Saturday 4 September 2010

The Damned United

David Peace is known for a number of dark books with crime themes, but The Damned United is something rather different. It’s about the 44 days that the controversial football manager Brian Clough spent in charge of Leeds United. I haven’t read the book, but I recently watched Tom Hooper’s 2009 film of the story, and much enjoyed it.

Brian Clough was a larger than life individual, and a very suitable character for fictional interpretation. He was both brilliant and deeply flawed (as so many brilliant people are deeply flawed) and his vanity led him into many disastrous errors. Prime among them was the decision to accept the job as manager of Leeds, a club which he despised. He also had a long-running vendetta with Don Revie, his predecessor at Leeds. When things go badly for Clough at Leeds, Revie finds it impossible not to gloat. In later years, Clough and Revie suffered ill-health and died relatively young, but in their hey-day they were truly formidable figures.

I was interested in the various changes made to the real life sequence of events for the purpose of making the story (and the rivalry with Revie) more dramatic. It’s a reminder that one has to take the ‘factual’ basis of most fact-based stories with a large pinch of salt. But, for the most part, the inventions seemed to be true to the spirit of the story.

Michael Sheen’s performance of Clough is superb; he really is an impressive performer. Timothy Spall does his usual great job as Peter Taylor, Clough’s long-suffering sidekick, and Colm Meaney is terrific as Revie. A very enjoyable film, even if you don’t like football.


vegetableduck said...

Great job by Sheen, I wonder when he will finally get an Oscar nomination.

I was wondering for a minute there at the end, though, if Sheen and Spall were going to run off together! Quite a reconciliation. What happened to stiff upper lips?

Bill Carlin said...

A terrific book and very enjoyable film. Clough was a true example of that overused word :"legend".
Glasgow people still talk of the time he brought Nottingham Forest here to play Celtic in the European cup. David Hay, the Celtic manager at the time, owned a pub out near the airport. Clough stopped the team bus there on the way to Celtic Park and ordered a round for all of the 'Forest players and backroom staff. The story goes he left a message saying that Mr. Hay was paying.

It's a shame that he was never appointed England team manager, though from a Scottish viewpoint maybe not....

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm definitely not a sports person, but this one sounds good. :)

Alistair Macfarlane said...

A great movie. I was an avid Leeds supporter as a child.
My Dad took me to Elland Road to see them play against West Ham. He also managed to get tickets to the 1972 FA Cup.
Also, I had the full collection of FA Cup coins in the booklet that were given away by Esso.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Curt, he does deserve an Oscar!

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Bill, I do like that story.

Martin Edwards said...

Elizabeth, it is a good watch, even if you are not a soccer fan, I think.
Alistair, those were the days!

Alistair Macfarlane said...

One of the best and funniest books about football is 'Pointless' by Jeff Connor.
Tales of the trials of Scottish Third Division team, East Stirlingshire.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Martin, do you still have any connection with Liverpool FC? I am nearing the end of David Peace’s novel Red or Dead, which so brings alive Bill Shankly and his world that I thought I ought to visit Liverpool and see if any traces of that world survive in this age of Sky and the Premiership.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Peter - there is an iconic statue of Shankly right outside the Anfield ground. I'm sure you would love Liverpool. Great city, not just in terms of music and football.