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Book review: I Believe In Miracles

Daniel Taylor's book is dropping through letterboxes by the bucketload. David Marples has read it and would like to read it again...and again...and again.

Stephen Gulbis @thefootyartist

Upon first hearing that a film was being produced that would tell the story of the rise to prominence of the all conquering Nottingham Forest team between 1975 and 1980, people outside of Nottingham maybe wondered whether there was anything else to say about Brian Clough. Jonny Owen's magnificent film captures the wondrousness of the story and tells it in a way that communicates very clearly why this game of ours touches us in the way that it does - not all the time, but when it does, it reaches deep down into our soul and grabs it by the scruff of the neck. Daniel Taylor's accompanying book is the gift that prolongs and extends the pleasure delivered by the film.

A sense of trepidation accompanied the thud of the weighty tome hitting the floor after wriggling its way through the tight space that is the letterbox, like John Robertson shuffling his way through two defenders. Books that accompany films can be rather mundane affairs, littered with beautiful stills from its moving image and more fanciful big brother but adding little to the actual narrative. Furthermore, what else is there for Taylor to say since Owen's film, with full and frank access to all of the leading characters, seems to pretty much close the door on any chance of hearing further anecdotes about this glorious era. Surely we've all heard everything that there is to say about it and if we hadn't, it is laying dormant and discarded on the cutting room floor for a reason (or dragged into the 'trash' icon at the click of a mouse, if we are to maintain pace with cinematography and editorial related metaphors).

But Taylor has not only done his homework, he's laminated it, bound it and left it on the teacher's desk decorated with an ambrosial apple, just for good measure.

Jose Mourinho's foreword sets the tone in articulating just what this Nottingham Forest team meant to the football community - within and beyond Nottingham. Taylor then knits together the nuances of the many faceted story expertly, adopting a loosely chronological structure but happily going analepsis and prolepsis as appropriate. With such riches of anecdotes on offer in the form of Brian Clough and Larry Lloyd - to name but a few - some would say the book writes itself but that would be akin to claiming that all Owen had to do was point the camera in the vague direction of the players - such accusations would seriously undermine the skill required in communicating and crafting a story: Taylor blends it all together like a master puppeteer.

What's more, there are some gems of information and anecdotes that Taylor unearths while at the same time avoiding trampling instrusively upon the fascinating story. Viv Anderson's reflections on barricading himself inside the toilet of a Greek hotel room are priceless, John Robertson's parting words to a gaggle of team mates as they depart into the Zurich night to defy Clough's orders reveal the awe in which Robbo held the great man, Pater Taylor's running commentary as the German champions Cologne step off the bus at the City Ground for the semi final tie for the benefit of the Forest players transport the reader back in time while stifling giggles. The efforts taken to improve John Robertson's heading ability, Tony Woodcock's assessment of how Clough correctly predicted how the key games would pan out and what exactly happened to John Robertson's - that man again - scuffed up, chip pan oil soiled brogues are all revealed within. What's more, if John McGovern's commentary on what was going through his head as he raised the big old trophy aloft doesn't reduce you to a blubbering wreck then you have a heart of lumpen metal.

Taylor too gets to the heart of what Forest's achievements meant to their rivals - at the time the great Liverpool team - which were momentarily but absolutely and utterly knocked off their perch by these provincial upstarts. His analysis of just what the team achieved and how it got right under the skin of certain members of the opposition is riveting.

Meticulously researched and beautifully written in prose shifting between witty and poignant, one gets the distinct feeling that were Brian himself to have read it in his pomp, young Taylor would have found himself invited into his office, given a dressing down about his haircut, lectured on the words he actually should have written and then been summarily dismissed into the car park. But not without a brief but distinct 'perfect' sign from Brian, indicating that beneath it all, he was actually quite chuffed and pleased with the boy's work.

Daniel Taylor and 13 of the 'Miracle Men', including John Robertson, Trevor Francis and Kenny Burns, will all be at the event on Thursday 19 November, from 6pm onwards.

The book, which is priced at £16.99 and is available to purchase in the City Ground megastore and online at shop.nottinghamforest.co.uk now, has the support of filmmaker Jonny Owen, who will also be at the signing session.