Too Good to be Forgotten by Ben Dobson – Review

Too Good to be Forgotten by Ben Dobson Review (2)

By Karl Hornsey

This well-researched, informative and entertaining book, written by lifelong Southampton FC supporter Ben Dobson, tells the stories of three giants of football management from the 70s and 80s, whose careers intertwined during those decades to a remarkable extent – namely Brian Clough, Bobby Robson and Lawrie McMenemy. While Robson continued well into the 90s and started his managerial career much earlier, it’s those two decades that are the focus, largely because all three were transforming the fortunes of three provincial clubs who few would have expected to be challenging for honours. The achievements of the three managers at Nottingham Forest, Ipswich Town and Southampton respectively were outstanding, and gave their supporters, including the author, some of the greatest memories of their lives. And it’s this feeling that Dobson taps into so well.

Speaking to long-time fans, as well as several of the players involved in playing under each of the managers, Dobson moves chronologically, season-by-season, to build up the story of how each club was taken from outside the top flight to challenge for (and win) major honours, with all of them competing in European competitions. One could argue, as even the author does, that yet another book featuring Brian Clough isn’t necessary, but linking the outspoken love-hate character with the rather less controversial Robson and McMenemy is a masterstroke that adds another angle to his life, especially using another common thread between the three, that of their shared north-east roots.

Too Good to be Forgotten by Ben Dobson Review (1)“Illuminating”

Their respective grounding in their homeland helped to shape all three and give them the principles and beliefs that carried them so far, and this is featured heavily in the book. While much has also been documented of Robson’s time as England manager, the job that finally took him away from his beloved Tractor Boys, and the final years of his career with Newcastle United, I suspect many followers of the game won’t remember his time at Ipswich, whom he transformed to title challengers and European victors. And that period of his career is a fascinating one, well worth telling.

While Clough and Robson are household names and instantly recognisable to non-football followers, that’s not so much the case with McMenemy. Inside the game, as shines through in this book, he was well-respected and loved, and courted by the likes of Manchester United, eventually taking up a role with England as assistant to Graham Taylor, having missed out on the job during his heyday. So it’s illuminating that he is given at least equal prominence here, even though ultimately his achievements were overshadowed by those of his rivals and friends. And that’s another thread that runs through the book – that all three were close, if not socially, then certainly through mutual respect and of those shared roots.

This is an excellent read for anyone craving the days when clubs such as these could rise to challenge the establishment, not just for one season, but for many years, and how an eye for signing the right hidden gem, getting the best from those considered past their best, and a loyalty to their fanbase, were still possible.

‘Too Good to be Forgotten – Three Wise Men from Football’s Golden Era’ by Ben Dobson is published by Pitch Publishing


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