Nigel Clough usually comes across as calm and composed. There are few emotions on show in his post-match interviews. After the 5-2 defeat against Forest, however, he held nothing back in his criticism of Dean Leacock and Paul Green.
“I thought they offered us absolutely nothing. We have a very young squad. You need those so-called experienced players to come through for you. . . . They can’t really hide. When you go over the white line, there’s no hiding there, you either do it or you don’t do it.”
Managers generally avoid individual criticism, preferring to slam the team performance. Yet this approach allows players to hide. It’s easy to agree that the team played badly; it doesn’t mean any individuals will take responsibility. Targeting Leacock and Green is personal and embarrassing. Which is why it might work.
Clough is not a ranter. Managers who foam at the mouth after every loss have little authority; no-one is going to listen when they are angry. He is an intelligent young man who was upset and furious. The fact that his anger is rare and genuine will give it more power.
“You’ve either got it or you go back to League Two or Poland or wherever you’re from.”
We live in an era of player power, where a 25 year old striker can hold one of the biggest clubs in the world to ransom. Yet managers still write the team sheet. By threatening players with League 2 or Poland, Clough is reminding them of something that many seem to have forgotten: they are entirely dispensable.