Posted: 3/27/2009
Title: FOURTY FOUR DAYS-THE DAMNED UNITED

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       It may have taken God 7 days to make the world, but it took Brian Clough 44 days in 1974 to bring his own world down around him.

       I have just seen the movie THE DAMNED UNITED, based on the dark novel by David Peace about the short time that Old Big 'Ed spent at Elland Road as coach of Leeds United, after taking a decrepid club like Derby County from 20th in Division Two to the Championship of England and into Europe where they lost in the semi-final to Juventus. He later became a miracle worker again with unfashionable Nottingham Forest, taking them to the top of the league twice, and twice in succession, 1979 and 1980, to the Championship of Europe, in Munich's Olympiastadion 1-0 over Malmo FF, and 1-0 at Madrid's Bernabeau over Hamburg SV, a feat that no other manager of an English club has yet to achieve.

      If there is ONLY ONE MOVIE that you go and see this year, make it this one, with inspired directing from Tom Hooper, a great screenplay from Peter Morgan, inspired casting and a great starring role by MICHAEL SHEEN, who previously had played Tony Blair in 'The Queen' and David Frost in 'Frost/Nixon'. Also I should mention choreography from Simon Clifford. Colm Meany plays Peter Taylor and Timothy Small, Don Revie.   Chesterfield FC's very old stadium at Saltergate was used as Elland Road, The Baseball Ground and Wembley Stadium for crowd scenes.

      He had a hateful relationship while at Derby with Don Revie, who was successful with Leeds United for 13 years before he took over the job with England and was a disaster and a disgrace. I saw Leeds United play some champagne football, though many look at their disciplinary record and fouls. In 1970 I had met Terry Hennessey the County captain in a bar in Guadalajara during World Cup 1970 and accepted his invitation to be his guest, early in the 1970-71 season at the Baseball Ground when Clough was his coach and they played Manchester United.

      In 1974 in his first day in charge at Elland Road, Clough arrived with his two young sons Nigel  Simon and went from his office to the training pitch(now a car park) behind the John Charles West Stand and told the assembled players, who were champions of England, to chuck all their medals and awards in the bin, because they were cheats and had won them unfairly. Their relationship went downhill from there and they kept losing and were down to next to bottom when he was finally sacked by the Leeds board, and managed to get a huge settlement after only a month and a bit, worth over 1 million in today's money, and walk away.

      That first week I had arranged a group tour of the ground, which Cloughie objected to so early in his reign, and left the secretary I think, Keith Archer to call and tell me. After I had interviews with the local press and Yorkshire Television, the vice-chairman Mr. Silver called me, apologized and rearranged the tour. While there Clough with Nigel in hand walked past and stared.

      The next week I was at Wembley Stadium where Leeds United and Liverpool played in the traditional opening to the new season,The Charity Shield between the League Champions and Cup Winners.  Liverpool won 2-1 after some vicious fouls by both teams on the hallowed turf. Leeds captain Billy Bremner landed a right upercut to the petulant Keegan and was off. They fought and threw their jerseys away on the touchline. SO MUCH FOR CHARITY!!  

     Bremner, who I saw play twice for Scotland in the 1974 World Cup in Frankfurt, West Germany the month before, was fined by the F.A. and suspended for 4 weeks and missed, I think, 7 matches. Jimmy Armfield a former captain of England, and high school friend of mine, left Bolton Wanderers and took Leeds United to The European Cup Final in May, 1975, where they lost 2-0 to Bayern Munich, the defending champions, with dubious refereeing from Frenchman Michel Kitabdjian.

      Don Revie was detailed, and had, with the help of Les Cocker, Sid Owen and his other backroom staff, dossiers before each match, and was persuaded to adopt some new sexy ideas. They had pre-match warm up, club songs, tassles outside their stocking with their numbers, and after admiring Real Madrid, Revie brought in the all white playing uniform and took the team away before matches to a hotel in Ilkley where they played indoor bowls on the carpet and other team bonding games. Clough did none of the that and was more disorganized, leaving much to his beloved assistant Peter Taylor, who was coaching Brighton instead of following Clough to Leeds-and that was the problem.

     Both Revie and Clough came from Middlesborough and were great forwards, Revie for Sunderland, Manchester City and England, and Clough for Middlesborough and Sunderland and twice for England, before a career ending injury on an atrocious pitch at Roker Park. His goals scoring feats were phenominal. He scored 251 goals in 274 matches for the two North-East clubs.

     He was the best manager that England never had. After Revie made an excuse and left the England team on a tour of South America, he secretly flew to the Middle East to sign a lucrative contract with the Arabs. Clough was interviewed for the vacant England job at the then F.A. headquarters in Lancaster Gate, along with two others, but behind the scenes Ron Greenwood was already selected.   "I don't know who is the best manager in the business", claimed Cloughie, "but I am in the top one!"

      While managing Nottingham Forest I was at the 2nd leg of a European Cup match with Greek club AEK Athens at the City Ground. After the match he sat with me and the Greek press in the bar and gave them the 'hair drier ' treatment. He told them they had done his job for him by demoralizing their club before the match with their comments. Forest won 5-1 that night and 2-1 in the first leg.

    On the evening that he left Elland Road he agreed to an interview with Yorkshire Television, in their studios 400 yards from where I saw the movie, at The Vue Cinema on Kirkstall Road.  Don Revie also showed up and the debate was enthralling and is reproduced in the movie.

       A year ago the Clough Family, widow, sons, daughter and grandchildren unveiled a huge statue of Brian Clough O.B.E. in the Market Square of Nottingham, where his team had ridden in triumph after their League and European triumphs, and walking distance from a smaller statue of Robin Hood outside Nottingham Castle. Four months ago Nigel Clough became the latest manager of Derby County.

   GO TO THE MOVIES.

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