The Doomed United
I have just sat through the movie based on The Damned Utd by David Peace and I can honestly say the film made Brian look a wimp. Almost like a Yorkshireman I waited until someone lent me a copy before witnessing a deception of the scale of fairies, leprechauns, bigfoot and the moon landing.
This was unquestionably a biased Yorkshire point of view and the actors apart from Revie and Clough (Michael Sheen) were tragically miscast more than Orson Welles, Janet Leigh and Charlton Heston in A Touch of Evil. However it drove it home that the great man was in fact human although the facts were stretched and skewed to suit the author’s Yorkshire empathy. I would say that, being as I am as Red and White as he (Peace) is Yorkshire Pudding.
As the true story unfolded we were in the 2nd Division struggling and Dave Mackay was handing over to Allen Brown; another connection there as Mackay went to Derby as Clough’s replacement. While on holiday in Llorett de Mar I was nearly bowled over by two youths running around a bar celebrating. I grinned at their antics and enquired the reason for their joy. They stopped in their tracks and whooped something about Brian Clough being sacked at Leeds. Well we laughed as the man with the mouth at Derby had sort of put his foot in it again by the sounds of it and I had no sympathy as he was our rival’s old manager. Anyway he hadn’t been there long enough, surely it was wishful thinking by the sound of it. It took ages to get the voice of the fans heard to be rid of Matt Gillies down at the City Ground, so a character like Clough? Makes you wonder.
Still we were in the second division and it mattered even less to us so we carried on with our Spanish Costa holiday waiting a day later for the Daily Mirror to arrive down the road at the newsagents come Ambre Solaire shop to confirm the news. Back to the movie and Clough appeared a sad figure, but during his time at Forest I never once witnessed him less than an almighty power, mostly right and very rarely wrong. He gaffered commentators and interviewers on screen playing by the media’s rules so god knows what he was like in the dressing room and board rooms. The news reels at the time of his departure from Derby and Leeds showed bumbling officials Longson and Cussins trying to be the democrats they could never be. These are all cigar smoking rich business men that would give the snot off the end of his nose to a loyal fan.
Still the tale had it that Clough and Taylor stuck together long enough to settle in at Brighton and Hove Albion with a handsome pay off. Now I could see Cloughie making the board and chairman grit their back teeth in hatred as the lucrative cheques were handed over, and likely as not the terrible two that some folk north of Worksop would wish never to have a job again. The film shows the players and board meeting Brian Clough to seal his fate, now this scene took on a bit of reality but I couldn’t stop picturing Billy Bremner’s character Stephen Graham as something from Lord of the Rings and I will apologise on behalf of Tom Hooper (director) to John McGovern and John O’Hare two of my heroes by the way; their actors looked like characters from a late 1970’s Coronation Street episode. The Leeds board took on an appearance of the Monty Python sketch ‘Four Yorkshiremen (40 years ago)’, the northern businessmen talking about how tough they had it in their day.
I know it’s only the flicks but the facts were on a par with Emmerdale Farm, for instance Cloughie told the Leeds players during training to play a seven-a-side game and they blatantly refused; eleven players shoulder to shoulder would not have intimidated Brian Clough never mind a couple Don Revie worshippers. He also mentioned his goal scoring record and it was allegedly ridiculed, now for me I would have held in awe anyone with Cloughie’s record in the days of the lace up leather ball and real tackles. Cloughie as a player feared no one as verified his undoing with a clash which wrecked his knee and playing career. They made Peter Taylor look a bit lad and bit shrewder than they could ever guess and he was the king of gloaters, I loved him on TV interviews
The movie ended with about 30 seconds of on screen credits about how much Brian Clough won with a small provincial club called Nottingham Forest and that was it! I heard some of the Leeds players were said to be embarrassed by the book and would love to have been John McGovern or John O’Hare when they were picking up their medals or the feeling of a League Cup semi final 7-3 aggregate victory to take us to Wembley for the first time since 1959; not to mention the 4-1 away cup thrashing of Leeds in the FA Cup 3rd round. Oh nowt worse than getting dumped at the first hurdle of the FA Cup and nothing finer than a glass of ‘Look where you could have been – 1978 vintage’.
Well according to the Internet Movie Data thingy on the net it didn’t make the top 250 but I bet it gets runner up to Kes on the All Yorkshire Extra Long And Dull (AYE LAD), category.
Wait a minute, there was one good thing in the movie. BC (Michael Sheen) was on the beach in front of the Santa Lucia Hotel Palma Nova after agreeing to go to the Brighton move and we stayed in the same hotel the week before I watched the Doomed United. If I had been there two years earlier then I might have changed my sunbed for directors chair. Lights, camera, action!