Cast: Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Colm Meaney, Timothy Spall
Running Time: 1hr 38min
Brian Clough is the best young manager in the country, in his own words. As the young, flamboyant, and eccentric boss of Derby County F.C., his team entertains the hugely successful Leeds United size of the ‘70s, managed by Don Revie. Revie’s arrogant dismissal of Clough and his team’s overly physical play during the match causes bad blood between the two biggest managers in English soccer. After the defeat, Clough and assistant Peter Taylor invest in more technical players and win promotion to the First Division.
By 1972 the club has won its first league title and qualified for the European Cup. However, Clough still bears a grudge against Revie and Leeds. He plays a full strength side in a game against them, just prior to a European Cup match against Juventus, resulting in several key players being injured – Derby lose to Juventus, and this causes strain between Clough and Chairman Sam Longson. This leads to Clough calling the boards bluff, and tendering resignations for him and Taylor, in a bid to try to secure his position even further. It backfires, the board accepts, and Clough and Taylor are jobless.
Clough and Taylor are then offered the Brighton job, but, while on holiday, Clough accepts the Leeds United job without consulting with Taylor. They have a bitter argument and Taylor leaves; Clough takes the Leeds position alone. Things do not go well, as he alienates the players almost immediately, and they refuse to play for him. Following a horrendous start to the season, the board sacks Clough, following player protests, after just 44 days in charge.
Clough and Taylor both go on to reconcile and enjoy huge success with Nottingham Forest for the next 15-plus years.
Brian Clough is such an iconic figure in the world of soccer that it seems only fitting that they would eventually make a movie about him. Now, the Damned United has been met with its fair share of criticism – the book, in particular, received criticism for lack of accuracy and artistic license. However, this is still a must-watch movie if you are a soccer fan. Anyone who is a Brian Clough fan will know the fateful tale of his short-lived spell in charge of Leeds United.
Clough’s legend is most notably enshrined at Derby County and Nottingham Forest, and it’s fair to say he wasn’t given a fair crack of the whip at Leeds. It seems his abrasive personality and rivalry with ex-coach Don Revie didn’t sit well with the board or players. This is a chapter of Clough’s life we know little about, but it deserved to be explored, and we feel The Damned United does a damn (sorry) good job of exploring it. Michael Sheen is sensational as Clough – getting every mannerism and intonation bang on the money.
The cast features some of the best British and Irish actors in the industry and is shot with a real passion by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech). Fresh, intelligent, and involving, this is less a movie about soccer, and more a character study of one of the most fascinating icons Britain has ever produced. There is, of course, a degree of artistic license taken by the filmmakers, but, the flick captures the wonderfully eccentric personality of the often prickly Clough. A man who was a tortured genius, and who lived and breathed the game. A character the likes of which we will not see again, and the movie captured that beautifully.