Brian Clough was an absolute legend as a manager conquering England and Europe but not many know he was a hero off the pitch too – saving two boys from their drug dealing dad.
Cloughie took young Craig and Aaron Bromfield and treated them like sons to give them "a better life" – giving them a roof over their heads and the family gave them jobs in their successful business.
Incredibly though the Bromfield boys threw the former Nottingham Forest manager's generosity back in his face by plotting to scam the football icon's real sons out of thousands of pounds in an act of betrayal.
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Now guilt-ridden, Craig has fessed up on the stupid thing he did – and how it had massive consequences for his life too.
The repentant 49-year-old said, "I let them down" and "even now, I struggle with what happened".
He told Sky Sports: "I would have gone to prison because the amount was substantial. My life at that point would have been ruined".
But the despite the colossal betrayal, Old Big 'Ead – as Clough was known – stepped in once again to save Craig who could have gone to prison but now pockets more than £100,000 a year.
Clough’s achievements in football are easy enough to find; the Brit achieved First Division titles with Derby County and Nottingham Forest, as well as four League Cups and two European Cups with the latter.
His relationship with Craig and Aaron began when a Forest player bumped into the pair doing 'Penny For the Guy' stunt – as they had been forced to beg by their family – on a freezing beach during a trip to Sunderland.
That player Kenny Swain then invited the kids to breakfast with them. And Clough hit it off with them.
Craig told the Under The Cosh podcast how he and his brother would regularly meet Clough and his side when the team made the trip up north for fixtures, and quickly became well-liked by the squad and its leader.
He said: "Between 1985 and 88 we would go down pretty much every school holiday,” he recalled. “So it was like four times a year… and apart from the school holidays it was all during the season, so whoever we were playing we would get to see those games, again staying in his house.”
After Aaron joined the army at the age of 16, Craig was invited for a weekend away with the Forest squad to St Andrews, and hid to avoid being sent home. He then opened up to Clough about the reality of his tricky home life, when the manager invited him to live with them permanently.
“For the first time I started explaining to him some of the things that had happened, some of the things that were going on. I didn’t ever tell him that my dad was a drug dealer, or that my mum and dad were petty criminals,” he said.
“He’s gone, ‘right, I’m not having that, I’m not sure what you’re going to do yet but you can come back down and stay with us a little longer while we work it out.”
From that moment on, Craig became a permanent fixture of the Clough family. Brian’s son Nigel, who is now a football manager himself, taught him to shave, and he laughed about going to nightclubs with the Nottingham squad while wearing Brian’s mis-fitting clothes.
At the same time, Craig had also become somewhat of a good luck charm within Forest’s backroom staff under Clough. He remembered: “Forest go on a run where they win 13 games in a row, and go unbeaten for 23. I’m at every single one of them; in the dugout, on the bus, in the first-team dressing room, I’m training with them every day, I’m in Brian’s office every day… The players themselves wanted me around.”
When Craig turned 16, his parents announced that they were moving to London and had no plans to take him. Clough suggested he move in with his family.
However, after living with Clough to the age of 20, Bromfield’s relationship with the father-figure came to a difficult end when he and a friend were caught stealing from a shop owned by Simon, one of Clough’s sons.
“We’d help ourselves to a bit of a stock, I’ve got to be honest. We’d have the odd Mars bar, the odd can of pop and stuff like that without paying,” he admitted, before revealing that this had escalated into discovering his mate taking £300 in cash from the tills.
“Instead of doing the right thing and bombing him out, I took half,” he said. “That led to a period when we stole from the shop on a regular basis… It got bad to the extent that Nigel and Simon came to talk to me about it.
“They said, ‘look, there’s something going on, we need to suspend you for a week, we’ll pay you but we want you to go away and think about where your loyalties lie… I just lost the plot with them.”
Craig estimates they stole a whopping £5,000 over a 12-month period in chocolate, crisps, cigarettes and cash from the family of the man who offered him a new life.
Eventually, Simon sold the shop and the pair lost their jobs, and Craig remembered his heartbreaking meeting with Brian, which confirmed the end of their friendship.
“It was only in 1995 when Brian came up to do a book signing at Roker Park, I’d moved back up to Sunderland at that point… He sat me down and he said, ‘son, we know you were stealing’. He said, ‘we nearly called the police, and the only reason we didn’t call the police is because we took you down to give you a better life and if we’d have called the police that would have been your life over’.
“He said, ‘what you need to do is get yourself sorted out, get back down to Nottingham, get out of this s***hole, and when you get back on your feet come and see us again. I never went to see him again.”
Clough died in 2004, and Craig has been on a mission since to reflect the northerner’s values in his own life. He has kept in touch with Nigel infrequently, and occasionally sponsored and attended Burton Albion games when Nigel was in charge of the club.
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Just before he turns 50, Craig has even released a book titled ‘Be Good, Love Brian, and stressed that he wanted to thank the entire Clough family for the impact they had on his life.
Craig says he if he'd picked up a criminal record, his life would have been ruined – as at that age he had no education and 'no chance'.
He told Undr The Cosh: “Not only that first part of my life where they saved me from hell, [it’s also] the second bit of my life where they’ve not done what they could have done, which would have destroyed me. But the third part of my life is they built me as a person, they gave me everything I needed to be successful, to be nice, to be decent.”
Craig went on to be managing director of three companies after turning his life around – but admits it caused him massive turmoil.
Craig added: "The sick side of it, and I really don't know if I should focus on this, is that I never felt as though I deserved the success that I had. Never. I would sit and question myself because of how I had behaved. It had a psychologically profound effect on me."
He said he called his book ‘Be Good, Love Brian' because: "I’ve just tried to be good, and I will because of him and because of them and the beautiful thing they did."
'Be Good, Love Brian: Growing up with Brian Clough' by Craig Bromfield can be purchased online through Amazon
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