It was uncanny watching Nigel Clough sat in the Burton Albion dug-out on Sunday afternoon, chatting fondly to his young son William as Manchester United were kept at bay in an epic FA Cup tie.
Step into a time machine, transport yourself back more than 30 years and there's young Nigel, with a gap in his tooth, wearing his school blazer, sat alongside his famous dad and Peter Taylor, who was so fond of the youngster.
I particularly recall Nigel in the Brighton dugout when his father was humiliated by Walton and Hersham in the FA Cup.
That was a big story in 1973 - Cloughie the Championship-winner with Derby the previous year, now getting stick after fetching up at Brighton following his acrimonious departure from the Baseball Ground.
The TV cameras loved the sight of Clough Senior and Junior. Nigel has always said that those times alongside Clough and Taylor were a fantastic insight into the profession that finally claimed him after impressive A level results had signposted other career options.
When he finally broke into the Nottingham Forest first team, he wasn't unduly fazed because he'd seen the associated tensions at first hand throughout various campaigns in Europe, shoulder to shoulder with a unique double act. He was equally sensible in the build-up to the Manchester United game and its immediate aftermath.
There was never any hope of seeing Nigel celebrating with his Burton players as the photographers snapped away. Typically, he was off down the tunnel as soon as he'd ascertained that seven-year-old William was safely in the care of his wife, Margaret and proud grandmother, Barbara, the widow of Brian.
Nigel had endured, rather than enjoyed all the hype in the previous week. I'd conducted my preview with him at Kidderminster Harriers' ground, nine days earlier, because it seemed a good idea to get in early, with Nigel dreading the inevitable questions at the press day about his father. So, as he prepared for Burton's match at Aggborough, he was anxious to divert attention towards his players and talk warmly about Sir Alex Ferguson and his happiness at Burton.
I don't blame him for shying away from talking about one of football's greatest characters who just happened to be his father, cut down by cancer a year earlier. After so many years in the public eye, facing questions about Brian, he must know every line of inquiry - subtle or otherwise - that would lead him, unwittingly, to shed light on their relationship. He's entitled to be bored by it all. Sometimes we media folk expect too much.
That is a contributory factor in his continued presence at Burton Albion, as he enters his eighth year as player-manager, a positive aeon in that profession, with its high mortality rate. Nigel knows that he'll always be compared to Brian if he does go for broke and accept an offer from a big club. He'd have to be sensationally successful before those comparisons ended. Is it worth all the hassle, the intrusions into the life of a very private person?
He seems to me to have his personal/professional priorities squared off satisfactorily. Nigel doesn't need the money, having enjoyed a good living as a Premiership player and it's important to him to be able to pick up his two children from school, having dropped them off in the morning. His father always had a sense of guilt about being away from home for long periods, missing key family moments as the kids grew up. As Brian said to me wistfully one day, 'You never get those times back'.
Nigel won't make that mistake. Living close to his mother, brother and sister - with the attendant offspring - gives him personal warmth and satisfaction and no amount of prodding from external sources will influence his perspective on football management. His father used to say that Nigel had been at Burton too long - "Hell's fire," he once told me, "I'd won the League at Nigel's age and he's still at Burton."
But to each his own and Nigel speaks admiringly of his chairman, Ben Robinson, and the way he supported him when Burton were bottom of the Conference a few months back. Nigel says that sincere, loyal people are important and he enjoys that feeling of kinship at Burton.
Never Say Never. Nigel Clough may eventually take the plunge into the big-time. His former Forest room-mate Stuart Pearce has managed the leap impressively, but perhaps Pearce is the more driven man, more restless. He also doesn't have a famous surname.
But Nigel does have a keen sense of humour. Different, less brash than Brian's, but it's never far from the surface. Last Thursday, as the press swarmed all over him, he quipped, "We're at Stourbridge next Tuesday night - Birmingham Senior Cup, if anyone's interested."
He knows the rules of engagement, that soon Burton's attendance will revert to around 1,500. Part of him will be content to revert to comparative anonymity.
But he'll always be proud of his players for their efforts on January 8 and delighted the limelight shone on them. Only some of it, though. He won't be able to deflect away the credit, whether he likes it or not.
Hacking out truth amid innuendo
No one should ever feel sorry for we football hacks, but this is a difficult month for us, I promise you. It's all to do with this pesky transfer window.
Rumours aren't just swirling around, they're smacking you in the face, demanding attention. The 24/7 maw of rolling news sucks in transfer rumours, chews them around, regurgitates them after an interval of time, then spews out another one. We seem to be spending all our time talking to agents, moles at the club, team-mates of the appropriate player, managers who have their own agenda - but rarely the player at the centre of the rumour. It's difficult to know where truth blurs into evasion or spinning a yarn.
And we all feed off each other, sometimes unproductively so. At Norwich on Saturday, our ears pricked up at the news that the coveted striker Dean Ashton was out of the FA Cup match against West Ham, allegedly with a groin strain. The cynics in the press box didn't believe the club line that it was a genuine injury. After all, that meant Ashton wasn't Cup-tied, and therefore even more attractive to would-be suitors.
The harassed Norwich press officer told us that the manager Nigel Worthington would tell us all about it after the match. That wasn't enough for Sky Sports, though, who came out with a real flier. Up came the flash on the screen, accompanied by that dramatic whooshing noise, to the effect that Ashton was going to Portsmouth for #7million and that Norwich would be making a statement at 5pm.
We were all alerted by our respective sports desks yet helpless throughout the match. Having conducted my own investigations over previous days, I was certain the story was cobblers. It was, and Sky Sports retracted their 'exclusive' before the game was over. The only 'statement' from the club came when the manager said a scan was available to prove that Ashton was genuinely injured and that he was going nowhere.
The Andy Johnson rumour about returning to Birmingham City is another one that needs to be handled with scepticism. We were led to believe on Saturday afternoon that Crystal Palace had turned down a bid of cash and players worth #6.5million for Johnson.
Blues said later that it was an old story, that they'd inquired last month informally about the player they'd sold to Palace for #750,000 in 2002 but had been knocked back.
Cue a tirade from that master of the genre, Simon Jordan. The Crystal Palace chairman is good news for the media because he gets stuck in when riled, irrespective of any nannying from the FA. He was incandescent over the Johnson story, stating categorically that no official approach had been made by Blues, that they were simply trying to curry favour with their fans by bandying Johnson's name around.
Johnson was going nowhere in the transfer window - and definitely not to Birmingham City, the club that poached his manager Steve Bruce four years ago. All that would indicate that this proposed deal was dead in the water, given Jordan's animus towards Blues.
But what if Johnson digs in his heels and wants to go? He never wanted to leave Blues and his affection for the fans was demonstrated last season when, after scoring the Palace winner at St Andrew's, he simply trotted back to the centre circle without celebrating. Johnson always got a great welcome when returning to Blues and after serving his time there as an apprentice, he'll always have time for Birmingham City.
Certainly Blues need a sharp, mobile forward like Johnson to improve the athleticism of the side. The Gold brothers, David Sullivan and Steve Bruce are persuasive operators when staking out their quarry.
Could it be? Surely not! All I can say with certainty is that most of us in the football speculation business haven't got a clue about the Johnson story, but we'd love to see Simon Jordan's face if his resistance crumbles over the next three weeks.
But it's almost like working for a living when you try covering the machinations and half-truths attached to the transfer window. Almost . . .
Resurgent Aussies sound warning
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Australia's cricketers have reminded us that the roof didn't entirely cave in on them when the Ashes were lost on September 12.
Since then, they've hammered the Rest of the World in a farcical concept, thrashed the West Indies 3-0 and just beaten South Africa 2-0 in respective Test series. That final victory, in Sydney, was typical of the great Aussie sides of recent vintage.
In a rain-affected game, South Africa won almost every session, beginning the final day with the best chance of victory. Yet they lost, crushingly, by eight wickets, as Australia chased over four runs per over, winning with disconcerting ease, with fifteen overs to spare.
The Aussies haven't lost their knack of winning the key sessions, knowing when to press for victory and when to retrench. The captain, Ricky Ponting is scoring stacks of runs with his familiar panache and his authority is correspondingly enhanced as leader. Gone is the diffident figure of last summer, outwitted tactically by Michael Vaughan, seemingly dedicated to committee meetings out in the middle.
Ponting has rediscovered his brio and ruthlessness and the Aussies are mean again, pushing the boundaries of fair play to its very limit, with blatant sledging and incessant pressure on the umpires. That's when they're at their best, rather than the rather wimpish outfit that was cowed by England.
They've also shaken up the side, with Michael Clarke, Damian Martyn, Simon Katich, Mike Kasprowicz and Jason Gillespie all dropped. Mike Hussey and Brad Hodge have come in and looked like established Test batsmen. Yet they both had to wait till they were 30 years of age before getting their chance - making almost 28,000 first-class runs between them in the process. These two weren't going to spurn their opportunity after spending such long apprenticeships.
Last summer, the Australians lacked specialist coaches to back up John Buchanan and now he's been joined by two batting gurus and the fielding coach who had helped raise their standards before going off to baseball in America. And Troy Cooley, England's expert bowling coach will soon be back in Australia, a move warmly welcomed at the weekend by Glenn McGrath.
Clearly the English experience was the wake-up call the Aussies needed. We loved it, of course, but later this year, we won't be catching them cold or complacent.