EXCLUSIVE: Clough spurs on disciple Dyche as Watford target FA Cup glory
The great Brian Clough spawned many free thinkers, yet such was his brilliance that none of them could be labelled clones.
Take Sean Dyche, who played for Clough as a central defender in the Nottingham Forest youth team.
Half an hour in the 40-year-old Watford manager’s company is enough to glimpse the ideas within and the spark which will try to knock Tottenham out of the FA Cup on Friday.
Groundwork: Sean Dyche is now managing at Championship side Watford
His natural wit pervades the atmosphere
at Watford’s training ground and at first he seems more like a team
captain in a suit than the manager — apt given his playing days.
Dyche the defender was a winner, earning promotion with four different clubs and captaining League One Chesterfield to within a rotten decision of the FA Cup final in 1997 when, leading Middlesbrough 2-1, Chesterfield had an effort ruled out after the ball had crossed the line.
Dyche scored with a penalty in the semi-final, which ended 3-3 after extra time, before Middlesbrough won the replay. It was the only spot-kick of his career and typical of the man.
‘I didn’t want to take it, so there’s no hero thing,’ he says. ‘But our penalty takers weren’t on the pitch. Jamie Hewitt started to go forward for the ball. I went up to him and said, “Do you want it, Jamie”. He gave me the immortal line, “Not really, but I’ll take it”. I went, ‘That’s f***ing useful then”, so in the end I got the ball and just smashed it down the middle. I didn’t think too much about it.’
False dawn: Chesterfield came close to reaching the FA Cup final in 1997
Dyche gave his shirt away to his parents. His replay shirt went to a director who had bought him extra tickets for his family.
‘I like people who do nice things. We felt hard done by at the time, but in the grand scheme of things it was fantastic for Chesterfield to be there. We’re going to have a 15-year reunion of that team this year.’
A Forest reunion happens every day at Watford with Ian Woan and Tony Loughlin on Dyche’s coaching staff. The subject of Clough is never far away.
‘We often think, “What would the boss have done” He was a genius at that mind dynamic of relaxing people and making them ready to play.
‘There were some brilliant things. I remember one day at training, we’d just started warming up and he shouted to the coaches, “Archie (Gemmill), Liam (O’Kane), Alan (Hill). Off we go. We’re going for a walk. Get the ice creams out”. That was it, training done and we got a win on the Saturday. He was a master at it.
Main man: Brian Clough (right) would often turn up with his squash racket
‘We do similar things here, little
light-hearted things. We’ll take the players to play bowling or pool to
break the feel of the week, quirky things instead of training if we feel
‘The boss (Clough) used to travel on the coach for FA Youth Cup games and loved the reserves, but on the training ground he let the coaches coach.
‘He’d come down with his dog and his squash racket and his squash ball. He’d whack that around for the dog and stand at a distance, but every now and then, he’d notice something and you’d hear his voice across the training ground.
‘It was a key, defining thing, really important but very simple. Something like Des Walker making a challenge in a practice game. He’d shout out, “Stop. That’s the sort of challenge that wins football matches. Play on. Well done, Desmond”. And that was it.
Upset: Watford aim to shock Premier League side Tottenham in the FA Cup
‘When he came down the corridor, boy did we jump. If he had looked in the drying room, he’d have found 10 pros in there not making a sound. When he spoke, people listened. When he walked in, you stood to attention.
‘The game has changed and you get respect from players by treating them well. We present them with a good environment here. I think the training’s enjoyable and informative.’
A glance around Vicarage Road emphasises Watford’s status as one of football’s have-nots.
Even if Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp decides to rest his star players, Dyche is still unsure of the outcome of the tie. ‘I hope Harry plays as many reserve players as possible and they’re all injured, unfit and have a bad day. And you still can’t guarantee beating them.’