63 goals in 74 games: Sunderland striking legend will be remembered fondly this weekend

Before his managerial career began, Brian Clough enjoyed a fine spell at Sunderland
Before his managerial career began, Brian Clough enjoyed a fine spell at Sunderland
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As his son prepares to tackle Sunderland this weekend, it’s difficult to resist casting an eye back to Brian Clough’s brief but brilliant spell on Wearside.

It was a career that once looked so promising - until it was cruelly brought to a premature end.

There were high hopes for striker Clough when he joined Sunderland in 1961.

He had been a prolific goalscorer at local rivals Middlesbrough - finding the 204 times in just 222 appearances - and the Black Cats shelled out a fee of around £45,000 to land the frontman, who had handed in a string of transfer requests at Boro.

Despite what was a high transfer fee at the time, the pressure didn’t affect Clough and his time on Wearside a productive, if unfortunately short, one.

In the 1962/63 season, Clough had scored 24 goals by the time the calendars marked Christmas and the striker was in full flow.

But then, on Boxing Day in 1962, came a career-ending injury.

Clough was sent through on goal and collided with Bury goalkeeper Colin Harker in the tricky conditions, which saw a biting chill and ice accompanied by ferocious winds.

After prolonged treatment, the diagnosis was that the striker had torn the medial and cruciate ligaments in his knee.

In those days, that usually spelt the end of a playing career - but Clough wouldn’t be giving up that easily.

Following two years out injured, Clough returned to action intent on discovering his goalscoring touch.

But it proved far from easy, with the striker forced to retire just three games into his comeback.

Nonetheless, Clough left Sunderland with an impressive record having netted 63 times in 74 games.

And Sunderland continue to have a big significance in Clough’s life after retirement.

Perhaps the biggest reminder of his time on Wearside is his son, Nigel, who will lead Burton Albion into battle against the Black Cats this weekend.

Nigel was born in Sunderland and has previously commented on his father’s love for the area.

“Unbelievable,” said Nigel in April, when asked about Brian’s regard for Sunderland.

“He used to talk with such affection about the club and the people and everything.

“Although it was cut short by injury, he so enjoyed his time here.”

Nigel too shares the affiliation, having been complimentary of the Black Cats in the past, and he too may cast an eye back to his father’s impressive time on Wearside ahead of Saturday’s League One clash.