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The Clough Statue...

19 April 06 words: Rich Fisher

Less than a year after its launch, a bid to raise money for a statue of Brian Clough is progressing at a rapid pace...

If he were still with us, I’d like to think Brian Clough would be on his way right now to Buckingham Palace, to receive an honour that would sit nicely alongside his extensive collection of footballing winners’ medals. A Knighthood would certainly have been fitting recognition for the remarkable feats achieved by the greatest manager England never had and indeed, a petition organised by the tribute website www.brianclough.com to make him Sir Brian quickly amassed over 5,000 signatures.
 
Sadly of course, Clough’s sudden death in 2004 poured cold water over everyone’s hopes and we’ll never know what priceless one-liner he would have inevitably unleashed upon our unsuspecting monarch.
 
However, the momentum that had been built up was not to go to waste. Instead of a Knighthood, the team behind brianclough.com began to explore the possibility of an alternative tribute – a statue of the Master Manager, to be located in the centre of Nottingham. After gaining the blessing of the Clough family, the Brian Clough Statue Fund was duly launched in June 2005 with a travelling press conference on board the city’s Brian Clough tram – and less than a year later, it’s already over halfway towards its £60,000 target.
 
The money raised so far has come in mainly through the sale of badges in the shape of Cloughie’s legendary green sweatshirt. Other fundraising activities have included a bucket collection outside the City Ground prior to a Forest home game, which raised over £4,000, and a ‘forum evening’ where fans had the opportunity put questions to a panel of players who worked for Clough.
 
All of these initiatives have been orchestrated entirely by a small group of volunteers - of which I am one. None of us had really had any previous experience of raising money, so we had little idea what we were letting ourselves in for. But the response has been overwhelming, and we quickly realised that we were far from being alone in our passionate belief that Cloughie deserves a statue.
 
Indeed, the seemingly unanimous love that local folk have for the great man has been the secret of our success so far. Recently, I got talking to a representative from an epilepsy charity, who bemoaned the fact that they struggle to engage with people unless they’ve actually been affected directly by epilepsy. Happily, the Brian Clough Statue Fund does not have this sort of problem – as there are few people in Nottingham who haven’t had their lives touched by Cloughie one way or another.

And as well as Joe Public, those who knew Cloughie personally have also been given their support. Carol Washington, who worked at Forest as the great man’s secretary for many years, was one of several hundred folk who stumped up £20 for one of the green sweatshirts that we sold in the run-up to last Christmas. And when we began to organise the aforementioned ‘forum evening’, John McGovern, Kenny Burns and Nigel Jemson were only too happy to give up an evening to share their memories.

In fact, having travelled to Wembley as a wide-eyed ten-year-old in 1990 to see him score the winner for Forest in the Littlewoods Cup final, being tasked with ringing Jemson to ask if he was up for helping us was one of my most memorable moments of the whole statue campaign so far. Judging by how long it took him to answer the phone, and how dopey he sounded when he eventually did, I suspect I may have woken him up. (Nigel – sorry if you’re reading this..!)
 
Needless to say, I also quickly decided to delete Jemson’s number from my mobile. Generally, I pride myself on being a fairly sensible person. Feed me a small lake of vodka though it’s another matter entirely - and there was one occasion when the combination of Vladivar and possession of a childhood hero’s phone number almost led to an Jemson getting woken up again at 2am by four pissed-up Forest fans all shouting “Jemmo! Jemmo! Jemmo!” down the line. I’m sure he would’ve been thrilled…
 
So what next then for the statue fund? Well, we certainly have plenty lined up for the coming weeks. For one, we’ve teamed up with Nottingham Playhouse, who are holding a special gala performance of their Cloughie-inspired play ‘Old Big ‘Ead: In the Spirit of the Man’, and giving all the proceeds from the night to the fund. We are also holding a formal dinner in the posh surrounds of the Council House ballroom in June, featuring former Forest star Duncan McKenzie as a guest speaker.
 
Most fitting of all though is perhaps the efforts of Liam Smyth, a lifelong Reds fan who got in touch with us with a novel idea to raise money. Having had long hair for over 15 years, Liam being currently taking sponsorship pledges to get it all chopped off. Given his fondness for barking “Get a haircut, young man!” to any of his players who had the temerity to let their locks grow any longer than collar-length, you suspect Cloughie would wholeheartedly approve…

For more information on the Clough Statue Fund, visit www.brianclough.com

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