, I’ve played there a few times’. He said ‘good, see you on Friday’.
"I just got straight into it. From being out the team and thinking your career was over to a new challenge, new players, new atmosphere, new regime. It was like being a kid again. I loved it."
The highlight of Swain’s time at Forest, where he made more than 100 appearances spanning three years, was their run in the UEFA Cup which ended in controversial fashion in 1984.
Facing Anderlecht in the Semi-Finals, Forest were just 90 minutes away from the Final after beating the Belgians 2-0 at the City Ground in the first leg, Steve Hodge scoring both the goals.
But the tie was far from over as Anderlecht, inspired by Enzo Scifo, conjured up three goals to complete a dramatic turnaround. Forest’s players were incensed at full-time, particularly Swain who was harshly penalised for a foul which resulted in a penalty.
"It was not a penalty," he said. "He got round the backside of me and went flying, but I never touched him. I was really careful not to touch him.
"In the last minute Paul Hart crashed in a header but it was disallowed. We were chasing the referee. Seconds later we were out. We could not believe it. Two awful decisions. Cloughie thought there was something fishy going on."
And Clough, as he loved telling people, was right. It later emerged the referee from that night was bribed by the Anderlecht Chairman.
"The irony for me was that Parksy (FA Assistant National Goalkeeping Coach Tony Parks) saved two penalties against Anderlecht in the Final," said Swain. "Had results been different it could have been Tottenham v Forest and we would have been looking forward to another trophy in the cabinet."
Most of the trophies at the City Ground were won by Clough, the most famous of which were his successive European Cup wins. One of the most revered managers in English football, Swain smiles when he looks back on his time with Clough.
"He was brilliant," said Swain. "I loved it at Forest. He was one of the top influences in my life. He was very kind to my family and was very good to me. I got on great with him.
"I found it easy to work for him. He was fair, he was hard, he was a lion but totally unique in his character. This was natural. He was the genuine article."
What made Clough so special?
"He smelt rubbish from a mile off," said Swain. "He was genuine and could see through motives and egos. He had no time for that. He was a great motivator. You never looked at it as motivation, it was only when you looked back at it.
"He never took a coaching session. He took a warm up one day when we played tag and did a few skips, hops and relays.
"It was the happiest three years of my career. Every day was a joy. You didn’t know what to expect."
Clough placed a huge importance on family. Indeed, when Swain first met Clough the Forest boss insisted on being introduced to his wife. Clough also gave the players the chance to bring their wives on European trips, even subsidising travel.
After one trip, where Mrs Swain spent time looking after Clough’s daughter, Swain left a cheque with the club secretary to pay for his wife’s trip. When he returned from training, he found the cheque ripped up and left in his pocket.
"That’s what he was like," said Swain. "He said ‘call it baby-sitting fees’."
Swain left the City Ground with a heavy heart in 1985. Having become a bit-part player, the promise of first-team football at Portsmouth was too good an opportunity to refuse, particularly at 33.
"Cloughie and I shook hands and he said come and have Sunday lunch with his family," said Swain. "We went back to his house afterwards. It was a hot summer’s day. We watched the cricket, me in shirt and tie while he was in his shorts and his green top. He opened a bottle of champagne.
"We talked about my time there and every now and again he’d look at the television and say ‘this bloke can’t bowl for tuppence’. It was like that for a few hours. He said keep in touch and wished me good luck. I was in tears though. He gave me a big kiss when I left.
"I went to see him at the team hotel when they played Southampton that year. As a thank you I bought him this big boxed set called ‘Frank Sinatra – The Capitol Years’. I knew he loved Sinatra.
"The day I went to his house for lunch he showed me his dining room. On the wall it had a signed picture of him with Muhammad Ali. He also had this signed picture of him with Frank Sinatra, signed ‘to Old Big Head, from Ol' Blue Eyes’. How good is that?"
Kenny Swain won the European Cup with Aston Villa in 1982 - click here to read his thoughts on that historic night.