The value of soft skills

I don’t follow football much, but I grew up in Derby in the 1970s, when Derby County were managed by the infamous Brian Clough. It was impossible not to follow Cloughie’s career, so I watched his 44 days at Leeds and then his move to Nottingham Forest.

I remember the 1991 FA Cup Final between Forest and Spurs. It was one all after 90 minutes and so they went into extra time. After 15 minutes the score was still level. During the break, Spurs went into a huddle, with their manager talking to the players, encouraging them, inspiring them and generally reinforcing their team spirit. Clough, however, just sat in the dugout with his arms folded and a face like thunder. The Forest team milled about aimlessly on the touchline and had no words of encouragement.

When play resumed, Nottingham Forest conceded an own goal and that was how the match ended, Spurs winning 2-1. Clough only lasted another two years in the job and then retired from football management altogether.

Out of the few football matches I’ve ever watched, this one has stuck in my mind precisely because of the illustration it makes of the value of soft skills. Brian Clough was an excellent technical manager but had no soft skills whatsoever; and when it was most important, their absence swung the match – and the Cup – without the other side having to do a thing apart from hold the game together.


99 Second Talk
Midlands Testers, 17th April 2019 (Photo: Ben Fellows)

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