In 1977, Brian Clough was manager of Nottingham Forest.
They’d just been promoted into the First Division, the equivalent of the Premiership.
Clough’s assistant was Peter Taylor and they wanted to buy the Stoke City goalkeeper, Peter Shilton.
They’d built Forest into a team that could score goals.
Now they needed someone to stop them conceding goals.
If they could persuade Shilton to come, they’d be unbeatable.
But he was dragging his feet.
He wasn’t sure Forest was a big enough club.
Taylor wanted to drive straight over to Stoke and talk the reluctant Shilton into signing.
But Clough said no.
Clough said let’s wait a week.
Taylor said why, what difference will a week make?
Clough said “Look at it this way.
Shilton knows he’s the best goalkeeper in England.
But he can’t get into the England team because of Ray Clemence.
Clemence plays for Liverpool, and Liverpool’s winning everything, so people think Clemence is better.
Shilton knows he can only show he’s the best if he gets to play on a good team.
He doesn’t think Nottingham Forest are big enough.
But currently he’s playing for Stoke, in the second division.
And look at the fixtures list that’s just come out.
Next week Stoke are playing Mansfield Town.
Mansfield bloody Town!
You couldn’t even find it on a map.
And even if you could, can you imagine a wet, muddy Saturday in a tiny, rusty stadium with draughty changing rooms, damp towels, and no showers?
And the crowd made up of one man and his dog.
Imagine what that’ll feel like to the man who knows he should be playing in massive international stadiums.
He knows he won’t get a chance as long as he’s sitting in Mansfield Town’s tatty, rickety changing room.
He’ll feel depressed and desperate.
So let’s wait a week, until after the game, then make him an offer.”
And that’s exactly what they did.
And Peter Shilton nearly bit their hand off.
Nottingham Forest may have only just been promoted, but they were a damn site better than Stoke and Mansfield Town.
And Clough and Taylor were right.
He was the missing piece.
Taylor had been a goalkeeper himself, so he always knew how good Shilton was.
Shilton commanded the entire area around the goal.
It gave the whole team the confidence to go forward and score.
And Clough, who’d been a centre forward, knew exactly how intimidating Shilton was for opposing strikers.
Clough said “Even if you get past the midfield and the defence, you’ve still got Shilton in front of you.
That’s like a bank robber getting past the police and the security guards only to find finding the bloody bank vault welded shut and bricked up.”
And it was.
In his first season, Shilton kept an amazing 23 clean sheets.
With Shilton in goal, Nottingham Forest did the incredible.
They won the league, beating every team in England.
The next year they did the unbelievable.
They won the European Cup, beating every team in Europe.
The year after, they did the impossible.
They won the European Cup again.
No English team, before or since, has done it.
And Peter Shilton went on to replace Ray Clemence as England’s first choice goalkeeper.
We can learn a great lesson about media from Brian Clough.
It’s not just what you say that’s important.
It’s also where, and when.