David Peace's essential book The Damned United was published in 1996, and has been hailed as one of the best books ever written about sport. This is a fictionalised account of the turbulent 44 day reign of Brian Clough as the manager of Leeds United football club. This remarkable man had made his name at Derby County where he had formed a great double act with his assistant Peter Taylor. Before their arrival, Derby had languished in second division obscurity and were a club going nowhere. After a shaky start, Clough and Taylor built a team which gained promotion to the first division, and went on to win the title in their third season in the top flight. Fabulous European nights led to a semi final against Juventus where many of us still believe The Rams were cheated out of a place in the final. Sadly, the in-fighting at the club led to the duo resigning and, after a spell at Brighton, Clough ended up at Elland Road, Leeds. This seemed a strange decision - particularly given Clough's previous comments about Leeds United - and the whole affair seemed doomed before it had even begun. The two teams had been fierce rivals (the fans even more so), and the Leeds players were determined not to co-operate with a man who had openly criticised them. After just 44 days in charge, Brian Clough left Elland Road and would be reunited with Peter Taylor at Nottigham Forest where he took their team to even greater glory. It's been acknowledged by the late Mr. Clough that leaving Derby was the biggest mistake he ever made, and this is a view I concur with. Having been lucky enough to see his Derby side play on many, many occasions, I honestly believe we would have won the lot if he had stayed. Derby did win a second title under Dave McKay just a few seasons later but the Clough years were simply dynamite.
Now, we have a film on the horizon, and it remains to be seen what sort of spin it will contain. For sure, none of the Leeds team will emerge with any credit but it should prove fascinating for fans of both clubs. Michael Sheen (brilliant as Tony Blair in THE QUEEN) will play Brian Clough, and Timothy Spall will portray the much-missed Peter Taylor. Jim Broadbent will also star although his role has not yet been divulged. Shooting begins on 25th May and should run until 2nd July, with locations based in Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Europe. Tom Hooper will direct this film which has a £10 million budget. Expect a late 2008/early 2009 release, and I would not bet against a trolley load of awards for Sheen.