Most blokes of my generation have the same two heroes.

Brian Clough and Muhammad Ali.

But I think most of us would add a third now.

Steve Jobs.

Of course we’ve all got other heroes, and they’ll differ according to each of us.

But those three have got something in common that sets them apart from everyone else.

They each did something amazing, early in their careers.

Then they got dumped out of their job.

Their careers were over, they were finished.

On the scrap heap.

Then they each came back bigger than before.

They each did the impossible.

Brian Clough started as manager of Derby, a little tiny team.

Clough took little tiny Derby and won The League (the equivalent of The Premiership).

On the way, beating Liverpool, Chelsea, both Manchesters (United and City) and everyone else.

Under Clough, little tiny Derby became English champions.


Then Clough was fired.

He took over Brighton, but it was a disaster.

He took over at Leeds, and was fired inside 44 days.

Clough was finished, a laughing stock, he lost all credibility.

Eventually, he got a job at Nottingham Forest.

Another tiny club in a lower divison.

Under Brian Clough, they became English champions, beating all the other bigger, richer clubs.

Clough had taken two different tiny clubs to be English champions.

An incredible achievement.

Then Clough did something that very, very few English managers have ever done.

With little tiny Nottingham Forest, he won the European Cup.

Beating teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona, the Milans (AC and Inter) and the best clubs in all of Europe.

Then Clough did what no English manager has ever done, before or since.

He won the European Cup again, the next year.

Little tiny Nottingham Forest beat the very best teams from every country in Europe.


Brian Clough did the impossible.

So did Muhammad Ali.

Under his original name of Cassius Clay, he won his first fifteen fights by knockouts.

No one had ever seen such speed and grace from such a big man.

Then, at age 22, he fought the terrifying Sonny Liston.

The odds were 7 to1 against Cassius Clay.

But he was so fast, Liston barely laid a glove on him.

Cassius Clay won and became the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

He was so fast, no one could touch him.

Except the US Government.

When he converted to Islam, he changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

He refused to fight in Viet Nam, saying “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.”

He was arrested for draft evasion, and found guilty.

He was stripped of his title and his boxing licence.

During his best years he wasn’t allowed to fight.

But four years later, The Supreme Court overturned the decision.

He was allowed to fight again, but what was the point?

His best years were behind him.

But Ali wouldn’t quit and, at 32 years old, he fought George Foreman.

A man so tough he’d knocked Joe Frazier out, twice.

Ali’s speed had gone now, no one gave him a chance.

For seven rounds Foreman pummelled Ali around the ring.

Then, when Foreman couldn’t lift his arms anymore, Ali knocked him out.

He became world champion again, by knocking out the toughest man in America.

But, four years later everyone knew Ali was really finished.

He lost his title to Leon Spinks, a much younger Olympic champion.

But, at 36 years old, Ali fought Spinks again and won his title back.

Making him World Champion for an incredible third time.

So these were the two men who came back and did the impossible.

Now we have to add Steve Jobs to the list.

He built The Macintosh, the world’s first desktop computer with WISYWIG, a mouse, and scroll-down menus.

He revolutionised computers and invented desktop publishing.

Then he was fired from his own company.

He was finished, washed up, past it.

Journalists wouldn’t even return his phone calls.

Then he bought Pixar and revolutionised film animation.

And he came back to Apple.

Where he developed the iPod, and revolutionised the music industry.

Then he launched the iPhone, and revolutionised the communications industry.

Then he launched the iPad, and revolutionised the way people consume media.

And he made Apple into the most valuable company in the world.

All that, after he was considered finished and his career was over.

So that’s the three people who did something barely possible the first time round.


Then came back, and did something totally impossible the second time round.