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Football Association chairman Geoff Thompson has led the tributes to Brian Clough who died yesterday of stomach cancer.

“On behalf of the FA, I would like to express my deepest sadness at the passing away of Brian Clough,” said Thompson.

“Brian was a unique figure in the game and one of the most successful managers we have ever known. We will be miss his company, his character and his insight.

“This is a great loss to football, but we will always remember his considerable contribution to the English game.”

Arsene Wenger, whose Arsenal team recently eclipsed Forest’s unbeaten 42-match league record, was another to pay tribute.

“I remember watching his teams play and I would say that the Forest side of the late 1970s will go down in history as one of the all-time greats,” said Wenger.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that I was truly touched recently when he complimented the way this current Arsenal side plays and that we deserved to break his record.

“People use the word legend too freely but Brian Clough is a true legend of English football and his success in this country and in Europe is a legacy for which he will always be remembered.”

Celtic manager Martin O’Neill, who was an integral member of the Forest team of the late 70’s, compared Clough to Muhammad Ali.

“He was absolutely sensational and I don’t think Brian would disagree with us either,” said O’Neill.

“He would be the first to say that he was the greatest of all time. But he was like England’s version of Muhammad Ali.

“He had fantastic charisma, unbelievable charisma. Outwardly he had this fantastic self-belief and self-confidence but in truth I think sometimes he was as vulnerable as all of us.

“One of the great myths of all-time was that he was a manager and not a coach and seldom on the training ground.

“The very fact is that every day was a coaching lesson from Brian Clough and when he did come down to the training ground for a 20-25 minute spell you’d pick up enough in that time to do you a life time.

“He coached during the course of games. His memory was phenomenal.

Stuart Pearce captained the side during the final years of Clough’s career.

Trevor Francis, who was signed by Clough in 1979 to become Britain’s first £1m footballer, said the manager treated all players alike.

“We all took stick it didn’t matter who you were, whether you cost £1m or came on a free transfer,” said Francis.

“He treated everyone the same. We all had the greatest respect for him, he was a genius at what he did. I look back on my time at Forest as an honour and a privilege to have played for him.”

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was another to pay tribute.

“He’s done something unique,” said Ferguson. “He’s won two leagues with provincial teams, not the big guns, and he’s won the European Cup twice in a row with a provincial team.

“He was eccentric at times, but I don’t think there was anything wrong with that.

“I quite enjoyed some of it, though I was sometimes on the end of it.”

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