THE Damned United has divided football – and stirred memories for former Town player and manager Steve Smith.
The controversial film, based on the novel of the same name by Town fan David Peace, charts Brian Clough’s tempestuous 44-day reign as manager of Leeds back in 1974.
Amazingly, the catastrophic spell in Clough’s otherwise trophy-laden career started and finished with matches against Town at Leeds Road.
The first, on August 3, day five of Clough’s tenure, was Smith’s testimonial, and the last, on September 10 (day 42), a League Cup second-round tie.
Smith was a stand-out performer as Town, then in the old Division III, came within two minutes of dumping the league champions, who were rescued when Peter Lorimer struck at the last gasp to cancel out Alan Gowling’s opener.
It later emerged that Leeds were in turmoil, with defender Gordon McQueen admitting: “It’s fair to say the senior players didn’t take to Clough’s methods, and it was an unhappy camp.
“Results hadn’t gone well going into the Huddersfield game, which was one we would normally have been expected to win comfortably.
“There were a lot of rumblings behind the scenes, and within two days, we heard Clough had gone.”
Smith recalls: “We knew there was something afoot at Leeds, but didn’t realise the degree of unrest.
“They would have been a massive scalp for us, and it was a shame not to beat them.
“Even after Brian Clough had gone, we took them to two replays before they finally beat us 2-1.”
Of his testimonial, Smith says: “It had been fixed up by our manager Ian Greaves and Don Revie.
“But by the time the match came around, both had gone, with Bobby Collins replacing Ian and Brian Clough coming in after Don Revie left to take charge of England.
“Brian’s arrival at Leeds caused a huge amount of interest, and I wasn’t complaining, because it probably put a few thousand extra on the gate (of 11,969).
“Ironically, I couldn’t actually play in the game because I was injured, but I want out onto the pitch to shake hands with all the players and present them with mementoes of the occasion.
“I had a couple left over, and as I walked back up the tunnel, Brian Clough was just in front of me,
“I asked him if he would like one, he said ‘yes please’ and we had a nice chat. It would be lovely to think it’s with the artefacts held by his family.”
On the man who in the film is splendidly portrayed by Michael Sheen, right, Smith says: “I came across Clough a few times and he was always very pleasant.
“Leeds was a strange period for him, but you can’t argue with what he did at Derby and Nottingham Forest, and I would have loved to have seen him take charge of England.”