BRIAN Clough fever is sweeping the nation with the launch of the highly anticipated feature film, The Damned United, only three days away.
The film, adapted from the novel by Ossett-born Huddersfield Town fan David Peace, is at cinemas across the UK from Friday.
It charts Clough’s turbulent 44-day reign as manager of Leeds United in 1974 and was shot at locations throughout Yorkshire last year.
At the time Leeds were the reigning Division One champions but when legendary manager Don Revie stood down to take the England job there was shock amongst Leeds’ fans when Clough, an outspoken critic of Revie’s tactics and players, was installed as the new boss.
Brian Clough died in 2004 but both the book and the film have been snubbed by his family and his widow was said to be upset by the depiction of him as a chain-smoking, foul-mouthed overly ambitious egotist.
Peace has always claimed the book was fiction based on factual events, but Leeds great Johnny Giles has also slammed the book’s depiction of his character during Clough tenure.
He sued the publishers and in February 2008 won a courtroom apology for any inference that he had played a part in Clough’s downfall at Leeds.
But other ex-Leeds players, portrayed as being loyal to Revie and unwilling to play for Clough, will get a chance to see the film for themselves at gala showing in Leeds on Thursday.
Clough’s nemesis, Billy Bremner, died in 1997 but former charges Peter Lorimer, a director at Leeds United, Norman Hunter, Eddie Gray and Gordon McQueen are all due to see the controversial film.
Perhaps they will be able to recall how they felt after Clough told them in his first ever team talk: “The first thing you can do for me is to chuck all your medals and all your caps and all your pots and all your pans into the biggest f****** dustbin you can find because you’ve never won any of them fairly. You’ve done it all by bloody cheating.”
FOOTBALL today isn’t what it was in the 1960s and 70s.
These days an army of publicity gurus shape the image of clubs 24-hours-a-day but back then managers and players said what they liked.
Most famous for this was a straight talking young manager called Brian Clough whose disastrous reign at Leeds United has been adapted into a top-selling novel and now a feature film.
Staying true to the book, the film flicks between Clough’s apprenticeship with Derby County and his turbulent 44 days at Leeds.
Whilst not as dark as the book, Michael Sheen’s portrayal of Clough as a tortured soul striving for greatness in the shadow of Leeds legend, Don Revie, is absolutely spot on.
Managing to look almost exactly like Clough does Sheen no harm and he clearly spent many hours perfecting the idiosyncrasies of Clough’s demeanour and charisma.
The film also brilliantly captures the atmosphere of decay that hung over football in those days; its mud-bath pitches and dilapidated stadia, and scruffy players who survived on raw talent and very little training, some still smoking in the dressing room before and after games.
But the majority of the film is about Clough and scenes of football games are limited, the director preferring to chart the growing ego of a man determined to turn a group of openly hostile Leeds players, loyal to Revie, into his team.
The relationship with his number two, Peter Taylor, (Timothy Spall) also makes for a satisfying buddy movie, but any football fans hoping for glorious action from Leeds’ heyday may be disappointed.