The Damned United: The Brian Clough Story
Brian Clough - who is he?
Let me say, before I type another word, that I truly dislike football.
Call it soccer if you prefer but the fact remains that I find it boring, incomprehensible and I really couldn't care less about its history. Having got that little lot off my chest, read on to find out more about one of my favourite films which yes, is about English football in the 1970s. Bizarre.
You need no knowledge of soccer
To enjoy this movie, there's no need to know the first thing about football. Or England. Or history. I'm a prime example. I have been to, as far as I recall, one football match. I saw Leeds United play at Elland Road sometime in the late 60s. It was cold, grey and boring, that's all I remember.
Unfortunately, himself loves soccer. He would spend his life watching it if I allowed it, which I don't. And I say 'unfortunately' but the good thing that came out of his football obsession is that I got to see this film. 'You have to see it' he said. I took a lot of persuading, as you might imagine. Eventually I relented and to my total amazement, I loved it.
A true story
Brian Clough, ten years before the main events of this film, was forced to end his career as a soccer player due to injury - at the age of twenty nine. His career then moved into football management; he managed teams in the lower echelons of the sport. He achieved astonishing results. But the kings of football at that time were the one team I'd actually seen play (we lived nearby), Leeds United.
Abrasive, tough and curiously charismatic
Brian Clough had a great rival. Don Revie was the manager of the aforementioned Leeds United. Clough maintained that Revie used cheating methods to achieve his team's success, but successful they certainly were. And then, Revie moved on and Clough became Leeds' manager, taking on the 'dream team' and treating them in his own bluff, forthright manner.
He lasted there just 44 days before being sacked ...
Obsession, rivalry, relationships, controversy and humour
I can't stress enough that this film isn't about soccer. That just provides the backdrop for this fascinating story - the rise and fall of Brian Clough.
The Damned United trailer
Brian Clough was a bit like that other British institution, Marmite - you either loved him or hated him.
Because I remember him, and most of the people I knew were in the 'hating' camp, I was determined to hate him in the film too.
But, like many others who have seen this film, I ended up with a different opinion altogether.
I'd urge you to read the Amazon reviews (there are 45 at time of writing) where others agree that being a football fan is immaterial when it comes to enjoying this film and many more insights. In fact, the film has a 4.6 star rating out of a possible 5 stars - that's quite amazing for a film that's ostensibly 'about' an obscure episode in British sports history.
Controversy - further reading
The film was based on this book which was the subject of huge controversy. Brian Clough had died by the time this book was released and it is written from his perspective.
The author calls it 'fiction based on fact'. The Clough family however, were outraged as it appeared to concentrate on the negative sides of his character and actions.
The film however, is different. This book makes a great companion piece to the film. It is available only for Kindle, although Amazon sometimes has used copies of the paperback available.
The brilliant Michael Sheen
See the real Brian Clough being interviewed and you'll see that Michael Sheen's portrayal is just perfect.
Am I turning into a football fan?
Nope. But take a look at this...
Reluctantly (you might think I'm turning into a football fan and I'm NOT) I have to admit that there's one other soccer movie that I totally love.
See what happens when an Asian girl in London decides she wants to play football. Her parents want her to be dutiful daughter complete with submission and an arranged marriage.
This is thought-provoking ... and also hilarious.