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Don’t Be Fooled By The Damned United

Well this may come as some surprise, but a film about a manager that only had one season in the Premiership may not garner the most interest outside of the United Kingdom but Brian Clough is a legend in European football. Today sees the film version of David Peace’s tome have its World Premier in London and let’s hope it’s a better attempt than the tissue of lies his book is.

I read the book when it came out and found it to be quite a dishonest work of fiction masquerading as a work of truth. Fundamentally, its the fact that it uses peoples reputations and names and fictionalises the 44 day period that Brian Clough spent as manager of Leeds United in 1974. It’s allowed itself to be pushed as a work of fact when the author had no connection with any of the major characters portrayed in the book and they were all dead at the time of the books release with one major exception, Irish midfielder Johnny Giles, who successfully sued the publishers for libel. Norman Hunter hardly says anything, but he’s still alive so escapes Peace’s hatchet job. If you don’t know anything about football, I suppose you may enjoy it but then again, if you do, what’s the point?

Do not be fooled by this film being advertised as a factual representation, the caricature of Brian Clough is as far removed from reality as is possible, factually incorrect and tries to garner controversy in how Clough behaved and acted during his duration as manager of Leeds United. I’m deeply concerned that anyone who sees this film or reads the book will think the events actually happened as they appear in the book and is an honest representation of Brian Clough. David Peace has since claimed that he wished he never written the book and having had the misfortune of reading it, I have to agree with him.It gets fact after fact wrong but claims them as truthful, disgracefully so.

It’s a disgusting, libellous portrait of one of the greatest managers in modern English history and has allowed an author to claim fame using a man who the author isn’t fit to lick the boots of. He has tried to justify his untrue account as a novel, yet has used real people and real events and distorted, lied and besmirched people’s reputations and feels any criticism is unfair. How would David Peace feel if someone took his life story and wrote a completely untrue version of it just because they fancied they wanted to do so. He claims he never wanted to upset Brian Clough’s family yet writes about him as a drunken, chain smoking buffoon who hides away in his office, safe in the knowledge that Clough can’t sue him from beyond the grave.

Whilst Clough’s battle with alcoholism is well documented, it didn’t appear until the late 80’s and certainly never drank in front of his players at any time during his career as a manager at Hartlepools, Derby County, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest. Peace has taken a legend of football and danced on his grave for his own self publicity from his ivory tower in Tokyo, knowing that this dreadful novel will certainly not be the talk of the sushi and karaoke bars.

People will defend it, but the majority of the book is a lie. Clough was a flawed man and of course he made mistakes, but to make up the majority of the incidents is just plainly wrong. It also paints an inaccurate depiction of Billy Bremner, claims Dave Mackay was at Derby when he’d been gone two years, falsehood after falsehood.

If The Damned United encourages you to do anything, buy both of the brilliant Brian Clough autobiographies, or try and search for some of his wonderful interviews on YouTube. It’s a tragedy that Clough didn’t have more time in the Premiership or get to manage England as he should have done. Just don’t give David Peace a penny of your hard earned cash.

Brian Clough, Legend

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  1. Olly

    March 21, 2018 at 9:47 am

    Instead of emotively calling him a liar in 16 different ways, why didn’t you describe which bits of the film were false and what really happened? Other than the drinking which is the only incident you mention.

  2. T.J.

    March 8, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    As a football fan in the States, I never knew about Brian Clough or his exploits, good and bad. Then I saw the film and became very interested in discovering the real story behind the legend. That’s the positive from this work of fiction. It brings those from the outside in. Let’s be serious: Anyone who takes this fiction seriously is an idiot. But those who are inspired to learn the truth from an enjoyable piece of fiction should be welcomed.

  3. Martin

    July 21, 2010 at 10:05 am

    I understand why Brian Clough’s family, Forest fans and Leeds are so annoyed about this… To portray footballing greats like Cloughie, Billy Bremner, Peter Taylor as almost panto characters is disgraceful because they were real people, and they can’t defend themselves if they are no longer with us…..

    There is nothing worse than the crap that infests modern film and litertatue that is known as ‘faction’… I ,as a Mancunian and as a Manchester United fan, was well annoyed by that film about George Best (‘Best’ starring John Lynch)… It was the most over the top and innacurate pile of crap I have ever seen (Tommy Docherty telling off Nobby Stiles?! Nobby left before the Doc even arrived at Old Trafford!)… But this pile of cack by Peace is even worse… I have always had the greateset respect for Cloughie, and I wish he had been given the United job on more than one occasion…. Yes, he was that big, and he was that good…. The game needs characters like Cloughie in a time where we seem to no longer have them….

    God bless Old Big ‘Ead…..

    Glazer Out!

  4. Alex

    March 27, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Oooh, oooh, Bill Buckley, write an unflattering book about my family too!

  5. DO

    March 25, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Is the book really that much of an indictment of Clough? Whilst I accept that there are elements that have been “hyped” in order to develop a strong narrative for the story, the success of the book is surely down to the fact that it captures some of the spirit of the man and the events of the time. The facts are all broadly true, he was at Leeds for a very short space of time, he did not like the players, they did not like him, is Peace really on such a flight of fancy with this book? Arguably, in fact, the book is allowing these players to challenge a number of the stereotypes that have labelled onto them over the subsequent 30 years.

  6. Bill Buckley

    March 19, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Totally agree with the article. Peace is making money by dancing on graves, knowing only those alive (Johnny Giles) can do anything about it. And for Ultrafox’s info, Clough and Derby were dumped out of the cup because the ref took a bribe (later proven) – not Clough. Like Peace, you should get your facts right matey. Would love to write an unflaterring account about your family someday.

  7. jimmy squirrelpants

    March 19, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Brilliant book and film which has only ever been advertised as a work of fiction. Only a fool indeed would think this work was presenting itself as the truth. Do the people who are “offended” by this book also offended by Einstein’s potrayal by Yahoo Serious? As for Giles libel suit, well that’s really more an indictment of the UK’s famously screwed up libel laws (and a reminder why Americans should be thankful of the 1st amendment).

  8. Myrtle Springs

    March 19, 2009 at 4:30 am

    Tracey, could I write a book about your life once you died and say you were a prostitute who drank a bottle of gin every day?
    David Peace is a twat.

  9. tracey

    March 19, 2009 at 1:43 am

    The book is brilliant and you’re a fool. On your idiotic premise every book or film based on real life (say, every second world war film) should never have been made because they’re ALL full of inaccuracies.

    The film does look crap though.

  10. BeeMan

    March 18, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Basing fiction on real-life people and events is just what David Peace does. It’s his style. If you think Brian Clough comes out of The Damned Utd badly, try reading the “Red Riding” novels, in which West Yorkshire Police in the 1970s are implicated in multiple child murders, and are staffed by senior officers who enjoy torturing people to death with masonry drills, all with the collusion of the Yorkshire Post. Now sure, he didn’t use the names of real-life coppers from West Yorkshire Police, or the real-life editor of the Yorkshire Post. But then he didn’t accuse Brian Clough of drilling holes in anyone’s balls.

    The Damned Utd is fiction, but the events of the book are recorded fact. It assumes the reader is smart enough to work out what’s reality and what’s invention, and does not pretend to be a biography. Writing a fictional account of a historical event is hardly a new idea.

    I’ll tell you what, though – the film is really terrible. I saw it the other day, and it’s a stupid comedy, nothing at all like the novel. If you decide to boycott it, you’re not missing anything.

  11. Myrtle Springs

    March 18, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    I’ve seen the film and it’s a work of utter fantasy. Dreadful film.

  12. HubbaBubba

    March 18, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Peace is a charlatan. He’s used Clough’s fame purely to propel himself forward. Nothing in the book happened apart from Clough took the job, told Eddie Gray he’d shoot him if he was a horse and then got sacked. Everything else is made up. I hope he dies in severe pain.

  13. FredtheRed

    March 18, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Have to disagree with you Ultrafox (Hmm wonder who you support?).
    Peace’s book takes real events, real people and then makes up everything they say, do and act.
    It’s a shameful act, the act of a talentless coward who uses fame to promote themselves.

    If he wanted to write a book about football, why not invent one rather than create an invention of fiction interwoven with real people? It’s insults Leeds United, Brian Clough, Billy Bremner etc etc.

    If you’re so open to Mr Peace’s work, could you supply me with some key events in your life and allow me to write your life story, making you out to be a wifebeating heroin addict who steals from his job? You seem not to mind.

  14. UltraFox

    March 18, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Mr Bestall, as even the briefest of research would have told you, Johnny Giles was NOT a left back. He was a midfielder, and one of the finest of his generation.

    So it’s a bit rich for you to slate Peace for a so-called “tissue of lies” simply because the picture he depicts of Clough is not quite as saintly as you or his family would like us all to see.

    As a manager, Clough was a genius – there’s no getting away from that. His record proves it. But he was also an complex and flawed human being, capable of great acts of kindness and cruelty in equal measure.

    Although he is idolised in many towns (two statues have already been erected, and a third is being commissioned), he is reviled in others. Many scousers have never forgiven him for his extremely ill-advised collusion with the Sun following the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

    If you want to read hagiographies which focus entirely on the high points in his career, there are plenty of books published that fit that purpose. Peace’s work, however, takes a different, more ambitious course, and is all the better for it.

    English football in the 70s was rife with corruption, and although Clough was not implicated to the degree that Don Revie was, his hands were not entirely clean. Until Peace’s book came out, I was unaware of the illegal payments scandal which denied Derby (then under Clough’s management) a place in Europe in the early 70s, and may in other circumstances have led to them being relegated.

    Although Clough’s actual involvement in this tawdry episode is a matter for conjecture, it appears unlikely, given what is widely known about his style of management, that he would have been entirely unaware of how it came about. Significantly, both he and the Derby board remained in place for another three years, long enough to challenge for and win a league title and mount a strong but ill-fated challenge for the European Cup the following year.

    So why, given his success at Derby, and subsequently at Forest, did Clough fail so spectacularly at Leeds? Was it simply a clash of personalities (and maybe philosophies) with players and directors? Or did Clough, as Peace hints, have an ulterior, possibly finance-based agenda? He certainly made no effort to relocate his family from Derby (where they remain to this day) to Yorkshire. Nor did he appear particularly distraught when his contract was so abruptly terminated.

    Indeed , his remark “This is a terrible day….for Leeds United ” has been borne out by events. No subsequent long-term occupant of the manager’s office at Elland Road has been as gifted or charismatic as Clough. Could the club’s history, and his own, have been different if he’d been given more time?

    The book doesn’t answer these questions, and I’m not sure that the film will do so either. But at least I’ll view the latter with an open mind, and (unlike Mr Bestall), encourage fans and filmgoers alike to do likewise.

  15. Paul Bestall

    March 18, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    If it’s a novel, why did Johnny Giles win damages for libel?

  16. Charles

    March 18, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    “I read the book when it came out and found it to be quite a dishonest work of fiction masquerading as a work of truth.”

    It’s a novel. It doesn’t masquerade as a work of truth because, well, it’s a NOVEL.

  17. FredtheRed

    March 18, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Spot on, it’s utter garbage. Peace seems a bit of knob really. Billy Bremner would have sued too if he’d still been with us.

    Does a diservice to Leeds United and Brian Clough. Never thought I’d say that about Leeds. 🙂

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