Enough of Clough?

NPR was interviewing Michael Sheen last week, and the interviewer mentioned a movie he'd done a few years ago called The Damn United.  They played a little clip of it, and it seemed very funny.  Also, it was about the Premiership thirty-ish years ago, so I figured my father-in-law would like it.

So we watched it a couple nights ago, and it was really interesting.

It's about Brian Clough, a top football manager of the time, and his brief tenure at Leeds United, the top team of the time.  What made it interesting was Clough had, by that point, made a lot of hay in the press attacking Leeds and their style of play.  It spent a lot of time in flash-backs that illustrated where the bad feelings had come from and on how Clough had gotten to the point that Leeds would be interested in hiring him despite the bad blood.

Basically, Clough (and his good friend Peter Taylor) had brought Derby from the bottom of the second division to the top of the Premiership over the span of... three, I think, years.  They had then left in a tiff with management (Clough had an enormous ego, to put it mildly, and didn't like ownership telling him what to do), and went to Brighton & Hove Albion for eight months or so (the movie makes it look like Clough never actually coached at Brighton).

And then, there was Leeds.  Not surprisingly, it didn't work out (lasting forty-four days, in fact), largely because Clough did nothing to try to work with the players, and try to earn their respect.  One wonders, also, if Taylor not being there (he had stayed at Brighton when Brian went to Leeds) contributed.

For further interest, the end of the movie mentions Clough's later success with Nottingham Forest, also taking them from the dregs of the second division to the Premiership championship, as well as back-to-back UEFA championships.  But he never coached the English team.

Anyway, I liked the way the story explored the past.  And it did a good job, I think, of showing football of the time.  There were two things I didn't much like about it.  One was that they showed his towering ego and difficulties dealing with people, but did not do much of anything to show what made him successful.  The one scene they had that showed a bit of that ended up being cut out (this was one of the two or three deleted scenes I wish they'd kept).

Really, the movie made it look like Clough and Taylor's success was due mostly to Taylor's scouting abilities.  And while I'm sure Taylor had a lot to do with their combined success, I very much doubt he was all of it.

Anyway, the second thing was the casting of Timothy Spall as Taylor.  He did a fine job; I'm not trying to denigrate him, but my only previous experience with him was as the witch's minion in Enchanted.  So seeing him in this kept took me out of the movie several times.

Despite those two flaws, I thought it was an excellent movie, and very enjoyable.

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