Following on from our In2views article with award winning columnist, broadcaster and journalist Doug Weatherall, Original Fat Bob has once again met up with him, as Doug recalls his days involved with football and sportsmen at the highest level. We delve into his diaries to reveal never previously told facts and intimate stories, which helps to bring back to life, what it was like to meet the footballing heroes and be part of the footballing community. Doug was lucky enough to be able to share moments in those great and heady days, or commiserate at the dark times that often everyone in the football world endures. This Diary posted on our blog, is a view on the life and career of Colin Todd.
Colin Todd was born in December 1948 and became a tremendous player for England, Sunderland and Derby County. Most notably for the Boro fans, he was also once their Football Manager and Coach. He was memorably Bruce Rioch’s, right hand man during the dark days of the Boro liquidation, before taking up the reins himself in March 1990 with Middlesbrough, succeeding Bruce who had been sacked. He had coached the club from the Third Division to First Division in successive seasons, but Middlesbrough were struggling in the Second Division and we were facing the real threat of moving from the Third to First Division and back again in successive seasons. Todd kept the club in the Second Division and they qualified for the play-offs a year later, although they were denied the chance of promotion after losing to eventual winners Notts County in the semi-finals and Todd quit soon afterwards. He was most recently the manager of Esbjerg fB.
Todd had opportunities to sign for Newcastle United and the Boro, but, chose Sunderland “because of their tradition for youth”. He played a major part in the Sunderland youth team’s 1967 victory in the FA Youth Cup, led by their coach Brian Clough. By then, Todd was already a first-team regular. He made his debut as substitute for Charlie Hurley in a 1–1 draw away against Chelsea in the First Division on 10 September 1966 and by mid-season had established himself in the starting eleven. He missed only three league games in the next three seasons, at the end of which Sunderland were relegated from the top flight. After 191 appearances and three goals in all competitions for Sunderland, Todd re-joined Clough at Derby County in February 1971.
On joining Derby, he had cost them a British record transfer fee for a defender of £175,000. When linked with Derby, Brian Clough famously remarked “We’re not signing Colin Todd, we can’t afford him”, he then signed him that same day. Clough sent the chairman Sam Longson a telegram informing him of the signing and the size of the fee: £175,000. He formed a formidable partnership with Roy McFarland at club and country level. Under Clough, he helped Derby win the First Division title in his first full season at the Baseball Ground and collected a second title winner’s medal under Clough’s successor Dave Mackay in 1975.
As a player, he made more than 600 appearances in the Football League, also playing for; Everton, Birmingham City, Nottingham Forest, Oxford United and Luton Town. He ended his footballing playing career when he played in the North American Soccer League for the Vancouver Whitecaps. He won two Football League titles with Derby County during the 1970s and won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in 1975. He was capped by England on 27 occasions.
He has managed other English league clubs including; Bolton Wanderers, first, as the assistant to Bruce Rioch, then moving up to manager, when Rioch left to manage Arsenal, having achieved promotion in the 1994–95 season,
Todd was also caricatured in the 2009 movie about Brian Clough’s days at Leeds; “The Damned United.”
OFB: When did you first hear of Colin Todd, was it when he was playing for the junior team at Sunderland?
DW: No. It was when he played for Chester-le-Street and District Boys in the 1963-64 season. In relative terms, they were a tiny association with few schools from whom to choose players. But, remarkably, they reached the final of the English Schools Trophy, even though in every previous round they were drawn away from home.
Nine of the regular members of the Chester team were from one school, Washington Grammar. The most notable being their skipper, inside-forward Colin Suggett, who was also to have an outstanding professional career with Sunderland, West Brom, Norwich and Newcastle.
His fellow Colin (Todd) attended Chester-le-Street Modern School, but, in terms of football scholarship, he was to be in the highest university class.
My first viewing of his Trophy team was in the second leg of the ’64 final. Their opponents were Saltley and Erdington Boys from Birmingham. The first leg was at Villa Park and although Chester had led, they had to settle for a 1-1 draw. Durham County Schools’ FA centenary celebration book claims the Saltley equaliser followed a corner, which should have been a goal kick. Again, unluckily for Chester, Captain Suggett, so often a major
influence, was dazed early in the second leg at Roker Park and his side suffered. Saltley won the game 2-1.
OFB: Was Colin Todd instantly recognizable as a footballer who was destined for greatness?
DW: I didn’t have to be clever to spot that Toddy was good. I have always admired players who could tackle properly, in other words without fouling. Colin always had that great ability, even though in his early school days when playing with older lads, he featured as a scoring centre-forward.
OFB: Do you think he tried to emulate his style of play on any individual player who played in his position?
DW: I don’t know, but many so-called ball winners in today’s football should study any available film of his play. He didn’t have to foul. His pace was crucial in his timing of a clean tackle.
OFB: When did you first get to know him personally?
DW: Around the time he was getting into Sunderland’s senior side. He’d already shown his quality with Sunderland’s under-18 team. As a kid he played in the first Sunderland side to reach the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup. Remember Brian Clough, his playing career tragically ended, coached that team and when I asked him who was his top player? he said:” Number 4”.
Soon after Colin got into Sunderland’s first team it was the great Scottish international wing-half, Jim Baxter, who told me: “You should write about young Toddy, he wins the ball and gives it to me.” (You’ll gather Slim Jim wasn’t the greatest tackler himself!)
Naturally, I was only too pleased, often to praise in print Colin’s ability.
OFB: Did you have long chats with him about his football?
DW: Not until much later. He wasn’t one to fuss. His quality football spoke volumes, anyway. But, funnily enough, I’ve particularly enjoyed chatting with him in recent years. We sometimes bump into one another while watching Durham play cricket at Chester-le-Street. As you can guess, Mr. Clough is invariably mentioned, honourably…
OFB: What do you think was his most memorable game, his own individual performance as a player?
DW: His so consistent performances were of such a high standard, his aforementioned ball-winning, he was so reliable that my great memories of his play just merge.
OFB: What was your best, personal and most enjoyable experience watching him as a player?
DW: Seeing him help my great friend, Brian Clough, win the League Championship for the first time in Derby’s history.
OFB: What was his worst game in your experience?
DW: I’m not saying it was a poor performance from him, but it was strange to see him for once outpaced. That was in a Derby v. Newcastle match. Magpies’ inside-forward Tony Green was the man Colin couldn’t catch. Tony made only too few appearances for the Geordies before injury ended his career, but many opposing defenders knew how his pace could leave them trailing.
OFB: Were you upset when he left Sunderland to go to Derby?
DW: I’ve never enjoyed “my” North-East clubs selling good players. We should be proud enough and ambitious enough to keep our best. But since Brian Clough was such a good mate and had so much ability, I knew Colin was in the best of hands.
OFB: Did you know that he was going, and did you get a scoop due to your relationship with Brian Clough?
DW: Not exclusive, but I knew what was happening. Whilst Sunderland thought they were doing great business in taking a record fee for a defender, they didn’t realise Brian would have paid even more for the young man who would eventually replace the more senior central defender Dave Mackay at the Baseball Ground.
OFB: Who was in your opinion the manager that had the greatest influence on his career and why?
DW: No doubt about that. Brian Howard Clough, of course.
OFB: Which opposing team and which players did he like playing against?
DW: People may be surprised to hear that he liked playing against two Liverpool stars, Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish “I generally came out on top against them,” he said. As Colin explained,” Kenny was good at getting behind his marker”, but Colin’s pace meant he came out on top.
OFB: Do you know who was his favourite player of all time and why?
DW: George Best for Manchester United. Colin rates him the most highly gifted player. But, he recalls the Don Revie team at Leeds as very talented. He could never forget a remarkable FA Cup-tie with Leeds while he played for Sunderland. It went to two replays with the second at Hull. Controversially, it was decided by a penalty, the referee being near the half-way line when it was awarded. For their protests George Herd and George Mulhall were sent off.
OFB: Do you know who his other favourite players were?
DW: As a lad who supported Newcastle, he loved going to St. James’ when Len White and Ivor Allchurch played for the Magpies. He thought they were terrifically exciting. And he loved playing with Charlie Hurley when he was with Sunderland. Charlie, said of Colin, “he had two great feet.”
OFB: Of what, in his career, was Colin most proud?
DW: When his fellow professionals voted him their PFA Player of the Year for his outstanding performances in the 1974-75 season. As someone who’d known him from his school days you can guess how chuffed I was!
OFB: Did you ever see Colin play for England, live at Wembley?
DW: I didn’t but I watched England on TV and still do, even though I wish they would speed up their approach play.
OFB: When he started coaching were you in contact with him then?
DW: For day-to-day info, I was mainly in contact with the managers of the clubs not the coaches.
OFB: Can you tell us of his disciplinarian methods, when he became a coach and manager, was he respected?
DW: As far as I know, he’d try to be as firm and fair as was Brian Clough, who had heeded how manager Alan Brown practised discipline at Sunderland.
OFB: Were you in contact with him during the liquidation crisis at the Boro?
DW: I dealt mainly with Bruce Rioch during those sad days.
OFB: Were you surprised that Colin and Bruce stayed at the club, even though they weren’t getting paid?
DW: Not really, both had plenty of backbone and belief in their judgement.
OFB: It was a remarkable chapter in the history of MFC did you cover the news on it at that time and if so, are there any stories from behind the scenes?
DW: Yes, it was quite a story. I dealt mainly with Bruce with whom I’d developed a good working relationship. His father had been a military man and, as a former National Service sergeant myself, I could see that Bruce believed that with good judgement the club would eventually emerge from dark days.
OFB: What do you remember about Colin the most?
DW: That pace; that fair tackling. Brian Clough’s most common call to his teams was “Get it!” – where “It” was the ball. You can’t do much without it…
OFB: A huge thank you Doug, for taking the time to open up your Diary again, revealing this latest chapter to Diasboro and our readers.