The phrase 'old school' is subjective. To some it evokes memories as recently as the noughties while others can recall a much earlier age. Football can sometimes serve as a good yardstick for how much things have changed. The advent of the Premier League in 1992 heralded a new era which would transform the game itself and the entire culture around it.

To some, the 1992-93 season was the start of Football v2.0. Gone were the old First, Second, Third and Fourth divisions and in their place was a breakaway top tier where the clubs held more power. A clear change in culture was coming. Terraces were replaced by seats, television would play a far bigger role. That inaugural season was notable for all sorts of reasons, but perhaps the best metaphor for those winds of change was that it was the final season of Brian Clough as a football manager. Clough was the perennial fly in the ointment and his presence in a more wholesome and perhaps sanitised new football felt like an oil and water moment.

Brian Clough  - Adsum
The names Clough, pronounced Clif.

In truth though, the man who nicknamed himself Old Big 'Ead was coming to an end of his time in the soccer sunshine. His best days were now behind him and his Forest team bowed out of the top flight in the first season under its new identity. Any disappointment at their relegation became secondary though, as Clough announced his retirement before the inevitable demotion was confirmed. What would ordinarily have been a final game of the season littered with anger and recriminations instead became melancholic. Clough, in his trademark green jumper looked bereft and moved as legions of fans streamed onto the pitch to thank him for his service.

It was an emotional end in football for a man who had once been its headline act.

Brian Clough  - Adsum
The names Clough, pronounced Clif.

With a successful playing career ended prematurely due to injury, Clough took to coaching with a headstart on his peers. Perhaps fuelled by the disappointment at his playing career finishing, he quickly made his mark. At 30 years old, he was the youngest manager out of 92 in professional football. With Peter Taylor as his assistant, Clough guided Hartlepools United away from their position as perennial strugglers in the basement division and in his second and final season took them to a creditable 8th position out of 24 teams. This success attracted admiring glances from Derby County, a couple of levels higher up the league ladder. Clough and Taylor departed the North East, leaving a team in far better shape than when they'd arrive. It would gain promotion soon after they left.

It was while at unfashionable Derby County, the duo began to attract national attention. The team who played at the Baseball Ground became footballing big hitters. In a six year spell, Clough led the team to promotion from the second tier before taking another title three years later. Derby County became the Champions of England for the first time, then reached the semi finals of the European Cup the following season. The added pressure this put on Clough's relationship with club chairman led to he and Taylor once again moving on.

A short spell on the south coast at Brighton served merely as a precursor to a more famous spell, one which came to define Clough to many and was later subject of a film. With Brian's nemesis Don Revie having taken the England job, Clough was the unlikely candidate to replace him at Leeds United. Clough had been outspoken regarding the Leeds style of play and when he took the job, he famously told their players to throw all their medals in the bin because they had been won by cheating. Needless to say, his spell at Elland Road was a short one. He was asked to leave after just 44 days.

Brian Clough  - Adsum
The man knew how to wear a tracksuit.

Never one to allow his confidence to dip for too long, Clough returned to the East Midlands area in which his former glories played out, taking the helm at Nottingham Forest, the arch rivals of Derby County. Finally, with infamy cemented following his spell in Leeds, Clough stayed in the job long enough to achieve his full potential. Once again, promotion to the top flight was the first port of call. Peter Taylor had shunned the Leeds opportunity but once again became Clough's right hand man at the City Ground. While Football v2.0 could never see a newly promoted side win the Premier League in its first season, in the old school it was a possibility. That's exactly what Clough and Taylor achieved together at Forest, heralding a spell which saw them win two European Cups and numerous other domestic trophies. While Taylor left in 1982, Clough went on to win League Cups and reached the FA Cup Final in 1991.

Charismatic and outspoken, Clough would appear to have been suited to English football becoming a more commercial entity. However, an argument could be made that maybe his old school tendencies were more suited to a previous era. His robust reaction to a pitch invader in a 1989 match against QPR isn't something that would be tolerated today. Later that same season he witnessed 96 Liverpool fans lose their lives in an FA Cup Semi Final at Hillsborough in Sheffield. He later laid blame on the Liverpudlian fans for the disaster in his 1994 autobiography, but tellingly in 2001, he accepted he was wrong. He wasn't the only one on that score, though once again his eagerness to express an opinion is what felled him.

Brian Clough  - Adsum
Clough had come a long way from his days at Middlesborough.

Following his retirement in 1993, Clough appeared intermittently on television but spent much of his downtime fighting illness. His alcoholism is well-documented and it was this which led to liver transplant in 2003. Stomach cancer eventually claimed his life less than two years later however. It was telling that Derby County and Nottingham Forest fans came together to mourn the loss of a man who took both clubs to their pinnacle, while fans all over England paid respects to the best manager England never had.

His impact on the game of football and its culture continues to resonate, with Jose Mourinho most recently being referred to as a modern day Brian Clough by Stan Collymore.

While football remains a great yardstick for passages of time, the one-off that was Brian Clough will always be the character against whom future football mavericks will always be judged.

Words by: Mark Smith