Arsene Wenger says he regarded former Brian Clough as a manager ‘from another planet’ when he was making his formative steps in the game.
While the Frenchman never came face to face with the legendary coach in a competitive environment, he did meet the two-time European Cup winner, who managed Nottingham Forest for 18 years between 1975-1993, on a couple of occasions.
Ahead of Arsenal’s 3rd round FA Cup clash with Forest at the City Ground, Wenger took stock of his encounters with Clough.
“We didn’t speak a lot after the game because he was already fatigued,” he recalled.
“He was very lean and you could see he was no longer at full power. But of course I had huge respect for him.
“When I was young I looked at the big managers who were successful. For me then, he was a guy on another planet.
“Today everything is available, but at the time you had to look for information. I used to travel in my car at night to watch managers work and watch their training and then come back home in the next morning.
“It’s different now because you have the internet and every exercise from every single club is available. At the time you had to fight for your information, now you have too much.
“I believe that above his achievement is his personality. He’s a special person in English football.
“It’s his personality that has left a huge imprint on the history of the game. So he will be remembered as one of the greatest ever, among three or four greatest in English football.”
Before Clough died in September 2004 he witnessed an Arsene Wenger side beat the unbeaten record set by his own Forest side in the late seventies. A notoriously tough personality to impress, Clough had the following to say to the BBC about the Frenchman’s ‘Invincibles’.
“They are nothing short of incredible. I’m loath to confess to you that they could have been nearly as good as us (Nottingham Forest, who went unbeaten for 42 games between 1977-78), but they are brilliant. And I mean brilliant.
“For a guy who has been in the game forty-odd years, fifty-odd years, brilliant comes as a real compliment.
“Their expertise and their talent and their all-round ability…the thing that fascinates me about them and I’ve seen them a couple of times in the last couple of seasons, is the way they treat the football, you know?
“I used to preach when I was in management, ‘What did you kick that ball away for? It’s your friend. It’s the only friend you’ve got.’
“They treat it like it’s their long, lost friend. In fact, they are that good, I think they like the football, the ball, the actual ball they play with, better than their wives.”
In a separate interview, he admitted: “They are brilliant. It sticks in the craw a little bit because nobody likes Arsenal!
“Of course there’s a Frenchman in charge, Wenger, and not many English people like Frenchmen. He is a top, top manager.”