When Dean Saunders left Derby County in 1991, his options were plentiful.
The Welsh striker eventually joined Liverpool for a British record fee of £2.9m, but not before he’d spoken to Leeds United, Everton and Nottingham Forest, managed at the time by Brian Clough.
The story of Clough’s charm offensive went viral in 2016, when Saunders regaled his memories of it on TalkSPORT – meeting the manager at the house of Forest assistant boss Alan Hill, where, among other things, the forward revealed that Clough presented him with flowers from the garden as a gift, and asked him to join in singing a Frank Sinatra song.
Subsequent media reports questioned whether the story was 100 per cent accurate, but Saunders – later a manager himself with the likes of Wrexham, Doncaster and Wolves – insists that it happened.
“Well, I was there,” the 59-year-old said during an exclusive interview for FourFourTwo magazine. “I went to his assistant Alan Hill’s house and I met him. It doesn’t sound true, does it? But it happened. He called my agent a fat b*****d. It was a hilarious experience: he was asking if I liked flowers, if I liked Frank Sinatra…
“He’d do anything for me to sign, though he couldn’t compete with Liverpool and Everton financially. When I became a manager myself, I went to those lengths – I realised the little things like getting to their wife, their mother-in-law, their dad.
“One of the funniest stories I’ve heard was of a player meeting Cloughie with his dad at a hotel – Brian Rice, I think it was. Cloughie walks in, Brian is sat next to his dad, and Clough says, ‘Son, before we carry on, tell your dad to take his earrings out’. He didn’t tell his dad – he told Brian Rice. His dad had to take his earrings out! How to get people on the back foot straight away!
“What a manager. I wish I’d played for him. And Howard Kendall, because he bid £2.9m for me as well. I met Howard Kendall, Brian Clough and Howard Wilkinson at Leeds – I wish I could have played for them all, but Liverpool signed me and that was that.”
Chris Waddle has revealed why playing for England was so frustrating.
Andrey Kanchelskis, meanwhile, has told a harrowing tale of death threats in Uzbekistan. On a lighter note, Liam Brady told FFT his favourite fish.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1