He was not talking about Arsenal and our surprise signing of Petr Cech from Chelsea when he said this, and we would need to have a medium with the ability to contact people from beyond the grave to get his opinion on that, but football has not changed enough in the last 35 years to make what the late great Brian Clough said on the subject of goalkeepers any less relevant to the current situation.
Cloughie is still hailed as a football genius by the Forest fans and who can blame them when you consider that he took the small club from the midlands from the second division, as was, to the pinnacle of English football and then on to back to back European cup triumphs. I still hear England fans call him the best manager we never had.
Anyway, back to keepers, and Clough often spoke about how his signing of Peter Shilton from Stoke in 1977 was perhaps the most important transfer he made. It was not just Shilton’s catlike reflexes and athleticism in goal that made him so vital to that Forest team though, but the way he organised the players in front of him and gave them extra confidence.
Back in the day Clough said, “With Shilton in goal, it gave everyone more confidence. It spread through the side … The defenders felt safer, and the forwards thought if we could nick a goal, there was more than an evens chance that the opposition wouldn’t score at the other end.”
I am not saying that Arsene Wenger has been trawling through old quotes from Brian Clough to get some hints on how to win the Premier League title, but I do think that the way a top class keeper helped Forest to achieve those amazing years of success is very relevant to Arsenal’s situation this summer.
If Cech can bring the extra confidence and organisation to our defence as Shilton did, as well as his shot stopping and general keeping ability, then this one transfer could be as big for us as the signing of Thierry Henry or Dennis Bergkamp. And how cheesed off will Jose Mourinho be then?