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The time Muhammad Ali called out football manager Brian Clough

The former Nottingham Forest manager was more than a match for Ali in the linguistic stakes.

Outspoken football manager Brian Clough finally got to meet Muhammad Ali during the boxer's press conference in 1974.
Outspoken football manager Brian Clough finally got to meet Muhammad Ali during the boxer's press conference in 1974.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

“PART OF BEING a genius is accepting you are one. In my experience very few know they are.”

You would be forgiven for thinking that this quote came from the late Muhammad Ali, but they’re not the words of the former world heavyweight champion, just a brief passage from the autobiography of legendary football manager Brian Clough.

In many ways Clough and Ali were kindred spirits.

They were both bullish, confident, charismatic, outspoken and masters of language – all of which was backed up being the top of their respective fields. Not many people came close to Ali in the ring, with even less matching his linguistic prowess – well, apart from Clough.

When Ali called out the former Derby County manager on ‘The Big Match’ after Clough’s forthright opinions had some people comparing the two candid figures, the former Middlesbrough striker replied in typical Cloughie fashion:

“I’m Muhammad Ali, the world knows who I am. They know I’m confident and they know I talk. But there is some fella in London, England, named some Brian…Brian Clough. Some soccer player or something.”

“Anyway, I heard all the way in America, heard all the way in Indonesia, that this fella talks too much. They say he’s another Muhammad Ali, there’s just one Muhammad Ali. And I want you to [know], whoever you are, you’re not a fighter and you don’t take my job. I’m the talker. Now Clough, I’ve had enough, stop it.”

Clough’s response when asked if he was going to stop it?

“No, I want to fight him,” he said grinning.

Source: FootballGaffesGalore/YouTube

Clough finally got to meet Ali a year later and in his autobiography, the former European Cup winning manager wrote:

I talked to Muhammad Ali and he called me Cloughie. He said, ‘You’re far too young to be a manager.’ He said, ‘You should be boxing.’

“I did punch Roy Keane once, but not very hard.”

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About the author:

Shane Costello

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