Old controversies revived in new Clough film

There were times 20 years ago when it seemed Brian Clough was on the television or in the newspapers every day. Although the often-controversial manager has been dead for nearly five years, those times seem to be back. Clough's legacy lives on in a new film, books, a television documentary, newspaper and magazine articles, statues, and not least in the memories of arch-rival Nottingham Forest and Derby County fans, who have never forgotten how he revitalised their clubs and led them to glory in the 1970s and 1980s.

However, it is a rather less successful, but no less eventful, period in Clough's coaching career which has focused attention back on one of the greatest managers in the English game.

The 2006 novel by David Peace "The Damned United", which intriguingly tells the story of Clough's 44 days in charge of Leeds United in 1974 from the manager's imagined point of view, has been adapted into a film of the same name which is released this week.

Actor Michael Sheen, whose best-known roles include former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and television host David Frost, plays the leading part and said in a BBC interview that he had his own perspective on Clough.

"The central thing about him for me was that he was a prolific goalscorer and a great player, and he was injured which brought his career to a very early end, so he was always someone who didn't get to do what he wanted to do," Sheen told chat show host Jonathan Ross last Friday.

"I think management was always a second-best thing for him and he felt hard done by after he finished playing, so as "he" says in the novel 'from then on I lived my life as revenge'.

"I liken him in a way to Marlon Brando who had a disrespect for acting that gave him a freedom and a nonchalance and a risk-taking that was his genius -- and I think Clough had a similar thing about management."


Clough may have regretted the early end to his playing career at the age of 27 after scoring 267 goals in 296 matches for Middlesbrough and Sunderland but he quickly put that disappointment behind him and became a successful manager.

He began his managerial career at lowly Hartlepool United, taking them to promotion, then moved to Derby, transforming them from a poor Second Division club into English champions in five years.

After a brief spell at Brighton and his 44 days at Leeds, whose previous manager Don Revie he passionately disliked, he moved to Nottingham Forest in 1975, and turned them into European Champions by the end of the decade.

Clough was outspoken and often very funny and the catchline of the new film recalls one of his most famous statements: "I wouldn't say I'm the best manager in the business but I'm in the top one."

His career at Leeds, which ended when he was sacked, famously got off to a shaky start when he told the players on his first day: "As far as I'm concerned you can throw all those medals you've won in the bin, because you won them all by cheating."

Like Clough in real life, neither the book nor the film has won universal popularity. The Clough family, including his widow Barbara and son Nigel, who took over his father's old job as the manager of Derby in January, have said they will boycott the film, with Nigel saying it is full of inaccuracies.

"If you