‘They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I wasn’t on that particular job...’
For my generation Brian Clough is a crucial figure in British football but he has also been reduced to a series of legends and sound bites for those of us not quite old enough to have lived through his time in the public eye.
The Damned United, whilst brilliant, only strengthens the image of Brian Clough the myth, which sometimes makes it difficult to marry the concept of the larger than life football manager with the struggling alcoholic that we know he became. I Believe In Miracles is not the film to tackle that disparity but it does show a more human side to Ol’ Big ‘Ead.
Clough took over mid table second division side Nottingham Forest following his doomed spell at Leeds and almost instantly turned them into European Champions. First time director Jonny Owen has produced a documentary that tells that incredible story with humour, warmth and clarity. Interviews with several of the playing squad interspersed with archive footage makes for a compelling watch but it is Clough himself who is the most intriguing part of the story.
It is striking when watching this film how many comparisons can be drawn with Alf Ramsay’s World Cup winning side and also the similarities shared by the two managers about how the game should be played and how success should be achieved. We will never know if Clough would have emulated Sir Alf’s triumph on the national stage but nobody can deny that what he did at Nottingham Forest is unique in the English game (sorry Leicester).
Hearing Forest captain John McGovern state that footballers should never describe what they do as work made me long for a time before corporate sponsors, before Instagram accounts, before gloves in September and before fans being marginalized and forgotten in the constant quest for yet more money and power. I Believe In Miracles harks back to a time when football was a working class sport for working class people and for that reason alone it should be essential viewing for anyone who considers themselves to be a fan of the beautiful game.