Two charismatic Englishmen met in the 1979 final, with Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest FC overcoming Bob Houghton's Malmö FF. Champions Matchday looks back.
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There were striking similarities between the coaches who led their teams out in Munich for the 1979 European Champion Clubs' Cup final. Both were young Englishmen with burgeoning reputations, in charge of surprise packages, playing their first European final. Both had set their sides out in a quintessentially English 4-4-2, and both had been disappointed by their playing careers. The finalists: Malmö FF and Nottingham Forest FC. The managers: Bob Houghton and Brian Clough.
Houghton's route to the final was remarkable. A promising midfielder, he never broke into the Fulham FC first team in the late 1960s. By the time he was 24, he was player-manager at Maidstone United FC. Having acquired his coaching licence, he assisted Bobby Robson, his manager at Craven Cottage, at Ipswich Town FC.
In 1974, without an Allsvenskan title in three years, Malmö took a chance on Houghton, who learned Swedish in less than two months of night school. Houghton introduced 4-4-2 to Swedish football and Malmö won the league three times between 1974 and 1977, laying the basis for their historic 1978/79 European Cup campaign.
AS Monaco FC, FC Dynamo Kyiv and FK Austria Vienna all failed to pierce Malmö's back line as Houghton's superbly disciplined side marched on. The only team that managed to find the net against them were Wisła Kraków, who scored three goals over two legs of their quarter-final, only for the Himmelsblått to hit five of their own.
Clough's route to Munich was perhaps even more impressive. Just 27 when a knee injury effectively ended his prolific goalscoring career – his final haul was 251 goals in 274 league games – he moved into management, making his name at Hartlepool United FC and Derby County FC (with whom he won the league) before almost destroying his reputation in a 44-day reign as Leeds United AFC manager.
He joined Forest in 1975 when they were a struggling second division side. In 1976/77, they gained promotion and the very next season they were champions. Forest's first European Cup opponents would be reigning continental title holders Liverpool FC. Despite finishing seven points clear of the Reds in the league, Forest were still seen as underdogs, yet won 2-0 on aggregate. Clough's efficient team then eased past AEK Athens FC and Grasshopper Club. A 0-0 home draw in their semi-final first leg against 1. FC Köln left fans wondering if the adventure was over, but Ian Bowyer scored the only goal in Germany to seal a place in the final.
In the run-up to the showdown in Munich, Houghton was described by Shoot magazine as "the Brian Clough of Sweden", though he admitted he would have preferred not to have faced Forest. "We were praying we would play Köln," Houghton said. "
We fancied our chances against the German side and we thought Forest wouldn't do it. We would have been so much better off not playing against an English team. We didn't surprise them, they were used to it."
Trevor Francis's 45th-minute winner meant that Forest did prove a step too far for Malmö, whose entire team was born in the city and its environs. The match was a tense, tactical encounter with the injury-ravaged Swedish side defending deep and hoping to hit the more assured Forest on the break.
There was great mutual respect between the managers, even if Houghton still laments the impact injuries had for Malmö, once recalling: "Clough was lucky in one respect – that the difference between the teams
which played in the quarter-final and final was six players." Always good for a quote, Clough was bullish in his response: "
It wasn't a great game. But we still won, so who cares?"