Alan Biggs at Large: Tough Clough preaches patience at Sheffield United

Alan Bigg Telegraph Web Tile
Alan Bigg Telegraph Web Tile

A fresh-faced, younger than his age 47-year-old sits be-suited, not entirely unlike a smartly dressed kid on his first day at big school.

It’s Nigel Clough’s unveiling at Sheffield United and, yes, it’s exactly how he feels. New school, though? More like old school in the way the son of a famous manager trusts that he will have the time for the job.

As for the nerves, Clough junior has played for England and some of the country’s biggest clubs. This is the relatively obscure Sheffield United struggling in the third tier.

Yet that is precisely why the task throws up something new and why taking charge of only his third club as a manager, behind Burton Albion and Derby County, can be an unnerving task.

The fact he’s United’s seventh “permanent” boss in as many years totally conflicts with his own record as a player and manager.

“My career has been about stability,” Clough tells me, not needing to add that his new employers desperately need the same thing.

“I’ve come in here to what is actually only my second new job as a manager – across more than 15 years.

“That’s why I admit it’s a bit daunting for me.

“Managers who hop around from club to club might find it easier.

“For me it’s something different.

“But there is proof that when I have time, I do produce a decent record in results – and players who can become assets.”

Will Hughes’ spectacular emergence from a Derby academy Clough streamlined with Darren Wassall is all the evidence he needs.

It’s why he confesses to still being in shock over his Pride Park sacking and also why United headhunted him to replace David Weir almost from that very moment.

Clough is taking a leap of faith because he doesn’t like short-term.

Nor, it would appear, too much disruption in his life.

Bit of a home bird? Possibly.

Even when he was viewed as a veteran towards the end of his top flight career, I recall covering a game in which he played at Manchester City and then seeing him board the train I took back across the Pennines.

He was returning to the family home.

Those who know Nigel well claim they could never see him managing beyond commutable distance.

In that sense, Bramall Lane is ideal.

Full marks to United for sticking to their top choice and getting him.

This can be a good time for both parties.

They are in tune on a playing culture that, correctly, has survived the ill-fated tenure of David Weir and in developing young players.

And don’t let Clough’s lifestyle or willingness to show his feelings persuade you he is tender.

Nigel is tough underneath; he’s had to be.