Two years ago today, Burton Albion confirmed the return of Nigel Clough for a second stint as manager following Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s departure.

In the 731 days since, he has overseen Albion's historic rise to the Championship, masterminded an against-the-odds survival in English football's second tier and helped provide some unforgettable moments for Burton fans along the way.

Ben Robinson and Nigel Clough at the press conference to confirm Clough's return to Burton Albion in December 2015

Here, Burton Albion writer Joshua Murray picks out six key episodes in the Burton boss' second reign.


Stuart Beavon fires home in the 2-0 win at Coventry City in January 2016

Burton Albion had taken 10 points from a possible 12 since Clough's return as they travelled to League One promotion rivals Coventry City on January 16.

Having shown the ability under Hasselbaink to pick up impressive wins against some of the biggest sides in the division, Clough’s Burton showed things were not about to change under new leadership.

They restricted the Sky Blues to long-range scraps before the break, and then clinched a valuable victory thanks to emphatic second-half finishes by Calum Butcher and Stuart Beavon.

If they hadn't before, Albion's rivals for the top two stood up and took serious notice then.


Burton Albion celebrate reaching the Championship with a goalless draw at Doncaster Rovers

A point was all Clough's side needed on that unforgettable sunny May afternoon at Doncaster Rovers to ensure they finished above Walsall and broke into the Championship for the first time in their history.

Fittingly, as the manager pointed out, it was done with a 22nd clean sheet of the campaign.

The nerves were certainly on show - on the pitch, in the dugout and in the stands as a mass of yellow-and-black clad supporters urged their side on to the unimaginable heights of the second tier.

But the nerves didn't matter, and promotion was secured.

After coming in with 26 games to go and with the unenviable pressure of taking over a side top of the table, Clough and his management side had led Burton Albion into the Championship.

Could it get any better?


Jackson Irvine celebrates with his Burton Albion teammates after scoring against Derby County

For Burton Albion to be facing Derby County in a league match was a surreal enough experience.

For a packed-out Pirelli Stadium to be witnessing a Brewers win over their big neighbours from up the A38 in a Championship clash really was something special.

Jackson Irvine – surely one of Clough’s best signings as a manager, and yet another reminder of his and his scouting team’s quality in the market - powered home a fine close-range header from Lucas Akins' brilliant right-wing delivery in the 12th minute to give Albion the lead.

From there, they looked every inch a team made for the level, with a composure that undermined any chance of Derby getting back into the contest.

Another stellar Clough signing, John Brayford, shone in defence, while Shaun Barker made an emotional return to football.

Burton have now played 66 games in the Championship. This surely remains the most symbolic and memorable result of the lot, even if it’s not quite the most significant.


Nigel Clough watches on at QPR

Had a decision in January 2017 gone the other way, Clough would never have made it to this landmark in his second spell.

Nottingham Forest - the club for whom he is the second-top goalscorer of all time, and with whom father Brian Clough enjoyed such historic success - made an approach for the Albion boss late in the month, following the sacking of Philippe Montanier.

Following an important 2-1 win over QPR, Clough answered questions on what he would do.

The gist of his response was that an extremely tough dilemma lay ahead.

In the end, despite the emotional ties to the City Ground, the Burton manager elected to commit his future to Albion.

He wanted to stay and finish the job of keeping the Brewers in the Championship.

It was "the right thing to do."


Luke Varney scored the crucial goal in the 1-1 draw at Barnsley
Luke Varney scored the crucial goal in the 1-1 draw at Barnsley

After a campaign packed full of twists and turns, the Brewers did their supporters a favour by ensuring another season of Championship football a week early.

It was another draw that saw them over the line, although they had to fight back from behind at Barnsley following George Moncur's opener.

Stephen Bywater produced a stunning save to keep his team in it, before Luke Varney's first Burton goal shortly afterwards levelled things up and earned them their 52nd and most precious point of the season.

Afterwards, Clough ranked it as possibly the Brewers' greatest achievement.

"It's a bigger achievement than actually reaching the Championship, honestly," he said.


Burton Albion manager Nigel Clough at Old Trafford ahead of the Brewers' match against Manchester United
Burton Albion manager Nigel Clough at Old Trafford ahead of the Brewers' match against Manchester United

One of the highlights of Clough's first spell as Brewers manager came courtesy of the FA Cup third-round ties with Manchester United.

Having held the Premier League giants to a goalless draw at the Pirelli Stadium in January 2006, the Conference Brewers headed to Old Trafford for the replay, eventually losing 5-0.

Eleven-and-a-half years down the line, Clough would take an Albion team back to the Theatre of Dreams, though, when his team earned a Carabao Cup third-round game there following victory at Cardiff City.

This one did not have quite the lustre of the original clash, but it provided a stark reminder of just how far this club has come in such a short space of time.

Again, Clough was in the dugout to watch his Burton Albion team take on one of the world's biggest football clubs - and Lloyd Dyer's late goal gave the travelling fans something to celebrate in a 4-1 loss.