It is almost two years since Brian Clough died. Brian was asked once whether he was the greatest football manager ever. "I wouldn't say that," he replied, "but I'd be on a short list of one."
He was a remarkable character. He played center forward for Middlesborough, scoring over 30 goals a season until he retire young having torn his anterior cruciate ligament. I did mine at about the same time, and in those days there was no operation to repair it. He went into football management, first with Hartlepool in the lower divisions and then with Derby County and Nottingham Forrest, both teams in the Midlands that would find it hard to make the first division. He won championships with both, but his great achievement was to win the European cup twice with Notts Forrest. Up there with teams like Inter Milan, Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid. He was very self opinionated, rude to the press, and big-headed. He has been known to strike young fans whom he thought were behaving disrespectfully to their elders. He was a drinker who needed a liver transplant.
It was said of him that he liked a bung. A bung is nothing to do with beer barrels. It is a sum of money taken as a bribe to facilitate a transfer from one club to another. These transfers fetch a huge amount of money. Nowadays it may be as much as $50 million. The player's agent takes a cut of the transfer fee, and he may pay an illicit amount to one or other of the club managers.
This week bungs are in the news again. A BBC investigation has suggested that as many as 8 of the First Division managers are up for a bung. When it came down to it, the investigation was rather short on naming names. Most prominent was Sam Allardyce, the manager of Bolton Wanderers. He has a reputation of building a team from other manager's cast-offs. Of course he denies everything and what usually happens in cases like this is that there is not enough evidence to nail anybody.
Unexpectedly exonerated was Harry Redknapp. At one time manager of Bournemouth, Harry has moved around a bit, to West Ham, to Portsmouth, to Southampton and back to Portsmouth again. Currently, Portsmouth are top of the top division. He is more active in the transfer market than anyone and regularly takes players that nobody else could cope with. Because of his transfer activity and the size of his house (he lives in the most salubrious part of Bournemouth where houses often sell for more than $10 million) people think that he must be on the fiddle, but perhaps this is just his severance pay from all the jobs he has been sacked from. He also believed to be a bit of a gambler, so perhaps he studies form. Anyway, the investigation couldn't lay a glove on Harry.
I'm rather glad. I have a soft spot for Harry, East End wide boy that he is. His son went to school with my boy (Christian Bale, the actor, was there at the same time) when I was a school governor.