OSTENSIBLY, this is a column chronicling the rise of Sheffield United’s new golden boy David Brooks.
But first, a story about the late, great Brian Clough. And Stuart Pearce.
A little social media vignette recently did the rounds. It revolved around a story relayed by Dean Saunders on Talksport - who had been told the tale by ex-Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Mark Crossley.
Forest captain Pearce had just arrived back on Trentside after performing for England in a midweek fixture. A game he apparently felt that he did fairly well in.
Pearce is in the training ground, getting ready for training with the rest of the lads. Ol’ Big Head nonchalantly says to his skipper in front of his team-mates: ‘Do you think you played well on Tuesday?. ‘Yes, gaffer, I thought I did okay’, came the reply. Clough retorts: ‘Well, I thought you were shocking.’
In the middle of the dressing room, there was a carrier bag. Pearce was told to have a look inside. Inside the bag was an iron.
Slightly confused, Pearce was then referred by Clough to an article in Forest’s last home match programme which advertised his family’s electrical business. Now run by Pearce’s brother, while old Psycho concentrated on the football.
Clough, as only he could, spoke about his Barbara needing a faulty iron to be fixed tout de suite.
‘If you don’t fix it before Saturday, you won’t play, son’, he told Pearce, a trained electrician. Something along those lines, anyway. Maybe with the odd swear word thrown in for added effect.
Few managers could deliver reality checks in quite the way that Clough could. Your feet were not just kept on the ground, they were chained to a mooring next to the Trent.
For the time being - and let’s hope for a good while yet - remaining with the Blades and continuing his education as a footballer and a man is surely essential.The YP’s Leon Wobschall
But you suspect that the likes of Chris Wilder and Alan Knill aren’t too bad at that side of management. Which brings us back to young Brooks, whose wonderful, beguiling performance illuminated Sunday’s thrilling Steel City derby.
It was special and a coming-of-age moment for a precocious kid who effortlessly drifted past opponents like a young whippersnapper used to tear away from his dad, uncles and grandparents in a family game of football on the beach.
To his credit, Brooks seems a modest and nice enough kid. As for appreciation from his gaffer, he got a brief ‘well done’ tap to the face from Wilder and a little word in his shell-like after the final whistle by a straight-faced Knill, who you suspect can do deadpan rather well.
Everyone at S2 knows that they have a unique talent on their hands in Brooks. A kid going places.
But for the time being - and let’s hope for a good while yet - remaining with the Blades and continuing his education as a footballer and a man is surely essential.
Wilder and Knill will look after the kid. Keep him humble and grounded, play bad cop when required, but also show a duty of care to the lad.
As will his team-mates. It’s a special group up at Sheffield United’s training ground at Shirecliffe.
Ahead of pre-match press conferences, you mix and grab a cuppa while the players have their cornflakes and poached egg on toast in the canteen. And have a game of pool or two. No-one bats an eyelid, really.
The wisecracks are not far away. A vibrant canteen in a vibrant workplace at a vibrant start to the working day.
Expect the jibes to have been coming in the early part of this week to Brooks following his MOM performance at Hillsborough - just to keep him down to earth.
“Make the tea, Brooksy. There’s a good lad ... milk and no sugar.”