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Aussie life makes for happy Clough

Adelaide United forward, Zach Clough, is still living out that childhood dream.

Adelaide United forward, Zach Clough, is still living out that childhood dream.

Despite playing the majority of his career in England, Clough’s first goal at home for the Reds is up there with the lofty heights of scoring for Bolton Wanderers on debut after growing up in its academy.

Clough admits that his maiden finish in front of the Coopers faithful is something that he had thought about for some time, and it was true vindication after countless hours on the rehab trail with a stubborn thigh injury.

“I’ve been thinking about scoring my first goal at home for a long time, just like c’mon, please just go in off anything,” Clough laughed.

“To finally get it was nice and I went to sleep that night with a bit more of a relief.

“At other clubs throughout my career I’ve usually scored at home and never away, so it was nice to get the first one at home for United.

“I love Coopers, it’s one of my favourite home grounds I’ve played at throughout my career – I love the atmosphere, the style of the stadium, and the lights are very bright now and it feels very good playing under them.

“It’s very similar to scoring at Bolton, and (Nottingham) Forest is also loud, it’s exhilarating.”

Let’s wind it back a touch.

Thrust into a world where football’s brightest prospects were taken to training from high school in a Mercedes with a private driver, Clough was in the Bolton Wanderers Academy from the age of eight.

Bolton were in the Premier League for most of this time and it wasn’t too long before Clough was training with top-flight players from a young age where he had to get used to, and then adapt to, the level very quickly.

The young forward broke into the first team when Bolton were relegated to the Championship, and he took his opportunity with both hands.

He scored on debut at the age of 19 in a 1-0 home win against local rivals, Wigan Athletic, in the FA Cup third round, followed by a brace in his senior league debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers in a 2-2 draw.

England started to take note.

Then Bolton boss and former Premier League manager, Neil Lennon, touted Clough as a ‘special player’, and he was awarded the 2015 Rising Star of the Year Award, edging then Manchester City attacker Raheem Sterling to the accolade.

He even played against the likes of Steven Gerrard in Bolton’s fourth round FA Cup tie against Liverpool in February 2015 and won a penalty for his side in the narrow 1-2 defeat.

An untimely shoulder dislocation against Reading a month later ended Clough’s season after he had scored six goals in 10 games.

A dislocation in the other shoulder just one month into the 2015/16 season further stalled Clough’s ascension, and eventually he transferred to Nottingham Forest which proved to be a fair rollercoaster.

Fast forward another five years and Clough decided on a sea-change to Australia after he moved through the lower ranks of English football, and with full hopes of a career rival that he carries with him to this day.

Clough first arrived in Adelaide from minus two weather in Carlisle and Carlisle United straight into 34 degrees against Newcastle Jet two weeks later, and he was already sporting sunburn on his welcome photoshoot with the Club.

“I used to struggle playing in 25 degrees in England let alone the 30 plus degrees we have here in Australia, he said.

“It probably didn’t help my body at the time but I feel like it’s coming good now and I hope to play as many games as possible for Adelaide.”

And after a tough introductory season, Clough endeavoured to prime up for 2022/23 with a conditioning and acclimatisation trip to Dubai alongside very good mate, Matty Cash (Aston Villa), and compatriot, Declan Rice (West Ham).

The trio grew up in the wintry depths of England, and Clough used the trip to the UAE to continue utilising his friend’s physio business while cheekily hinting at the breezy, warm Australian lifestyle to his Premier League pals.

“Life in Adelaide and Australia is really easy and I love everything about it, especially the beach,” the 27-year-old said.

“In every game I have played I’ve enjoyed the football – it’s at a great level so I’m really happy that I made the move with the full aim to keep progressing my career.

“It has been a bit stop-start recently in terms of my injuries, and I’ve come to know that it’s important to have a rhythm so hopefully now I can keep playing and keep it going.”

Clough scored his first goal for the Club against Melbourne City in the second semi-final last season, a dink that he describes as one of the better goals of his career.

Last Friday night’s simpler pounce and slide over the line that proved to be the deciding goal against Macarthur can open the floodgates for a player who has regularly found the back of the net in English football.

The prospect of Clough playing more and more minutes with target man Hiroshi Ibusuki is a tantalising prospect for Reds fans too, as proven against Macarthur with the former’s pin-point crossing to his team-mate.

Off the field, Clough and his fiancé, Georgia, have fully embraced the warm beach life of SA – Clough even proposing to Georgia on the sands under a magical Port Willunga sunset in April last year.

“I wouldn’t change anything, and I’m thrilled we made the move when we did,” Clough said.

“We do miss our dogs – Lio and Mali our French bulldogs – back home but I’m really thankful, especially to Georgia for making a lot of sacrifices and giving up her teaching career for the time being.

“We’ve formed a nice friendship with Nick (Ansell) and his wife, Nadene, as well, and the other day we were just all joking together that we’ve known each other for a while now but last Friday was the first time Nick and I have actually played together.

“We hope we can keep enjoying our life together here.”

It was Clough’s boyhood dream that very nearly took him all the way to England’s top-flight, and his newfound Australian journey and quest for revival can be just as rewarding.

Only at Coopers – Adelaide United memberships on-sale now.