Venables: The Autobiography by Terry Venables Michael Joseph $289 Clough: The Autobiography by Brian Clough Partridge Press $289 CHARACTERS pop up in Association Football all the time; men who dominate the game for over two decades are rare. But in the handful vying for such an accolade in Britain, Brian Clough and Terry Venables would be there. Venables, currently England's team manager, was a gifted player appearing for many clubs. He became an acknowledged coach and manager at home and abroad and is now in the news, not only for his resurrection of the national side but for his battles with computer tycoon Alan Sugar, chairman of Tottenham Hotspur, who dismissed him as the team's manager in 1993. Clough, on the other hand, saw his promising playing career cut down in its prime - still a massive disappointment - only to move into management with phenomenal success. Both of their books set out in different ways to detail their careers while throwing some mud along the way. In Venables, the Autobiography (co-written with author Neil Hanson) El Tel, as he is nick-named, tries hard to show he is a man with just one burning ambition: to succeed in football. He offers graphic details of the boardroom battles which led to his eventual dismissal from the club and attacks Mr Sugar. But while Venables is obviously keen to appear Mr Clean, it must be stated that the co-authors have had to rewrite various sections of the book due to the attention paid to a proof copy by lawyers representing Mr Sugar. When manager of Tottenham Hotspur, Venables states he started looking for a partner to take over the White Hart Lane club. Initial plans had to be abandoned at the last minute and eventually he was put in touch with Mr Sugar through a third party. For a man who co-wrote the books which led to the hit television series Hazell (based on one of his friends) and who admits to hanging round Soho as an apprentice footballer, it is hard to believe Venables, who has been involved in various business ventures (nightclubs, sports board game, author), did not realise he and Mr Sugar would be strange bedfellows. With this being Venables' side of the story only, what really happened between the two men is still unclear and this makes this section of the book a letdown. The most entertaining part deals with Venables' reign in Spain when he managed Barcelona with great success, taking British players such as Steve Archibald and Mark Hughes to the Catalans. But throughout there is repetition and moralising - especially early on - making this an average read with a few high points. With Clough, it's an entirely different ball game. Once again it is not truly an autobiography, as it is 'related' to John Sadler, but it has enabled Brian Clough's life story to be put down in the sharp vernacular style associated with the man, which allows his character to really come through. Indeed, in reading Clough , you have to stop yourself from drifting into his characteristic north-eastern drawl: 'Listen, list-en, I'LL tell you what is needed. It's Go-o-als that count, that's wot win matches . . . ' The book, now a best-seller in Britain, is a hugely enjoyable read. It is not just a football fan's book, but tells the story of a working-class boy who 'made good' but never lost sight of his roots. The book answers some of the questions asked of Clough down the years but never replied to until now. Would he have been the best England manager ever? 'We would have had one of the most exciting England sides ever,' he responds - then admits the English Football Association would never countenance a man who had called Italian players 'cheating bastards', a reference to a 1973 European Cup match when his Derby County team were knocked out at the semi-final stage by Latin aces Juventus. Clough's own playing career took a tragic turn at his hometown club, Middlesborough, when he was badly injured - it is often mooted that his skill matched by his arrogance attracted the extra attention of cynical and clinical defenders - and he had to retire at 29. In 1965, he went to nearby unglamorous Hartlepool United. Clough maintains his greatest achievement as a manager, tactician and motivator, was to get Hartlepool promotion from the old English Division Four to Division Three. He left for Derby County - and fame - at the end of the promotion season in 1967. A year later, Hartlepool went back down. While at Hartlepool, Clough told a journalist that he would win the European Cup 'at least once'. True to his word, he did it twice with Nottingham Forest which he joined in 1975 and stayed with until he retired in 1993. With loyal coach Peter Taylor at his side, Clough took average players and built them into winning teams, proving that when they worked together they could become as brilliant as the most talented individual. Not everyone escapes unscathed. Clough lashes out at certain people, notably Nottingham Forest captain and England international Stuart Pearce, who is alleged to have asked to have his wages doubled (to GBP8,000 a week). Clough chooses to make an issue of this in his book to highlight how players today are asking for too much. But little attention is paid to the fact that Clough himself broke the transfer record on numerous occasions when he wanted to obtain players, for example in the case of Trevor Francis. Although Clough earned great success at Nottingham Forest, in the end the glory faded, Forest declined and Clough himself developed problems. He is quoted as saying: 'I do drink too much . . . I have allowed [it] to take a hold . . . I will face it and bring it under control.' Those word best sum up Brian Clough, a man who has always faced things and tried to bring them under control.