Cloughy’s kindess – Sunderland man invited as a boy to live with Brian Clough tells his story

From left to right, Craig Bromfield, Brian Clough and brother Aaron Bromfield at Nottingham Forest's City Ground on their first-ever visit.
From left to right, Craig Bromfield, Brian Clough and brother Aaron Bromfield at Nottingham Forest's City Ground on their first-ever visit.
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From tough life to Clough life – Craig Bromfield has quite a story to tell.

As a boy growing up in Southwick, Sunderland, he admits that to say he lived below the poverty line ‘wouldn’t really do it justice’.

From left to right, brother Darren Bromfield, dad Gerald George John Paul Bromfield, Craig Bromfield and sister Joanne.

From left to right, brother Darren Bromfield, dad Gerald George John Paul Bromfield, Craig Bromfield and sister Joanne.

However, his life changed in 1984 when he met legendary football manager Brian Clough, who at the time was managing Nottingham Forest, and had enjoyed a hugely successful playing spell at Sunderland in the past.

Craig and his brother Aaron were doing penny for the guy when they came across the Forest team, who were staying at the Seaburn Hotel ahead of an away match.

As most of the players had gone to bed, the boys were invited by midfielder Kenny Swain to come back and get autographs the next day. That was the start of an incredible journey which has led Craig to write a book.

He said: “We met Brian Clough, and he invited us for breakfast with the team before inviting us to the match.

It was like we’d stepped into a totally different world and a side of life we’d never seen before

Craig Bromfield

“We went with them on the team bus, watched them play Newcastle and then came back home.

“We sent Brian and Kenny a thank you letter, and then every time Forest played Sunderland, Newcastle or Middlesbrough, we’d get an invite to eat with them at the hotel before the game.”

After the brothers got to know Clough better, they were eventually invited to stay with him and his family in Derby in October 1985 for a two-day holiday.

Over the next three years, they returned to the Clough household for seven separate week-long or fortnight-long holidays.

Craig Bromfield with the League Cup which Nottingham Forest won in 1989, inside the Wembley dressing room.

Craig Bromfield with the League Cup which Nottingham Forest won in 1989, inside the Wembley dressing room.

Craig added: “It was amazing to go and stay with him. It was like we’d stepped into a totally different world and a side of life we’d never seen before.

“We went from having nothing at all, with our electricity cut off at home, to staying in Brian’s mansion with his family looking after us and getting us anything we needed.

“Even just in terms of eating, some of the food we had there was incredible and things we’d never eaten in Southwick.

“If I could describe it at all, I would say I felt like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Craig Bromfield

Craig Bromfield

“Every time I stayed with him and them, it was like I’d found the golden ticket.”

Things took another incredible turn in 1989, when Clough invited Craig, then aged 16, to stay full-time.

He remained with the Cloughs for the next four years, and travelled across the country with the Nottingham Forest team, taking in cup finals and crucial league games.

Craig added: “It was life-changing. Without meeting Brian, my life would have been totally different.

“There is no way I’d have achieved half of the things I have if it wasn’t for Brian and his family changing the way I viewed myself, giving me belief that I could be anything I wanted to be with some hard work.

“Brian and his family took me from being a scared and bullied little kid who walked around like a tramp, into a confident and smart young lad who then had to mix and fit into the most spectacular world.

“The players as well were brilliant with me, and I got to live a life most teenage boys would die for, watching football games from inside dugouts. It really was the stuff of dreams.”

Craig, 42, now lives in Warsaw, Poland, and has been the managing director of executive search companies, as well as having his own business.

He has now decided to write a book – called From Tough Life to Clough Life – which is written in the voice of Craig growing up in Southwick, and then going to stay with the Cloughs. He plans to publish it by October, and the proceeds of the sales will go to charity. Craig said: “I decided to write it mainly because I think it’s a side of Brian people would want to read about.

“This is Brian Clough, one of the most famous people ever (and someone who is supposed to be a bit of a tyrant), inviting a scruffy lad to go and live with his family just because he wanted to give me a better chance at life.

“I’m not writing it to become rich and famous – I’m writing it because I really think I should do some good with the story he gave me. I want to make him proud.”

Craig is publishing the book himself, and is looking for financial support to help him get the project completed.

To donate, visit pubslush.com/project/2233