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Nigel Howard Clough (born 19 March 1966) is an English professional football manager and former player who was most recently the manager of League One club Burton Albion. Playing predominantly as a forward, but later in his career used as a midfielder, Clough was capped by England 14 times in the early 1990s.
Clough managing Derby County in 2009
|Full name||Nigel Howard Clough|
|Date of birth||19 March 1966|
|Place of birth||Sunderland, England|
|Height||5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)|
|Playing position(s)||Forward, midfielder|
|1983–1984||→ Heanor Town (loan)|
|1996–1997||→ Nottingham Forest (loan)||13||(1)|
|1997||→ Sheffield Wednesday (loan)||1||(0)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Born in Sunderland and raised in Allestree, Derby, Clough is most notable for his time as a player at Nottingham Forest, where he played over 400 times in league, cup and European matches in two separate spells, mostly under the managership of his father Brian Clough, and scored 131 goals throughout his career making him the second highest scorer in the club's history.
He subsequently had spells with Liverpool, Manchester City and Sheffield Wednesday before moving into non-league football at the age of 32 when he became player manager with Southern Football League Premier Division side Burton Albion in 1998. Over the next decade, during half of which he continued to play a regular role on the field, Clough took Burton up from the seventh tier of the English football league system to the brink of promotion to League Two. He left halfway through the 2008–09 season to follow in his father's footsteps and take over at Derby County, where he served for four years until his dismissal in September 2013. He was appointed as manager of Sheffield United in October 2013, pulling them out of the relegation zone and taking them to FA Cup and League Cup semi-finals. He was later dismissed from the role in May 2015.
Clough returned to Burton Albion for a second spell as manager in December 2015, leading them to promotion to the Championship for the first time in the club's history in May 2016 and the League Cup semi-final in January 2019. Clough stepped down as Burton manager four years later in May 2020 due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the club.
Clough joined Nottingham Forest as an apprentice on leaving school in 1982 but left after two seasons to sign for non-league Heanor Town, but was back at the City Ground on a professional contract in December 1984. He became a regular player in the 1985–86 season, being Forest's top scorer with 15 goals in the First Division to help them finish eighth in the league, a position they repeated the following season when he found the net 14 times in the First Division.
In April 1988, he was the subject of a £1.5 million bid from Italian side Pisa, but the bid was turned down and Clough remained at Forest, who finished third that season and the season after. He remained among Forest's top goalscorers for a further five seasons, helping them win the League Cup in 1989 and 1990 and the Full Members' Cup in 1989. They were also FA Cup semi-finalists in 1988 and 1989 and runners-up in 1991. Clough also contributed to Forest winning the last-ever Full Members Cup in 1992. They also reached another League Cup final that season, but lost to Manchester United. Clough was Forest's top scorer in 1992–93 with ten goals in the new Premier League, but Forest were relegated, following which his father Brian retired after 18 years as manager. Towards the end of the season, he was used as a centre-back on several occasions.
Clough was widely expected to leave Forest in order to continue playing Premier League football, and was sold to Liverpool that summer for £2.75million. At the time, he was one of the most expensive players ever to be signed by Liverpool, who had finished a disappointing sixth in the new Premier League having been the dominant English club side of the last 20 years of the old First Division.
Clough scored twice on his debut for Liverpool against Sheffield Wednesday on 14 August 1993. He had found the net four times for the Reds by the end of August 1993, but by Christmas had found himself struggling for a first team place after the emergence of 18-year-old Robbie Fowler alongside Ian Rush in the Liverpool attack. Liverpool were also enduring another disappointing season in the league, which led to the resignation of Graeme Souness as manager at the end of January 1994 and the appointment of coach Roy Evans as his successor.
Clough did manage to find the net three more times that season, his final two goals coming on 4 January 1994 when he scored twice against Manchester United at Anfield, when Liverpool came from three goals down to draw 3–3. However, the continuing effectiveness of Fowler and Rush in attack meant that Clough made only a handful of appearances for the Reds in 1994–95, and was not in their League Cup winning side. He finally left Anfield in January 1996.
He signed for Premier League relegation battlers Manchester City for £1.5million. Clough played in all of Manchester City's remaining 15 league appearances after his arrival at Maine Road, scoring twice, but could not stave off relegation and shortly afterwards he lost his place in the team due to injury.
He returned to Nottingham Forest on loan in December 1996, when Stuart Pearce became manager on an interim basis after the departure of Frank Clark. He scored once against Leicester City in 13 league games before returning to Manchester City. He did not play for the club again.
He made another Premier League comeback in the 1997–98 season when he was loaned to struggling Sheffield Wednesday. His only league game for the South Yorkshire club was a 5–2 home defeat by Derby County (he also played in a League Cup tie against Grimsby Town). When City were relegated to Division Two at the end of the 1997–98 season, Clough was given a free transfer and his senior football career was over at the age of 32.
After playing 15 times for the England under-21 side from 1986 to 1988, scoring three goals, Clough finally made his senior international debut on 23 May 1989 against Chile at the age of 23. He made the final full international appearance of his career on 19 June 1993 against Germany. By this time, he had been capped 14 times by England at senior level, but failed to score.
Having passed his 32nd birthday, Clough was still registered as a player which possibly explained his apparent lack of ambition to move into League management (his father bitterly lamented the premature curtailment of his own playing career). However, Clough had not played regularly for Burton since the early stages of the 2005–06 season, though he did play in the team's 6–3 win over Sutton Coldfield Town in the Birmingham Senior Cup on 27 October 2008. His final senior appearance for Burton came in the league against Droylsden on 12 February 2008, his only appearance of the season.
In January 2006, Burton, then in the Conference, held Manchester United to a 0–0 draw in the third round of the FA Cup. The United team featured Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Louis Saha, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney introduced as second-half substitutes. Burton midfielder Chris Hall said: "After the match, the press were buzzing... but we had a local cup game, against Stourbridge, I think, and the gaffer only wanted to focus on that.... With his playing career, he was used to the publicity... It was brilliant and it was quite a breath of fresh air, but at the same time, the gaffer kept us grounded". In the replay at Old Trafford, Burton were beaten 5–0, but earned a reported £600,000 in the process.
Clough won the Conference Premier Manager of the Month for December 2008, after completing 11 straight wins in the division and guiding Burton to 13 points clear at the top of the table.
On 5 January 2009 he was officially approached by Derby County, one of the clubs his father had previously managed, to take over as their manager as a replacement for Paul Jewell. He was appointed the next day, prior to his taking charge, on 8 January, Academy Head Coach David Lowe guided Derby to a victory over Manchester United 1–0 in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final. Clough's first victory in charge of The Rams came on 31 January 2009, when Derby beat Coventry City 2–1. Results improved after Clough's arrival, with a run of four consecutive wins. However, a series of injuries to key players saw a loss of form for the Rams. Safety in the Championship was not confirmed until the penultimate game of the season against Charlton Athletic, with a 1–0 victory.
Clough's first full season in charge of Derby saw significant changes to the playing staff as he brought in nine players and moved on fourteen as well as making substantial dealings in the loan market. Despite this, the Rams again struggled with injuries, at one point being without thirteen first team players. When key players returned from injury, Clough was able to start picking a regular team, and results began to improve. Derby finished two points and four places better off than the previous campaign.
Clough was involved in several altercations during the season. He was accused by counterpart Billy Davies of kicking him in the knee in a pitch side altercation during Derby's 1–0 victory over local rivals Nottingham Forest. Clough denied the claim and, though Davies put in an official complaint to the league, nothing came of the incident.
Clough was also in trouble again when he was sent to the stands during Derby's 3–1 home defeat to Ipswich Town on 5 April. He was fined £1,000 and given a one match ban, which he served during Derby's final match of the campaign at home to Cardiff City. Clough also gave himself some game time during the course of the season, coming on as a late substitute for the reserve side in their 2–1 victory over West Bromwich Albion reserves in their Central League Central Section clash.
Derby suffered a major shock in the FA Cup, losing to Crawley Town 2–1. The result saw Clough's job at the club reportedly come under threat, as he issued an apology to the club's supporters, many of whom responded with demands for his dismissal. Derby's Chief Executive Tom Glick answered fan's concerns by reiterating the club's support for Clough, saying: "Nigel is absolutely our guy. We have been clear about that continuously."
During Derby's post-November struggles Clough came under focus for his consistent criticism of individual players, which came to a head when he strongly criticised Tomasz Cywka after his mistake led to a late Portsmouth equaliser in a 1–1 draw at Fratton Park. Of Cywka, Clough said: "He's an extremely inexperienced and not very bright footballer... he can go back to Wigan or wherever he came from – I'm not really bothered – until he learns the game." These incidents led PFA Chief Gordon Taylor to criticise Clough, saying: "It cannot be appropriate to criticise your team in such a way in public. We'll sort things out... otherwise it looks an untenable situation." Ultimately, nothing came of the incident but the outbursts, coupled with Derby's poor results on the pitch, led to some unrest among supporters. Clough's players were booed at the end of a 3–1 home defeat against Doncaster Rovers on 1 March 2011.
Clough's continuing stay at the club was rewarded by overseeing Derby's best start to the season in 106 years as they opened the season with four victories from four and earned a Championship Manager of the Month nomination.
A 1–1 draw with Barnsley on 28 September 2011 took Derby into second place and the automatic promotion spots for the first time in over a year. The results came during discussions over Clough's contract – which was due to expire at the end of the season with Forest allegedly interested in securing their former-player's services. Despite these reports however, there was no evidence that Clough and his staff were looking to go elsewhere and Clough entered into new contract discussions with Derby, stating "It has never been a question of if we wanted to stay or not. This is where our heart is."
Clough signed a new three-year deal, to take him through until summer 2015, on 17 October, two days after a 1–1 draw with league leaders Southampton had kept Derby in the play-off places. After signing the deal, Derby took just four points from their next five fixtures and slipped out of the playoff places. A 3–2 defeat at Peterborough United, after Derby had held a 2–0 lead, saw Clough hit out at the officials and the FA imposed a £2,000 fine on him.
Derby suffered mixed form through the remainder of the season. By mid-April Derby found themselves 11th in the table, 5 points off the play-offs with four games remaining. However, two defeats to Middlesbrough and Cardiff City in 4 days ended Derby's play-off chances. Derby finished the season 12th in the league, with Clough satisfied with the performances of the team, stating that a lack of firepower was the reason why they fell short and that it would be an area to improve on in the following season.
The club also finally ended their interest in appointing a director of football, something the club had been considering since May 2011. This meant Clough retained control of the club's player recruitment policy and he was keen to add to his squad. On the final match of the 2012–13 season, a 1–0 victory over Millwall helped Derby to finish the campaign in 10th place.
After a mixed start to the 2013–14 season, Clough was sacked on 28 September after 3 defeats in eight days, the final of which was a 1–0 defeat to local rivals Nottingham Forest with Derby 14th in the table after 9 games. He left the club as the longest serving Derby manager in over a decade.
On 23 October 2013, Clough was appointed new manager of Sheffield United on a two-and-a-half-year deal. Clough's tenure got off to a winning start as Sheffield United comfortably beat Crewe Alexandra 3–1 at Bramall Lane. Clough was named League One's Manager of the Month for February 2014 after an improved run of form with four wins from five matches, including four clean sheets.
On 9 March 2014, Clough's side beat Charlton Athletic 2–0 to set up an FA Cup semi-final tie against Hull City at Wembley, this was United's ninth consecutive win in all competitions with United climbing out of the League One relegation zone up to 11th in the table. In May 2014, Clough was named FA Cup Manager of the Season by the League Managers Association in recognition of United's run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Clough also led the Blades to the semi-finals of the League Cup in the 2014–15 season after a 1–0 win over Southampton at Bramall Lane. Sheffield United parted company with Clough on 25 May 2015.
Return to Burton AlbionEdit
Clough returned to Burton Albion for a second spell as manager in December 2015, after Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink left the post to join Queens Park Rangers. Clough led the club to a 2nd place finish at the end of the season, gaining the club promotion to the Championship for the first time in their history. Clough kept the side in the league for two seasons before the club was relegated back to League One in May 2018 after a 23rd place finish. Clough later stepped down as manager in May 2020 due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the club.
- As of match played 10 March 2020
|Derby County||8 January 2009||28 September 2013||233||78||54||101||33.5|
|Sheffield United||23 October 2013||25 May 2015||104||49||30||25||47.1|
|Burton Albion||7 December 2015||18 May 2020||228||78||57||93||34.2|
As a playerEdit
- Football League Cup: 1988–89, 1989–90
- Full Members' Cup: 1988–89, 1991–92
As a managerEdit
- Football League One promotion: 2015–16
- Northern Premier League Premier Division: 2001–02
- Southern League Cup: 1999–2000
- Southern League Championship Shield: 2000
- Bass Charity Vase: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
- Southern League Premier Division Runners-up: 1999–2000, 2000–2001
- Birmingham Senior Cup Finalist: 2007–08
- EFL Cup Semi Finalist:2018-19
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