Guide to the 92/93 DB – I love you, Irishman

The Guide to The MadScientist’s 1992/93 Database for Football Manager 2022 lands in England, as we continue to dive into the story of some of the most interesting teams and players of the era looking for the best saves to enjoy that piece of artwork of a database. For our third episode, we zero into the twilight of a glorious era and the dawn of a new star…

I love you, Irishman

When we look back into the dying embers of a manager’s long tenure, we often look into where the root causes could be. For Ferguson at Manchester United, it probably had something to do with overreliance on a group of loyal players; for Wenger at Arsenal, failure to adapt to the new reality the club inhabited. Ferguson, ever smart, saw the signs and took his cue to leave at the right time; Wenger, ever stubborn, refused to see the painting on the walls and faced unprecedented pressure. For both, however, things were some time in the working. Brian Clough’s fall from grace at Nottingham was so sudden it might even feel like one of those shows that fail to meet rating quotas and are brought to a sudden wrap-up by producers, leaving more questions than answers.

After Peter Taylor’s retirement in 1982, it would be the second time “shop window” Clough would have to manage without “the goods at the back” part of the partnership, as he himself defined their relationship. It would not be nearly as disastrous as his first try…

The after-Taylor part of his reign started decently well. A run to the semifinals of the 1984 UEFA Cup brought memories of their European Cup miracle-working and successive third-place finishes in 1987/88 and 1988/89 put Forest as a contender (or thereabouts) once again. They even lifted some silverware, claiming the 1988/89 League Cup and successfully defending it the following season. However, the slide slowly settled in. 

As alcoholism dulled one of English football’s sharpest minds, Clough’s behaviour became ever more erratic and unpredictable. After the end of the 1991/92 season, several players and family members, led by his son Nigel, had asked the manager to step down to take better care of himself. Old Big ‘ead wasn’t having any of it, but things were stirring behind his back.

For starters, Forest’s dealings in the summer of 1992 were nothing short of a disaster. Des Walker, their main defensive stalwart, was sold to Sampdoria for £1.5million; with Darren Wassall, the man who was supposed to take over from the England international, soon departing for Derby County for £600,000 after clashing with Clough, the team’s defensive woes throughout the season were easy to predict. Forest had the honour of playing in the first-ever live televised Premier League game, winning 1-0 against Liverpool, Sheringham with the only goal of the game. It would be, however, his last for the Reds; he’d be sold to Tottenham for £2.1m just a week later. 

As much as Notthingham Forest struggled without Des Walker, he had a very bad time too at Sampdoria, failing to show his true skill and being largely played out of position by Sven Goran Eriksson

It wouldn’t be the only problem they faced. Nigel Clough was underperforming, being constantly pressed by the press for news about his father’s problems. Stuart Pearce, with injury problems throughout the season, would also clash often with Clough. Later that season, Nottingham Forest suspended director Chris Wootton, who had publicly said Cloug’s drinking undermined his capacities as manager.

Amid all that chaos, there was one redeeming light during the season, Roy Keane. As Clough himself put it in his autobiography, “Roy Keane shone like a beacon through all the gloom of that desolate season… the confidence of the young players dipped. […] Only Roy Keane was doing his stuff regularly”.

Keane had arrived at Nottingham as a 19-year-old from Cobh Ramblers in the summer of 1990. for a fee of just £47,000. He’d struggle initially, not being used to spending so much time away from his family and would often ask the club for leave to visit them. Clough showed a generous side, allowing for it, and that helped the young Keane settle in and eventually break into the first team. It wasn’t all roses, however; as Danny Lewis recounts in his article for These Football Times, “Theirs was a relationship based on mutual respect, though this was put on hold after an FA Cup third-round game against Crystal Palace. Keane had under-hit a back pass and gifted Palace the goal which took the game to a replay. When the Irishman returned to the dressing room, he was greeted with a punch in the face from Clough which knocked him to the floor.”

Keane was impressive in his first team debut against Liverpool, despite later confessing to have downed several pints of beer beforehand

By the 1992/93 season, the Irishman was one of the team’s best players, able to perform across the pitch. Desperate to close the gap left by Des Walker, Clough used Keane as a centreback early during the season, and the Cork native excelled, although it wasn’t to his liking. “It was almost that it was too easy for him [at the back],” Liam O’Kane, a head coach for that Forest side, told FourFourTwo. “He wanted to be more involved in midfield. He was a great header of the ball, had a great spring, so he could have played centre-half all season. But it was a bit easy for him, so we put him back into midfield.”

With Keane drawing interest from the likes of Blackburn, Arsenal, Aston Villa, and even Milan, the delay during contract renewal talks unsettled the players, the fans and the board. The constant incidents with Keane’s pub-going didn’t help the situation. In the end, it took intervention by Clough himself with the two time European Cup winner reportedly telling his assistant (and lead contract negotiator) Ron Fenton to just “give him what he wants”. Crucially, Keane had a clause added to his contract that allowed him to leave the club in case of relegation, a valuable liberty in the pre-Bosman ruling world.

Brian Clough received the love and admiration of every Forest fan that day

It proved smart business, as on May 1, 1993, Forest’s relegation was mathematically sealed after a home 2-0 defeat to Sheffield United. Just a week earlier, Clough had announced his retirement, surrounded by claims that it had been forced on him. The fans weren’t happy, as Mike Anstead recollects in an article for the Daily Mail: ‘I think it’s disgraceful’, said a man flipping burgers in his van parked outside the City Ground. ‘It’s the first bad season we’ve had in five or six years and suddenly everyone is calling for Clough to be resigning. I think we should stick with him, give the man a chance and hope they do well next year.’ 

After the match, the Nottingham Forest fans let the man that led them to the cusp of the world that they loved him, no matter what. Interviewed by Barry Davies and Martin Tyler, Clough made it clear he didn’t have all that many regrets. “I’m delighted. I’m sorry to have lost today obviously but I am happy. I’m a happy man. Happiness comes from within. I’m a good socialist, I’m a good dad, I’m a good granddad; I’m happy. […] I’m a Football League manager by trade. That’s my trade. I do it well. I do it good. It could be argued I’m the best in the business”. He made it clear, however, he wouldn’t return to the game: “I’m going to walk around and look after my grandchildren. I might even come to a football match, actually.’

Keane would go on to become one of the best in the world at Manchester United. And yet, for the success he would achieve at Old Trafford, he would never quite gel with Sir Alex Ferguson as he did with Clough. Years later, he would claim he considered Old Big ‘ead to be the best manager he ever had. As O’Kane recalls, “When all’s said and done they admired each other.” Once, with Clough berating his team after a terrible performance, he stopped in front of Keane. “I love you, Irishman”, was all he could say.

Nottingham Forest in the 1992/93 MadScientist Database

Football didn’t start in 1992 they say, but the Premier League era most definitely did. No one knew it at the time, but the “whole new ball game” motto was about to prove absolutely true, at least from a financial perspective. The Premier League would transform the English top tier into the most dominant football league in Europe, overtaking the Italian Serie A as the prime destination for the world’s top talents. That, however, is some 15 years from now. We’re in 1992/93 and English clubs are still some way from being able to compete with the likes of Milan, Juve and Inter.

You’re taking over after a legend…

Taking over Nottingham Forest, you’re forcing Clough into early retirement, at least when it comes to running the show at City Ground. You get the opportunity to twist the hand of fate, keeping the Reds’ best players and building them into a title contender once again. You have some big shows (and an old big ‘ead) to fill, so let’s take a look at the job.

Economy and Facilities

The Reds are in a great spot in terms of economy. €73M in the bank and projected to make what can only be described as sh*t tons of money (€316M by 2023/24), there won’t be any cash droughts at the City Ground any time soon. 

It’s a good thing, however, because Forest could do with some investment in terms of facilities. With just good training facilities and adequate junior coaching and youth recruitment, you’re a long way from the likes of United, Liverpool or Arsenal. City Ground could also do with some expansion or even considering a brand new ground, as, with just over 30,000 capacity, it sits among the smallest in the league.

Club Vision

The board has a fairly relaxed vision for the club, looking for the Reds to cement themselves as a top-half side, something that was always within grasp for them up until Clough’s last season.

From there, the objective is to work towards becoming a player in the European scene, qualifying for the UEFA Cup. It’s sure to be a fascinating adventure to bring Nottingham Forest once again back to the European nights, so a great challenge there.

Squad Review

ROY KEANE

The jewel in Clough’s squad, the 20-year-old Roy Keane is already a beast in defence. His great reading of the game combined with an inexhaustible engine makes him the perfect ball winner in midfield. Should he develop further his attacking output, you can expect performances like that night against Juventus in 1999.

With four years remaining in his deal and no release clause (or relegation price drop), you should have him settled for a couple of years. However, much like in real life, Ferguson and United are interested, so you’ll do good to keep the Irishman happy.

TEDDY SHERINGHAM

You’re too late to stop Des Walker’s flight to Genoa, but by virtue of a single week, you still have Sheringham in your squad. The would-be Tottenham man is strong as an ox, relentlessly energetic and clever on the ball, making him a perfect striker to centre your attack around. At 26 years old, he should be your main man upfront for years to come.

He can probably play as a sole striker, but his lack of speed and aerial dominance perhaps makes him the perfect running mate to a Vardy-like fox in the box. However, he’s ambitious by personality, so keep that in mind before you find him asking to seek greener pastures.

STUART PEARCE

It was a close race between Psycho and Nigel Clough for the last spot, but in the end, I had to go with Pearce. The nickname is well earned, as a simple look into his mentals can tell you. At 30, the left-back should be entering the twilight of his career, but you’d be a fool not to make the best of what he brings to the table. Another hard worker (and that’s three already on this side), he might lack the fancy and flair of modern equivalents, but can still generate chances. 

An incredible wall-winner, it might be clever to adapt him into a screening midfielder for his later years, particularly if you’re looking into developing Keane as more of an attacking presence. His Model Citizen personality is sure to make him a key figure in your dressing room as well; and don’t forget to check his corner taking, which could make him one half of an unstoppable duo with Sheringham.

Potential Signings

José Luis Chilavert

At 23 and 21, the Welsh duo of Mark Crossley and Andy Marriott have a lot of upside, but also quite some ground to cover and this makes the goalie one of the weakest positions in this squad. In Chilavert, you get one of the best goalkeepers of his era, with the IFFHS naming him World’s Best Goalkeeper in 1995, 1997 and 1998. Known for his agility, leadership capabilities and strong personality, he’s also the second-highest goalscoring goalkeeper of all time.

A Copa Libertadores and Intercontinental Cup winner with Velez Sarsfield, you can pry him from the Buenos Aires side for €5M. The idea of a locker room shared by Keane and Chilavert should put fear into any manager, but also into the hearts of any rival.

Joachim Bjorklund

Centreback is the one position that probably let this Forest squad down in real life. There’s a Des Walker sized hole in the defence, and you’ll need to plug it. The soon-to-be Swedish international provides an excellent example of the fast, aerially dominant, technically proficient central defender that will come to represent the Premier League in later years.

At just 21 years old, not only does he provides an excellent option from the get-go but is bound to grow and improve, possibly becoming a force to be reckoned with. You can sign him from SK Brann for around €4M, depending on how big a percentage of the selling profits you concede.

Nicky Summerbee

You’re bound to need some cover on the right-wing, particularly if you chose to play four-four-f*cking two. You only have two real options, and that reduces to one if you (like I think you should) chose to retrain Steve Stone as a right-back where his skill set is bound to make him a far more useful player.

Swindon’s Summerbee is a very interesting option as a reinforcement there. He won’t be an instant starter but has the potential to be one, and you can get him for €3M at most, on very cheap wages as well. United’s Danny Wallace is an instant gain option, but you’ll have to fend off some serious competition for him, and he’ll ask for top wages.

Published by fromero92

Argentinian writer and journalist

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