Liam Brady, Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Eric Cantona, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo and Colin Todd. What do they all have in common? The answer is that every name on that illustrious list has been the recipient of the PFA Player of the Year award, a prize given to the best player of the past 12 months as voted for by their peers. It was something former Blues defender Todd won during his time with tomorrow’s visitors to St. Andrew’s, Derby County, during the 1974/75 season.
“It’s one of the best accolades you can receive,” reflects Todd. “Even to this day it’s a powerful trophy. You look at the calibre of previous winners and that tells you everything about how highly regarded that award is. It’s something I’ll always treasure. It’s great to look back now at what you’ve won in football and that makes me really proud.
“In this day and age, there is a lot of money around for players, but when I was playing you could equate your earnings to that of ordinary people. Being able to look at my career now and see what’s on the mantelpiece and in the cabinet is tremendous. It was a great time for me.”
And when Todd does indeed look back, one of many honours he can reflect on is winning the league championship twice whilst under the guidance of the legendary manager Brian Clough – a man he, who like many others, speaks so highly of.
The former centre-half says: “I worked with Cloughie at Sunderland and he was my youth team coach, I got to know him then. He was really abrupt and very strong, but had the respect of everybody. By the time I’d got into the first team, he’d moved to Hartlepool. But he had monitored my progress and took me to Derby. He was a tremendous man; he got the best out of players and knew how to man-manage people. We went on to win the championship under him and overall he was a great man. I certainly enjoyed working with him and I had a wonderful eight years at the Baseball Ground.”
His transfer from Sunderland to the Rams in February 1971 was for a fee of £175,000, which was then a record sum for a defender, but Todd did not feel any additional pressure despite his hefty price tag. “I honestly didn’t,” he insists. “Obviously it wasn’t down to me; I could do nothing about it. As it happened, it worked out well for me because I really took off when I went to Derby. I got England caps and my career blossomed. The fee never bothered me. That’s a problem for the chairman.”
Clough was obviously impressed with Todd as he later signed him at Nottingham Forest and such was the classy stopper’s talents that he was often compared to one of the greatest defenders of all time – Bobby Moore. Todd has fond memories of his encounters with England’s World Cup-winning captain, who sadly passed away 21 years ago at the tragically early age of 51: “I respected Bobby because I met him a few times with England. He was a real gentleman and he’d always help you, he would talk to you and make you feel welcome. As a youngster, there’s always that little bit of awe going into a meeting place as a stranger, but he made you feel comfortable.”
Todd had racked up almost 300 games for the Rams before moving on to Everton in September 1978. He’d only spent a year on Merseyside when Blues manager Jim Smith snapped him for £300,000 as he sought to ensure an immediate return to the top flight after relegation in 1979.
“Birmingham was a family club, a homely club,” remembers Todd. “Obviously we had the likes of Frank Worthington, Joe Gallagher, Alan Curbishley and Archie Gemmill – some very good players. We got promotion which was great and I still look upon being at Birmingham as very successful. We held our own in the top division and that was one of the targets set out by Jim Smith when he assembled the side.”
Blue secured promotion following a 3-3 draw at home to Notts County and Todd paid tribute to the fans that helped get them over the line: “After all the hard work we’d put in, once you’ve won the game to go up it’s a tremendous feeling. The crowd were very good; we had fantastic support which is important.” He adds: “I wish all at Birmingham all the very best. I really do wish everyone success at the football club.”
As you would expect for someone of Todd’s profile, he represented his country on numerous occasions and ended his career with 27 England caps to his name. He was inspirational in a 2-0 win over world champions West Germany in March 1975, but the elegant centre-back insists every game in an England shirt was as prestigious as each other. “I look back on all my England games with lots of pride,” he says. “The only disappointment was that we didn’t really push on for a European Championship or a World Cup. I was in the squad against Poland when ‘the Clown’ (Jan Tomaszewski) was in goal and we didn’t qualify, but I look back and treasure every cap.”
Todd returned to St. Andrew’s three years ago when he was a part of the scouting team under Chris Hughton and head scout Ewan Chester. However when both left the club to join Norwich, Todd also departed, leaving some of Blues’ potential transfer targets to make the same journey to Carrow Road. “I was there when Chris and Ewan were there and I was very pleased to be doing that. We were going down the right road with the scouting. There were good targets, good players that were put in to Birmingham that are now at Norwich,” he reveals.
However, Todd did not make the same trip to the Canaries as Hughton and Chester. In the summer of 2012 he returned to Denmark where he took control of Randers FC for a second time. “I was here five years ago and we did very well – hence the reason I came back,” he explains. Randers are currently fifth in the Superliga, which is currently in the midst of its winter break before league action resumes at the end of next month.
It is not common for English players or managers to depart these shores and Todd’s move has not been without sacrifice, but as you would expect from Denmark there is one huge benefit. “The bacon is very good,” laughs the 65-year-old. “But the bread is even better, which makes the sandwich taste fantastic! The tea isn’t very good though, it’s coffee, coffee, coffee! If you want tea, you’ve got to have your own supply of teabags!”