Cloughie's Mariners XI

Cod Almighty | Article

by Rich Mills & Peter Anderson

8 August 2016

Right now, Town look like a feeder club for Hartlepool, but there was a time it seemed like Brian Clough was running our academy. You're not going anywhere are you? Put the kettle on and let us explain.

Garry BirtlesBack in 1989 when Alan Buckley signed former Nottingham Forest and Man Utd star Garry Birtles I think many of us were a little surprised. Here was a true legend of the game who barely a decade before was winning the European Cup. Twice.

Other Cloughie-produced players followed, perhaps due to Buckley's Nottingham roots but just how many? The rules are simple. A player can only be considered if they were at the City Ground during Clough's reign and they then went on to play for Town. 

We'd usually start a team like this with the keeper but we're saving that for later as it was the biggest surprise, so without further ado, here's the definitive (only?) Brian Clough-nurtured, Forest-to-Town Dream Team! 


The first name on the team-sheet is Garry Birtles, natch. The England international spent two stints at Forest, both times under Brian Clough. His two seasons at Blundell Park produced nine goals from 69 league appearances, plus a handful of goals in other competitions but his performances on the pitch were about much more than his goal scoring; his very presence in the side gave us weight as we won consecutive promotions.

Nigel Jemson was another Alan Buckley signing, joining Town in 1993 for a seven game, two goal loan from his then employers Sheffield Wednesday. He had spent three years at Forest from 1988-91, surprisingly only notching up 13 goals in 47 appearances.

Our third forward, Billy Stubbs was signed on loan by Mariners boss Bobby Roberts in 1988. Although he never made a first team appearance in his time with Clough’s Forest, he scored twice in seven games for Town as Roberts' side battled in vain to beat the drop. Sadly he retired soon after, suffering with arthritis. 


Winger Terry Curran was another Roberts signing, joining us towards the end of his career in 1987, 10 years after leaving Forest. He played in 12 games for Town but didn't score. Which was bloody annoying because he always seemed to score against us during his spells at the Sheffields Wednesday and United. 

Mick Lyons signed midfielder Brian Rice on a short loan in 1986. Famous for his lack of pace, Rice was a hero to Forest fans but we got to see him for just four games. No one we've asked can actually remember these but he's listed in the programmes of that era and Mariners Men so it must have happened.  

Neil Webb had a superb career, scoring huge amounts of goals from midfield, winning cups for Forest and turning out 26 times for England. He also had the honour of being the 1000th player to be capped for England, a piece of trivia almost as 'meh' as Webb's time at Town. He joined us in 1996, way past his prime but still managing to score a goal in his four appearances before dropping into the non-league with Aldershot.

Gary Crosby joined us on loan from Forest in 1993, playing just three League games. Not all players make an impact...

...but Kingsley Black certainly did. Previously signed for £1.5m by Cloughie, Northern Ireland winger Black joined Town for a tiny fraction of that in 1996 and stayed at Blundell Park for five years, famously equalising against Bournemouth at Wembley before Wayne Burnett finished the job.   


Brian LawsBrian Laws was some player in his days at Forest and everything was looking good when he joined us as player-manager in 1994. You know the rest about the rubbish tactics and flying chicken. Laws basically hated Town, all but relegating us in 1997, whacking star players and gaining promotion with Scunny twice. Pure evil.

Our second defender is Steve Chettle who joined us in 2002 as back-up for permacrock Paul Raven. Alan Buckley once said of Raven, "He was good but he was no Mark Lever." Continuing the trend, Steve Chettle was good but he was no Paul Raven. In fairness, his career at Town was badly affected by injury. We let him go in 2003 and he headed to Burton Albion in the Conference to join Cloughie's son Nigel.


Here's the surprise entry. Paul Crichton was on the books for Clough for a few years but never actually made the first team, instead going out on six loans before leaving in 1988. Buckley signed him for Town in 1993 and he went on to make 133 appearances for us before leaving in 1996 to join up with Sir Alan again at West Brom. Of course he did play against Forest for Town, famously whiffing at a Paul Futcher back-pass and being generally poor in 5-3 defeat in 1993.  

Assistant Manager

This is a bit of a bonus. We have a full team already but utility player Kenny Swain played for Clough at Forest for a few years between 1983-85. He joined us as assistant to Brian Laws in 1994 and succeeded him in 1996. He's since gone on to youth coaching roles with England. We can't ignore that kind of experience, can we?

Let’s call the formation 2-5-3 but it’s going to be pretty attacking as our full backs are strictly speaking wingers; wing-backs maybe. We’ll be okay as long as the opposition don’t notice. Birtles of course played defensively towards the end of his career but we're considering the players in their prime and he has to be up top because he's Garry Birtles! The team will be managed by Brian Laws of course with Kenny as his assistant. 

So, what did we give back to Forest in return for the Clough-polished gems (and one Jem) which came our way? Mariners legend Paul Wilkinson spent a season in Nottingham following two years at Everton. Jack Lester too spent time there but this was under David Platt, not Clough. And we're drawing a line under Clough's retirement in 1993, or else post-Brian stars such as Vance Warner and Jason Lee could sneak onto the subs bench and, we wouldn't want that, would we?

Thanks to Grimsby Town FC for providing the pictures of Garry Birtles and Brian Laws

Did we catch them all? Could we have organised the team better? 

As always, please drop us a line if you've got something to add.