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In conversation with....Larry Lloyd

As we all damn near soil ourselves with excitement about the release of 'I Believe In Miracles', Nick Miller had a little chat with Larry Lloyd about the film, working with Brian Clough and intimidating Kevin Keegan...

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This is an interview originally conducted for a piece on Sky, which you can read here.

So how was it for you to be involved with the film? How did you get involved?

Well basically, Jonny had this idea and he couldn’t believe why nobody had done it before, because they were an amazing four/five years. People had done Clough films but this is different, this is the players. Obviously there is a lot of Clough and Taylor in there, but it’s all the players talking about those years and that’s not been done before. Jonny just rang me and told me what his idea was, would I be interested. Well of course I would. And I don’t think he had any opposition from any of the players to be quite honest.

I think you said in your book that you preferred the second European Cup – is that right?

Probably the reason I said that was [getting to the first final] was a hell of a feat but the opposition was Malmo, not the biggest club in Europe, although on the way they did beat Real Madrid. We were probably deemed slight favourites, then in the second one we played Hamburg of course. Kevin Keegan, Manfred Kaltz and all, they had a lot of German internationals in that team and they were by far the favourites to win that - and yet we won 1-0. So that’s probably why I said it, it was the strength of the opposition.

I think you had quite an unusual tactic of intimidating Keegan before the game...

I had four years with Kevin at Liverpool, so I knew him pretty well. We were reasonable friends. My job was to look after the big boy up front and was Kenny Burns’ job was to stop Keegan. I said to Kevin in the tunnel "Well, because of our friendship, because we were at Liverpool together, I’ve just got to tell you that Burns is out to do you." And as we turned around to look at Burnsy, he was just taking his false teeth out and chewing red gum that looked like a piece of raw meat. So, I said "There you go Kev, sorry mate."

I had a go at him a couple of times but Burnsy, he was ruthless with him. As the game wore on Kevin was going further and further away from us, deeper, you know. He didn’t want anything to do with us.

You wouldn’t necessarily get away with those kind of tactics now, but do you think if Clough was managing these days, would he still succeed with that style of management?

Well maybe he would have to adjust a little bit. It’s the same thing that people have often said to me of the likes of Kenny Burns and Tommy Smith, Norman Hunter - the hard lads who were playing when I was playing, could we handle it today? Well, we would have to adjust – of course we would have to adjust, but it's like the old saying that good players can play in any era.

Go back to Stanley Matthews. Stanley Matthews could play today. George Best would be priceless today. So yes, Clough would be able to manage because he was a world-class manager. He would maybe have to adjust a little bit, but knowing Clough, he wouldn’t adjust much. But yeah, he would be able to manage today.

It seemed that you and Clough didn't necessarily like each other personally, but there was a lot of respect there…

Well, that’s true. We were never going to be on each other’s Christmas card list, let's put it that way. I had one million percent respect for him as a football manager because he was a genius. So obviously I had respect for him and I think he had a bit of respect for me, because he knew that I could do a job for him. And despite the rows we had, the verbals we had, which were plenty, when the team sheet went up on a Friday morning, Lloyd was always up next to No.5. He never let personal feelings interfere with how he did his job.

Obviously one of his big strengths was man management. I was wondering how much of that personal dislike was genuine and how much of that was a management tactic, because one of the things you talk about in the film was trying to win praise from him...

I’m inclined to go the way you are heading there. That it was part of his man management way, that he knew that if he ignored me - this little thing, and I mention it in the film, where by he puts his index finger and his thumb together and he gives you a signal, with his hands up - "Well done." I rarely got one of those. And that was part of management, because he knew I craved a little bit of a pat on the back. Which he did on occasions, but he knew he would get the best out of me because I’d say ‘Right you bastard I’ll get you to say well done to me even if it kills me.'

If you ignore me and don’t give me too much praise, he knew that I would strive a lot more to get that praise. Whereby other players in the team, he had to have his arm around them all the time saying ‘Come on you can do better.’ There’s players like that and then there’s players like me who needed...a more aggressive approach to man management. But it worked.

Another thing you mention in your book was that you were possibly the most fined player in Forest’s history. There’s the famous blazer story, were there any other stories…

We were playing a little friendly at the City Ground, a team from America - Miami or something like that - and I tried a little back flick in the first five minutes. That wasn’t my game, I was a straight forward ‘get the ball and give it to someone’ and I tried a little fancy back flip, and I tripped over…and up went number five and he took me off.

He took me off in Toronto on another tour where the referee asked me to pull my socks up for the National Anthem and I told him where to go, and obviously I’d offended the referee before the ball was kicked. We were all lined-up for the kick off and up went No.5 and he dragged me off before a ball was bloody kicked. So, I think I’m about the only player that was taken off in the warm up.

Last year I wrote an article about Jimmy Gordon, who most people wouldn't know much about. What sort of role did he have? One of his roles was to act as a sort of go between…

I loved Jimmy Gordon. We all did. He was a smashing man. He was Clough’s man obviously, he was Clough’s voice on the training ground. We didn’t have any tactics, we didn’t have any bloody noughts and crosses on a blackboard, we didn’t have cones out or anything like that. Jimmy just sort of worked on our fitness, because again, like Clough, he knew that the bunch of players there knew what their jobs were.

If he felt that you were a little bit out of line he would sidle up to you and say ‘Look, don’t let the boss hear about this, don’t let the boss see this.’ If I stepped out of line he'd say ‘I’ll give you one more chance and, if not I’ll have to report you.' Just had a quiet word in your ear. He played an important part, and like you say, he tends to get forgotten.

I think there are a lot of people out there (non-Forest fans) who still don’t really know how good John Robertson was, but the film should fix that...

It’s a million years since I finished playing, but even now when people say 'Who was the best player you played with?' And I don’t even hesitate. The thing with John Robertson, he was a magician, whenever we were in trouble at the back, we were under pressure, my outlet was John Robertson. give him the ball and he’ll give us a rest, and he might create something. He was actually a magician. I know he’s a personal friend of mine, but that aside, he could play. OK, he wasn’t a prolific goal scorer but he used to feed the goalscorers. And from a cross he could put the ball anywhere he wanted. He deserves all the praise that is coming his way.

You'll know this already, but 'I Believe In Miracles' is out very soon. All details are here.