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Review: The Damned Utd

April 25, 2009

Clough. Clough. Cloughie. Brian Clough. A book about Clough, a book about Brian Clough, a book about his forty-four days managing Leeds Utd. Leeds, Leeds, Leeds.

I picked this book. I picked it because I wanted to read it before watching the film. The film, the film, the film. A film based on The Damned Utd.

Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Tom Hooper…

I’ve read it now. Today I’m no longer a man who hasn’t read it. No longer away.

I loaned it out. That fancy library. The shelves and floors, all books and computers, the monitors and the pages. Due back 30th March, said librarian.

A book about Brian Clough. Ol’ Big ‘ead. Clough. Cloughie. Brian bloody Clough. Forty-two day failure. Leeds, Leeds, Leeds. That place, managing it, Don Revie’s successor. Juxtaposed. All failure and all achievement. Clough’s rise to prominence managing Derby County. Inner monologue. Of a man, ol’ big ‘ead, of a man who was arrogant but got results.

Okay, I can’t be bothered continuing with try to emulate David Peace’s writing style. Peace’s repetition allow us into a mans’ deepest thoughts, his fears and his demons. The style of writing depicts a very claustrophobic atmosphere; we get this constant repetition where Brian Clough and the reader are stuck in this act of remembering, of his past always there. His success and his failure.

I’m not a football fan, but this isn’t a football novel. It’s about one man, his successes and his failures, his hubris and his fears. Clough comes across as a man who knows what he wants, knows he can get it, and knows that he is the best. The other side of this character is his doubts, his anxiety, and his own arrogance. It is a great character portrait.

It is a fictionalised account and people have said it’s not entirely true. That Brian Clough wasn’t like that. It’s more a character piece than a factual one, it’s a portrait of one man. It’s the rise and fall and rise of a man, it just so happens to be based on real life.

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