Clough love transformed Forest legend John Robertson

Forest legends Trevor Francis and John Robertson joined filmmaker Jonny Owen in London to promote I Believe in Miracles, the new film charting how Brian Clough and Peter Taylor transformed a Second Division side into double European champions.

Jonny could not speak highly enough of every single one of the Miracle Men and Tricky Trev and Robbo certainly shattered that old adage about never meeting your heroes. Not just brilliant footballers, but brilliant men. The only problem was turning their anecdotes into the 500 or so words that a page in Metro, where this first appeared, would allow…

 

BRIAN CLOUGH’S legendary status shows no sign of dimming but there is a wonderful reminder that Old Big Head wasn’t the only genius in Nottingham Forest’s glory years.

Clough and assistant Peter Taylor were architects of the unprecedented rise from the depths of Division Two to back-to-back European Cup winners showcased in the DVD release of feature film I Believe in Miracles.

However the late great managerial duo would have been in agreement with 15 of the 16 so-called ‘Miracle Men’ featured in the film about who made them tick on the pitch.

“Most definitely Brian and Peter’s favourite player was John Robertson,” says Trevor Francis, the first million pound footballer whose spectacular diving header from the winger’s cross against Malmo made Forest European champions in Munich in 1979.

“And not just Brian and Peter. For every single player in that Nottingham Forest team, their favourite player was John.

“John knows how I feel about him as a footballer but, because he was Scottish and not English, he didn’t quite receive the recognition his abilities merited. At the time, he was the best player in Europe.”

Robertson was on the transfer list until Clough breezed into the City Ground in 1975.

“He was the most charismatic man I’ve ever met, a brilliant man,” says Robertson. “I just wanted his approval so during the game I would just break my neck for him; I just wanted him to say afterwards: ‘Hey son, well played’.”

How Clough did approve, describing Robertson as the “Picasso of our game” while, providing a laugh-out loud moment in the film with comic timing his manager would be proud of, Forest captain John McGovern likens him to Ryan Giggs “but with two good feet”.

Forest fans concur and Robertson is unquestionably in the top one whenever they are asked to select the club’s greatest ever player.

Yet, although the Glaswegian’s knack of scoring a timely goal made him a match winner in a European Cup final, a League Cup final and even in a Scotland victory over England at Wembley, it was Kevin Keegan who was twice crowned European Footballer of the Year.

“It was ridiculous,” says Jonny Owen, the Nottingham-based Cardiff fan who directed the film. ‘How can a player who, like Trevor says, is the best player in a club that won back-to-back European Cups not even be shortlisted for that award? That’s how embarrassing it was.”

While Owen’s film does a great job of showcasing the entire Forest team, its biggest triumph will be enshrining Robertson’s place among football’s all-time greats, not that the 62-year-old resembles Clough when it comes to discussing his own genius.

“It’s so nice for me but sometimes you get a bit embarrassed because these are all great, great players,” he says. “I’m really chuffed Trev and the other lads thought that much of me.”

This article first appeared in Metro

robbo screen shot

CLOUGHIE REALLY WAS THE MIRACLE MAN

JOHN ROBERTSON can remember Brian Clough getting a bit of divine help in making Nottingham Forest the most feared team in Europe.

Although Forest had led the first division in the autumn of 1977, and although Clough boasted he used to walk across the River Trent, many predicted the bubble would burst after their third defeat of the season at Leeds.

“We went to Israel after that on the Saturday night for a little break,” said Robertson.

“And I’ll never forget Cloughie putting a note in the Wailing Wall. From that day, we went 42 games unbeaten.”

This bit didn’t make it into Metro because I’d already written far too much!

JOHN PAYNE

i believe in miracles

 

 

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