Derby

Clough's Derby County 'worst pitch' groundsman awarded for work

Bob Smith and Joe Corrigan
Image caption Bob Smith was featured on Match of the Day when he had to re-paint the penalty spot in a game against Manchester City in 1977

A former groundsman who worked under Brian Clough at Derby County, on a pitch considered one of the worst in the country, has been given a lifetime achievement award.

Bob Smith, 73, looked after the Rams' Baseball Ground from 1964-84.

Although the pitch was known for being wet and muddy, Mr Smith said it was all part of Clough's plan.

Mr Smith, who said he and Clough grew "quite close", has been given the award by the Institute of Groundsmanship.

"He could trust me," said Mr Smith.

"He even asked me to take Frank Wignall's transfer paperwork to Lilleshall and I'd have thought that it's highly unusual to have had a groundsman taking that paperwork to the FA."


Football's special relationships

  • Brian Clough's relationship with Bob Smith draws comparisons with that of Lou Macari and his kitman Neil Baldwin at Stoke City
  • Macari thought Baldwin would be good for team morale and described him as "the best signing I ever made"
  • Baldwin's life was recently made into a BBC Two drama called "Marvellous"

Clough's unique style also ensured his groundsman got whatever he wanted to look after the Baseball Ground.

"On one occasion, I'd ordered a spiker," recalls Mr Smith.

"I said 'boss the spiker's come' and he said 'oh dear, put it behind the stand as I haven't asked the board if we can have it yet'."

'Gooey' pitch

Mr Smith needed all the help he could get with what was widely considered to be one of the worst pitches in the country.

Having any water fall on it would, in Mr Smith's words, be like putting "water in a saucer of flour and it becoming gooey" because of the way it was rotavated.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Brian Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor topped the First Division with Derby in 1972

But Clough grew to like the Baseball Ground having a wet pitch because he felt it suited his side's style of play.

"Every big game we would flood the pitch and no one got why it was just wet for first team games and dry for the reserves.

"What went off behind closed doors got Derby County where they were.

"Brian Clough even offered me a Championship medal because he said I'd done as much to get that Championship as Roy McFarland and Kevin Hector.

"I said give it to one of the lads and I do regret that."

Mr Smith even appeared on Match of the Day in 1977 when he had to re-paint the penalty spot against Manchester City.

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