In ten years’ time there will be a nation of young adults who will never have known a real, sharp-tongued manager. With FA fines and media vilification likely for any boss who decides to veer away from the carefully plotted post-match analysis, erudite and cutting punditry from managers seems a dying art. Brian Clough had shedloads of both.
In two of the books published after his death in 2004, this fact comes through like no other. Here was someone willing to play the media at their own game, acknowledge his own ego and turn it to his advantage during the successful years. The two books – novelist David Peace’s 2006 semi-fictional account of Clough’s 44 days at the helm at Leeds United, The Damned United, and journalist Duncan Hamilton’s recollections of two decades with him, Provided You Don’t Kiss Me – have garnered much media attention.
On its release, and subsequent adaptation into an acclaimed film starring Michael Sheen, Peace’s book gained plaudits for its accounts of will and venom following Clough’s curious appointment.
Likewise, Hamilton’s account, which would become the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2007, touched many with its personal tone and seemingly unbridled insight into Clough’s working life during the journalist’s time at the Nottingham Evening Post.
It is interesting that neither writer took on their pieces prior to Clough’s death, perhaps intimidated as to what his response would be. In truth, they are very different books. Peace’s is a rollercoaster journey, an intense piece illustrating the level of vitriol between Clough and what he still saw as Don Revie’s cheating Leeds champions.
Hamilton focussed on the subsequent years when Clough had to rebuild his reputation by dragging second division Nottingham Forest out of the mire and found a springboard in winning the 1976 Anglo-Scottish Cup – a cup most managers ‘didn’t want to piss in’.
Where the accounts converge is in Clough’s relentless self-belief. He tore up the rule book at Leeds, laying down the laws that the tough tackling team would have to abide with while he was there. At Forest he tore out the oven and invested in a new cooker as his first signing.
What Hamilton does cover of Clough’s ill-fated month and a half at Leeds is brief but cutting. He offers up close insight into his hatred of Don Revie and shows an almost sycophantic love for the former Middlesbrough striker in rubbishing Revie’s ABC (Anyone But Clough) campaign for his successor at Leeds.
Both of these tales have some yarn. The extent to which Clough tried to get up the noses of the Leeds players deliberately – as depicted in The Damned United – is unconfirmed, while Hamilton is perhaps kind to Clough regarding the drink and scandal which occurred towards the end of his career. But both are fine pieces depicting the cinematic and anecdotal value of Clough’s every move.
Hamilton mentions The Damned United in his epilogue, read after the publication of his own work, and remarks that the two Clough’s are extremely different pre- and post- the chastening Leeds experience. But one thing’s for sure, that sharp tongue emerged stronger for it.
Tags: Book Review, Brian Clough