I don’t know about you, but I am really looking forward to seeing the film The Damned United based on David Peace’s book about Brian Clough’s ill-fated 44 day reign as manager of Leeds United in 1974. Back in those days I loved Leeds United, the greatest team in the land;and I loved Brian Clough- all charisma, swagger and confidence. When Clough was appointed manager of Leeds it seemed the perfect union- the best team now lead by the best coach, surely nothing would stop them from sweeping all before them. But it didn’t work out and the dream partnership became a nightmare in need of a quickie divorce with neither party able to stand each other. So much promise and hope was sacrificed on the alter of ego and mutual loathing. Isn’t that a little like what we experience in life as well. Partnerships in our professional or personal lives that seem to have everything going for them yet somehow end in disappointment and at worst descend into hatred and bitterness. The problem with Clough is that he was so self confident he seemed that he didn’t need or want anybody else. In a conversation in Peace’s novel Clough mentions that he doesn’t believe in God…he believes in Brian Clough instead and Clough’s story fueled by a strong personal ambition to prove the establishment wrong for overlooking his talent is a cautionary tale of what happens when we let ourselves be driven by the need to show’em what we’re made of.
Clough was an enigma. An intelligent incisive manager, an opinionated political animal, a supreme tactician and leader of men and a real telegenic entertainer. He took second rate players and sleeping football clubs and made them real contenders. He was a giant of the game who we miss and whose like we will never see again a flawed legend and an inspiration. I wonder if even he could have taken that ramshackled and dysfunctional group and turned them into advocates for a new faith that would sweep the world. To paraphrase another Life of Brian, Old big ‘ed wasn’t the Messiah he was just a very self-possessed boy. But then again would Jesus have splashed out £1million for Trevor Francis?