Nottingham Forest vs Malmö FF, European Cup Final 1979

In the 1970s Nixon went to China, Han shot first, and Clough signed Francis. Securing the services of the 24 year-old forward cost him a king’s ransom: the total ran £1.18 million. It may well have taken a character like Brian Clough to break the seven digit barrier. No player in English football history had ever been transferred for much more than £500,000, let alone more than a million. In February 1979 plucky Nottingham Forest had gone and done just that.

Clough did not see what the fuss was about. To the press conference where Trevor Francis was to be unveiled to the gawping media Clough showed up in a red track suit, squash racket at the ready. The manager had appointments to keep. And anyway, he had run the numbers, Francis’ fee fell short of the magical million. Clough insisted he had haggled Birmingham City down to £999,999.

That Nottingham Forest were the club to splurge the cash around was in large part down to Clough’s exploits. A decade before Clough had gained promotion with Derby County from the Second Division. It took all of three seasons for the Rams to win the league title. After falling out with the Derby board Clough found himself at Brighton & Hove Albion in the Third Division. Lasting less than a year in East Sussex Clough moved on to Leeds. Within 44 days he had alienated every key player at his disposal and was shown the door.

Clough lifts Forest, Houghton Malmö

Taking the reins at City Ground in January 1975 Nottingham Forest sat 13th in the Second Division. Promotion was won in Clough’s second full season, the league title in his third. At best opinionated and outspoken, at worst abrasive and insulting, Clough was not afraid to step on anybody’s toes. Time permitting success backed him up. As it did in ‘78/79 when Nottingham Forest reached the European Cup final on their first try, leaving holders Liverpool, AEK Athens, Grasshoppers Zürich, and Köln in their wake. And they did it all without Francis. Having signed on only in February registration rules prevented Francis from participating in international matches. Until the final. Continue reading