The ‘harsh truth’ about why Derby County refused to reinstate legendary manager Brian Clough in 1973 has been revealed thanks to the discovery of a forgotten document hidden away for more than 40 years.
A five-page statement taking Clough to task over everything from expenses to TV work, not to mention an alleged ‘Harvey Smith gesture’ aimed at Sir Matt Busby, was found among a vast sporting archive kept by former Derby County correspondent Gerald Mortimer.
It was attached to a letter signed by all Derby players on October 25, 1973, asking the club to reinstate Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor.
Mr Mortimer, an Oxford graduate who died at the age of 77 in 2013, reported on the Rams for the Derby Telegraph from 1970 until he retired in 2002.
He kept all letters, programmes, match tickets and memorabilia relating to his career and his vast archive – around 25 boxes of items – will go under the hammer at Derbyshire’s Hansons Auctioneers on August 31 with an overall low estimate of £10,000.
Such was his close personal relationship with Clough and Taylor, Mr Mortimer famously typed out their resignation letter to Derby County in October 1973.
The typed statement about Clough, though unsigned, appears to be from club chairman at the time, Sam Longson. It starts: “Whilst I have always said that I did not want a battle between the manager and myself, I think the time has now come that the supporters of Derby County, and in fact everyone concerned with football, should hear my side. Just over two years ago, I was appointed chairman for the second time…”
The statement then gives numerous detailed reasons why Clough had to go. It lists a host of ‘difficult situations’ which demonstrated his frustration with Clough’s media career, outspoken views and the money he earned.
It said Clough had declined to go on a pre-season tour as he was not allowed to take his family, thereby failing to ‘fulfil his managerial duties’.
It mentions a decision to scrutinise Clough’s ‘unjustified’ expenses, sparking a battle between the management and the board, and the fact that Clough ‘embarked on press and television attacks on the FA’.
The letter states: “I begged the manager to refrain before the club got into very serious trouble… events occurred that, to the board, got near to a breach of Football League Regulations’ which could have led to ‘the club being expelled from the Football League and the directors severely censored’.
Clough’s TV work was also criticised: “When he stated that he was thinking of taking the ATV post just vacated by Jimmy Hill, I publicly stated that he would have to make his mind up whether he was carrying on as manager of Derby County. He stated later that he was not going to take the post… it came to our notice that he had taken a post with ATV called ‘freelance commentator’ and that he had taken a programme on Saturday called On The Ball. This necessitated him travelling down to London for these recordings and he was absent from two board meetings.
“The board, naturally, was very concerned … and also reminded him of a clause in his contract which required him to give his whole time and attention to the needs of the club.”
The statement mentioned Clough’s alleged ‘threats to leave’ and the fact that he’d received a £5,000 pay rise after Coventry City came calling: “The board and I have always met his demands very generously. The manager and assistant manager’s salary last year came to over £40,000. This was without their television and press fees.’
The list of troubles continued: “He is already due to appear before an FA disciplinary commission on serious charges due to press attacks on the FA and, even as late as last Saturday at Old Trafford, he was alleged to have made what is now called ‘The Harvey Smith gesture’ to Mr Edwards, chairman of United, and to Sir Matt Busby, a director. The manager came up to the board room at Old Trafford and denied having done this. An official at the Football League told me at Wembley last night that Sir Matt Busby was under no illusion as to what took place.
“Mr Clough has often insulted the supporters of Derby to the embarrassment of the board and has often stated that he owes no loyalty to Derby which is too small for him.
“Nobody regrets the current situation more than I do. I brought him here, I have glorified in his success and I leave it to the supporters of Derby County to judge me and my board. Hysteria is prevalent at present with some supporters. All in all, I say enough is enough.
“In conclusion, I must stress the point that Derby County will always survive and that no individual is bigger than the club.”
Anton Rippon, a Derby County fan, author and sports journalist, said: “I have never seen this document before but everything in it backs up the stories I was told by the players at that time. To my knowledge, this statement has never been published in full anywhere.”
Alistair Lofley, sports valuer at Hansons Auctioneers, said: “As a Rams fan myself this is fascinating. Brian Clough will always be a legend in Derby and everyone is well aware of the rifts with Sam Longson.
“This is a very personal, detailed account that really brings home how much Sam and the board disliked Clough’s behaviour. It’s the harsh truth.”
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers and a Derby County fan, said: “This document is an important part of footballing history that I’m sure many collectors would love to own.
“Gerald Mortimer’s close relationship with Clough and Taylor is honoured in this incredible collection of football memorabilia.
“It includes several personal letters to him from former Derby County managers including one from Peter Taylor after he moved to Brighton & Hove Albion. Peter wrote: ‘I miss the chats we used to have together as friends of your kind are very few and far between, in fact I can count them on one hand and you are such a wonderful example of integrity!!’.”
The letter signed by the Derby County players and statement, believed to be from Sam Longson, will be sold at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, on August 31. Each item has an estimate of £600 to £800. To find our more, call Alistair Lofley on 07863 203377 or email [email protected].