SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Nigel Clough admits there is no love lost between himself and Billy Davies as he prepares for Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest.
A bumper crowd of around 25,000 is expected at Bramall Lane for a game that is given an extra edge by not only the Clough family’s history with the City Ground but also an antipathy between the two managers.
During a stormy Forest-Derby County meeting in 2010, Davies and Clough famously clashed on the touchline as tempers boiled.
The Forest chief accused Clough of kneeing him in the back during a melee that involved players and coaching staff. Then Rams manager Clough denied the charge, but Davies sought legal advice and made an official complaint to the League Managers’ Association.
Since that spat, the pair have gone head-to-head three times with the most recent – a 1-0 win for Forest in September – bringing the curtain down on Clough’s reign at Pride Park.
“I don’t especially get on with him, no,” admitted Clough yesterday when asked about the Scot who will be patrolling the away technical area at the Lane on Sunday. “We will shake hands and that will be it.
“We have had a few run-ins down the years, which is probably inevitable because of the teams we were managing at the time.
“Derby-Forest clashes are always going to be interesting. When I was at Derby, they included days when we had melees and we all got fined by the FA.
“There was a lot of passion on show. Up until the most recent game in September, we had a good record at Derby.”
With a place in the last eight at stake on Sunday, the chance of emotions getting the better of the two benches is surely high.
Clough has been an animated figure on the touchline during United’s Cup run. He was, for instance, warned by referee Andre Marriner during the 1-1 draw against Fulham and told to calm down after complaining about the failure to award a penalty when Ryan Flynn had been upended.
Then, in the Craven Cottage replay that the Blades won 1-0, Roy Keane, in his guise as a television pundit for ITV4, suggested that his former team-mate should cool it in the away dugout.
Clough said: “As a player, you are concentrating on what you are doing. Basically, the ball and the game. But when you are on the sidelines, you are more like a supporter and get caught up in the whole game, all the decisions that you perceive to go against you and things like that.
“It would be nice to try and stay a bit calmer. I am trying, honestly.
“At the time, you maybe aren’t as aware as to how animated you are. People told me what Roy Keane said (after the Fulham game). He said I had to calm down.
“Well, if Roy is telling me to calm down then maybe I am a bit too animated.”
As a Forest player, Clough faced the Blades several times. One of those occasions was his father Brian’s final home game as manager, when a 2-0 victory for United condemned the hosts to relegation from the Premier League, in 1993.
Having experienced those fixtures, the 47-year-old appreciates that Sunday’s fifth-round tie could be a fiery affair.
He said: “There always has been needle in this fixture. It always has had that edge. Because there are only 30 miles between the two cities, it has the feeling of a local derby.
“It reminds me a bit of Derby v Leicester or Forest v Leicester. Those are big games because Leicester don’t have anyone close to them so look to Forest and Derby as rivals.
“There will be competitiveness out there, that’s for sure. The fact they are bringing 5,500 fans should help things, too.”
Having spent nine years in the Forest first team and being among an elite group to have scored a century of league goals for the East Midlands club, Clough’s past was always going to bring an intriguing extra element to Sunday’s tie.
As a result, United’s weekly press conference – which usually attracts just a handful of reporters – was besieged by the broadcast and written media.
All were hoping to talk about Brian Clough but, having spoken extensively about both the Cup and his father before previous rounds, the United manager made it clear he wanted to stick to discussing more modern-day issues.
Asked about the significance of drawing his former club, he said: “It took a couple of replays to sort us both out so I wasn’t, necessarily, struck by the thought of playing Forest.
“Then, once they beat Preston, it was here. The tie is an intriguing one. There are quite a few all-Premier League ties, but maybe this one catches the imagination a bit more than those games.
“We are the lowest ranked team left in the competition and we are up against a team going for promotion to the Premier League.
“There are a few connections between the clubs.”
Clough, of course, is the biggest current link. However, when pressed further on his playing days at the City Ground, the United manager said: “I am struggling to remember my time there. It was 20 years ago. That is a long way in the past but, by and large, they are happy memories.
“Forest have a squad capable of getting promoted. They are coming into our game on the back of a 16-game unbeaten run.
“I live in Derbyshire so I don’t get too many vibes as to what people in Nottingham are thinking.
“But there is a lot of positivity around the club because of the results.”
Cloughs at Forest: Page 22.