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The Damned United


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Recovered thread.


(I'm sure a fan of sports writing (Grammath/MFJ maybe) started a thread on this book in Sports but I can't find it nor my reply to it (an axe in Revie's desk was mentioned). So here's Paul with what I guess was an earlier thread on the same book):



9th September 2006, 01:55 PM



This book is a novel based on the 44 days Brian Clough was manager at Leeds United back in 1974 ... it also goes back to Cloughs last days as a player and his managerial career leading upto Leeds.


As a Leeds fan this book works on a number of levels - but purely as a piece of literature this is a cracking book - written from Cloughs perspective in the two timelines it really gets under the skin of this footballing enigma. Peace manages to get a true feeling of the 70's and its backdrop. As a football memoir it broaches many of the problems facing Clough has he embarked on managing the post-Revie Leeds team -- Peace has certainly done his homework and sorced many of the Biographys and record books available.


Its not a biography though ...it is a worthy novel and one I hope gets the praise it deserves. I would be interested if any non-football fans give it a go and what an unbiased reader would think of it.....

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Recovered thread


1st February 2007, 08:21 PM

My Friend Jack


This is an unusual book. A work of fiction, but based on true events and told as if by the main character - Brian Clough! There are two stories - told in parallel - that of Clough's 44 day reign as manager of Leeds United, and that on his earlier management, starting at the club then known as Hartlepools United.


I'm not far in yet, but two thoughts have struck me. One, Peace's style of writing is unusual - lots of very short sentences. Is this the way he normally writes? Or is it his attempt at writing the way Clough talked? And two, how many of the events written about actually happened? Did Clough actually take an axe to Revie's desk? I do hope so!


Anyone else read this?



#2 2nd February 2007, 04:46 AM



I'm not far in yet, but two thoughts have struck me. One, Peace's style of writing is unusual - lots of very short sentences. Is this the way he normally writes? Or is it his attempt at writing the way Clough talked? And two, how many of the events written about actually happened? Did Clough actually take an axe to Revie's desk? I do hope so!



It's very much Peace's style. I'm working my way through his Red Ridings quartet, and that's exactly the style he uses. I didn't like it at first, but ploughed on and it grew on me. Now I'm half-way through the last and it's starting to irritate me again. That could be because I read the next book too soon after the previous one, though.


On your second point, his other books are supposedly "wholly fiction" but there are many characters and events that make me wonder how he got them past the lawyers. I'm pretty sure they did happen, but I suppose the not knowing is what makes it a good read.



#3 2nd February 2007, 09:23 AM

Royal Rother


Sounds intriguing:


Few are portrayed with warmth, but there was not much sunshine when Clough arrived at Elland Road and told Bremner, Hunter and Giles that they could “chuck all your medals and your caps and your pots into the biggest f***ing dustbin you can find because you’ve done it all by bloody cheating”. It is a great story grippingly revived. Roll on the movie.

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With the announcement that it is being made into a film, there have been quite a few items in the press about this book in the last few weeks. It seems that Johnny Giles (one of the few Leeds players who gets any worthwhile dialogue in the book) is not happy about the way he is portrayed. Can't say I blame him! Even the Leeds United coach driver has been quoted as saying the book is inaccurate! Giles makes the point that it is wrong for a work of fiction to be based around real events and real people, yet for them to have completely ficticious events and dialogue thrown in. Mmm. There would be a fair number of books that would have to bite the dust if that practice were to be banned!


It's a month or so since I finished the book, but looking back I have to say that I now find the whole thing close to unbelievable. Not the general story - it's based on well-documented and well-remembered events - but the incidents and dialogue that glue the book together simply don't ring true.

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  • 3 months later...

I posted on this book a few months ago, pre-crash. Whilst I quite enjoyed it, I can now say - with the benefit of several months' hindsight - that I found it utterly unbelievable! The reason for thinking that way, though, is because the characters featured are nearly all well-known (at the time) real-life figures. Had the book been presented as depicting an imaginary club with imaginary characters, I have no doubt I would feel differently. It's worth a read, certainly, but don't expect an easy, comfortable or nostalgic ride!

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I liked the way Brian Clough was portrayed. One minute I liked him, then the next I changed my mind. It was very much like Clough came across in the media. It also made me realise how much I had forgotten about that era, even though I was a keen follower of football then. Most of the details and characters rang true, especially the Derby County section.

It would be interesting to hear from anyone who read the book without knowing anything about Brian Clough or Leeds United and finding out their impressions.

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  • 3 months later...

This is my review from Amazon:


First and foremost - this is not a football book. It's a novel that is about football in general and Brian Clough in particular - but it is definitely in the literary fiction genre.


David Peace has written five previous novels and he takes his central themes - sleaze, corruption, Yorkshire, class conflict, man management - in a new direction in this fictionalization of the early career of Brian Clough.


Nobody comes out well. Not the players, not the Boards, not the clubs and certainly not Brian Clough. Cloughie is portrayed as a dogmatic, confrontational and deceitful man, bent on gaining power and money at any cost. This is put into relief through the interior monologue in Cloughie's head. Peace revisits the use of repetition and mantra to bring out the paranoia - a style that he has already made his own. The pace is breathless and, as with the award-winning GB84 (Peace's award winning portrayal of the miners' strike), the inevitable end is still eagerly awaited.


The themes of alcohol and bungs are still grabbing the headlines today. But what The Damned Utd brought to life for me was the politicking of a football club. In public, clubs and teams are portrayed as matey, friendly organizations united in their struggle against their opponents. Here, we see the divisions within dressing rooms and boardrooms. We see football clubs as companies with structures and administration and rules. We see the role played by coaches and assistants. We see the backstabbing and betrayal. We see the glue that holds it all together. And the manager seems to be some way down in the pecking order, even a manager is as grand as Cloughie.


I guess most people who read the novel will have an interest in football - and probably some personal interest in Leeds Utd, Derby County or Brian Clough. But there is so much more to this astonishing novel. I guess some passing knowledge of football would help, but it is probably not essesntial. You really just need an interest in human spirit at its very worst.

This is very much in Peace's usual style. David Peace in person comes across as a very intense and thoughtful person, passionate to relate real life working class drama through dialogue and repetition. He has previously covered a fictional child kidnapping case (similar to - but not the Lesley Molseed case), the Yorkshire Ripper murders; and the miners' strike. Peace adds human drama to the stories - the crime novels, for example, protraying the Yorkshire Police as inept and corrupt to the core. Fair enough - I'm sure others may have made similar allegations. But what Peace dies is actually convey what corruption looks like, smells like.


As I said in the Amazon review, this is a novel that portrays football as a business and a trade, not as sport. I was convinced by the dialogue and the two faced backstabbing. I was convinced by the power struggles, the paranoia and the inherent class struggle at the heart of the text.


It's football, Jim, but not as we know it.

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  • 3 months later...

this is one of the best sports books I have ever read. It appears to realistically bring you into the thoughts of Cloughie. Whilst I do not remember Clough's finest hours, or his worst ones. This appeared to be a great insight into football in the 70s and you could literally smell the deep heat and see the muddy players tramping into the dressing room to be faced with Clough at half time.

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  • 1 year later...

I loved 'The Damned United', it was a swirling angry book that kept my attention all through. I was also very pleasantly surprised how good the film was, less nasty, but well done all the same.


A very good companion to it is 'Provided you don't kiss me (20 Years with Brian Clough)' by Duncan Hamilton It is a biography and tells a lot of the same story, plus more on the Notts Forest days from the point of view of Hamilton who was the football correspondent on th local paper in Nottingham and who knew Clough well.

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  • 1 month later...

His family have been very upset by the book which they felt didn't portray Brian very honestly and didn't admit openly enough that it was fiction from true story.


I have read it and found it not to my style - I did at first think that it was intended to be how Brian talked but have watched the documentary on his life and the family reaction to the book I don't think he did talk like that - certainly not as harshly.


As fiction it is fun, as a portrail of a real man, still loved by man I thought it a tad cruel.

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