There are strong links between Everton boss Sean Dyche and Nottingham Forest, where he goes for a six-pointer on Sunday that his team cannot afford to lose.
Dyche began his football career at the City Ground under Brian Clough, but less known is his close relationship with many of the club’s former players who attended their regular Thursday lunch club during his nine months out of work.
He found it therapeutic to sit down with European Cup winners John Robertson, Frank Clark and Garry Birtles to talk about football and exchange stories during the time he suffered after being sacked at Burnley.
He returned last week to meet them again for lunch, though he will do his best to disappoint them this afternoon, with Everton starting in the relegation zone after a 4-0 defeat to Arsenal in midweek.
“For me, as a non-working manager, listening to them, having a cup of coffee and sharing their stories was of great value,” says Dyche. “Frank, Robbo, Garry, Paul Hart, John O’Hare, Colin Barrett, others too, sometimes 10 or 12. We had lunch again on Thursday and had a lovely afternoon.
Sean Dyche spent nine months out of football after being released from Burnley
During the time he was out of the game, the manager regularly had lunch with members of the legendary Nottingham Forest side of the 1980s.
Robbo is a legend, unfortunately he has Parkinson’s but is in great shape. I always have a joke, usually the same one repeated a thousand times! But it’s Robbo, right, so you say, “It’s still funny, Robbo.” He is a legend.
“I took my son. I told him to come and meet real football people. It’s a sign of respect for me.
“I’m a big fan of the older guard. I have admired the time with Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson has always been incredibly generous and still sends me messages to see how I am doing. Joe Royle was at Everton recently. These are real people in football that I admire. They still tell you brilliant things and give you gold nuggets.
In particular, meeting Forest’s past stars at a restaurant in West Bridgford, near where he lives, was helpful for Dyche, who had more free time after nearly a decade at Burnley until last April.
“Every Thursday,” she says, “knowing they’re there, going downstairs and having fun with them, and sometimes very seriously. Big debates about football and what it is.
Forest’s history is dominated by the Clough era, when they went from the second division to a league title and two-time European Cup winner in three years, as well as winning four League Cups.
Manager spoke seriously about Forest legend John Robertson, who Dyche revealed has Parkinson’s disease
With the massive task of maintaining Everton’s 69-year top-flight streak on his hands, Dyche is a hip-shooting personality who appreciates the candidness that previous generations of players have given him.
“It’s good to look to the future, but some things don’t change and remind you of that in a healthy way. Sometimes it’s good to hear that, he says. “Why not listen to people who have won the European Cup, if only for the stories, because they have several.
“Unfortunately, I lost John Duncan [his manager at Chesterfield]who was a friend and mentor. I miss him. They are from a different generation. Very honest. You get the truth, end of story that’s right up my street. You ask what they think and they go bang, bang, bang. No fooling around.
Dyche was so enamored with Forest’s Thursday Club, the idea of documentary filmmaker Jonny Owen to make a film about Forest Clough called I Believe in Miracles, that he contacted the LMA and PFA to see if the idea could be replicated for ex-professionals at other clubs.
The 51-year-old admits he received support from the older boys at Forest when he was unemployed until receiving an offer to return to Everton in January.
“It’s the end of football, when they’re by your side they understand that,” Dyche added. “Everyone has had ups and downs in football. I look at John Robbo and he’s doing great, but it’s humiliating.
Everton boss believed it was important to learn from football’s ‘old guard’ like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger
Everton’s struggling Dyche team will be in desperate need of a win when they travel to Forest on Sunday
“Colin Barrett paints and decorates, but he is very proud of it and says, “I had time in the game.”
“They’re good people, period. Bryn Gunn who won the European Cup with Forest but became my friend at Chesterfield. Paul McGregor, who played in the 90s and is a musician. He played for Frank Clark and still resents him for not choosing him again!
“Everyone still has an idea of the game and it’s good to hear from them. Football is changing, but there are some fundamentals in football that will always be there.
“It’s good to hear them. Jonny Owen and I spoke to the PFA recently, I think there is great value in that. The way it works with Forest players is fantastic.