Can Nigel Clough keep Burton in the Championship?by Mike Holden / 07 August 2017, 10:22Tweet
Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike) gives his 2017/18 Championship prediction on Nigel Clough and Burton.
Burton grafted their way to safety under Nigel Clough, in their first ever season at this level, holding their nerve after seven defeats in eight matches either side of Christmas to beat the drop by a point. The Brewers were never out of the bottom six from November onwards but spent only seven days in the relegation zone. They have added depth over the summer, mainly snaffling out-of-contract players from relegated Blackburn and Wigan, but a long-term injury to record signing Liam Boyce is a significant blow.
Clough is a staunch traditionalist, a man of integrity who values hard work, tenacity and stability. He has huge respect for the way things have always been done and considers most new ideas to be little more than the repackaging of old methods. His teams are fairly cautious and predictable from a tactical perspective but incredibly consistent in terms of application. He recently spoke of his regret at leaving Burton, then non-league, for Derby in 2009, even though his Pride Park tenure lasted nearly five years.
"It's not an advantage knowing you are going to be struggling but it does make us a little bit more prepared. Seriously, that's how you've got to look at it - to say, 'we might not be out the bottom six all season here'. We need the mentality where we know we are going to lose games, and you just have to get over it. Players hate losing, we all hate losing. But they dealt with it well last season and we have to do the same again."
The Brewers have improved their squad with extra depth rather than better quality and the course is only going to get tougher second time around. Honest graft only gets you so far but most teams will be better prepared for what a game against them entails, especially at the Pirelli. Burton will remain competitive and their survival is likely to be a close-run thing for the entire ten months. But ultimately, Clough lacks the tactical ingenuity to consistently surprise teams and keep opposition mangers second guessing.