Frans Ruiter on Unsplash
Brian Clough in the Rijksmuseum
I had four beautiful days in Amsterdam. The weather was gorgeous, the sights were just absolutely gorgeous. Everything about the place is magic. – The Frost Interview, 1974
As he stood eye to eye with Rembrandt’s 1628 self-portrait, did newly-sacked Cloughie recognise a fellow Old Big ’Ead from the genius brush-strokes and infinite array of browns, a painterly equivalent of his own first commandment, ‘Get the fook out there and play’? Or did, in fact, Rembrandt’s curly mop-top, falling all ways to throw a mask-like shadow over the upper half of his face, cause Cloughie to gripe aloud like a ruddy pensioner, ‘That young man needed a haircut’? Next time he visited Amsterdam, six years later, Cloughie let the Forest boys off the leash in the bars of the red-light district; exhorted them, with his famous winning grin, ‘Get the fook out and onto the piss.’
I can still recall the pain of perching on a milestone that hour I waited for my then friend Hanse to mend his Kawasaki Ninja, on pillion of which I’d dozed while Hanse ‘tonned-up’ along the Kingston bypass; a friend of a friend, in fact, whose proudest boast was the ‘unbelievable’ quantity of non-native goats he’d culled in Queensland’s Outback fifteen years before; remunerated per each hundred pairs of ears. ‘Getting the beers in’ always meant tequila slammers: all that salt-and-lime palaver; shot-glasses thimbles in his man-mountain’s grasp, smacking them down on the Green Man’s bar with wood-warping brawn. Last time he rang, he’d been rugby-tackling a bunch of jackass penguins for his sister’s doctoral research, clasping those tarantula hands around braying bills, inducing regurgitation into customised plastic pails— he described it as ‘awesome’: imagining each critter as a tighthead prop for his hometown club’s bitter rivals. I bet he’s snuffed it from an excess of meat, or landed, like Hercules, on his size-sixteen feet.