Damned United a damned good film

AS in life, Brian Clough manages to court controversy in one of the most talked-about football films ever and it only came out on public release yesterday.

Derek Davis

AS in life, Brian Clough manages to court controversy in one of the most talked-about football films ever and it only came out on public release yesterday.

EADT chief football writer DEREK DAVIS went to Ipswich's CineWorld to see The Damned United and discovers what all the fuss is about.

ANYONE that has ever sat in a dressing room before a big game will love this film.

Any football fan that has ever wondered what it would be like to sit in a dressing room with Brian Clough in charge will come away from this film with a slight understanding of how that feels.

The portrayal of Brian Clough by Michael Sheen is excellent, the likeness incredible and so good in fact that the mix between archive and the film is seamless.

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There is a moment when Clough addresses the Derby team and you could feel his presence in the dressing room being transmitted to the audience. The effect his words, succinct and personal have on the players and it then that Clough's persona is brilliantly put across and you can understand his very aura.

Ditto with Colm Heaney's portrayal of Don Revie, if you didn't know he is also dead you would think it was him. Unfortunately Timothy Spall did not pull it off quite the same as Peter Taylor who was physically bigger than Clough and while Spall, as fine an actor he is remains, well, Spall.

Questions have been raised about the accuracy of David Peace's book from which the film is adapted and in truth only those who were actually there at the time will know the definitive answer to who did or didn't do what. That doesn't take away from the fact that this film is captivating from start to finish and evokes memories not just about Clough's short-lived spell at Elland Road but football and the country from that era.

Although the hooliganism is not shown and the politics of the days touched only slightly, the period is shown in startling clarity.

When Clough's resignation is accepted by the board that had called his bluff, the players' petition being signed was done in candlelight, a reminder of the gloom brought on my power cuts and miners' strikes of the time.

Clough was a staunch Labour man, and made it clear when he was reluctantly in Brighton with Peter Taylor and this passing reference merely added another piece of the jigsaw to the complexity of the enigma that was the man and manager.

Taylor was vital to Clough, and vice versa and the pair were to later win successive European Cups with Nottingham Forest but were to fall out so badly later on.

That sort of partnership can never be underestimated, look at the effect losing Dale Roberts had on George Burley, and perhaps if Taylor had gone to Leeds with him things may have worked out differently, but more likely it would have just put off the inevitable.

The importance of their relationship is never explored too deeply as the film centres of Clough's obsession in revenge over Revie for snubbing him years earlier in a cup game when Derby were struggling near the bottom of the second division.

It is doubtful whether his 'hatred' for Revie and Leeds United was really the spur for him to take Derby County from nowhere to English champions as Clough was already immensely ambitious.

Whether it was Johnny Giles and Billy Bremner who were the main architects of Clough's demise at Leeds as the film leaves us believe is almost irrelevant, except for those close to the individuals.

What is fair to say is Leeds were not universally popular champions, dirty cheats is how Clough sums them up as he suggests the players fling their medals in the bin as they have not won them fairly.

Bremner's dismissal in the Charity Shield after he punched Kevin Keegan, who retaliated, is factually correct as was Giles' earlier attack on Keegan.

Leeds comes out of the film with not one iota of sympathy or dignity, thus fuelling the common perception of them as a club that remains for the neutral to this day.

Clough does not come out of it unscathed either.

We see his vulnerability, arrogance, even uncertainty at time.

His loneliness expertly captured when partnership with Taylor ends in Majorca and Clough is shown as a small figure alone in the left hand bottom corner on a huge screen.

Of course he bounced back and perhaps that should be the sequel where we see 'Old Big 'Ead in his full pompous glory, full of wit charm and whisky.

The Damned United is a must see, it could replace Escape to Victory as the most popular football film. That would be fitting to the man who many consider the greatest ever football manager in England.