The Damned Utd
by David Peace.
I was a child when Clough was King so my early memories are vague & clouded by Mike Yarwood & his ilks OTT impression. Over the years as I heard the oft repeated sound bites & learnt of his outstanding achievements I realised he was a fascinating character, but this again was clouded by the sad spectacle of his last few years. The alcohol dependence & failure to quit while ahead meant his legend was forever tarnished. Until, that is, I read the 'The Damned Utd' by David Peace.
The book revolves around Clough's tumultuous 41 days at Leeds United in 1974, but also flashes back to his early career as a player for Middlesborough & his success as a young manager. Peace has always tried to stress this book is fiction not a work of biography. This didn't stop some of Clough's family expressing their extreme displeasure or indeed some of the ex-players suing him. But fiction it most certainly is. If you want biography watch the film, it's a good film but it is merely the script of this book. This book is unfilmable.
What Peace does is take us right inside 'old big ead's' head. His relentless prose steamrollers through Elland road with Clough as funny, opinionated & wise as he is boorish, blinkered & belligerent. What the detractors failed to see is that this is Clough 'the legend'. Peace may not show him at his best but he makes him such a compelling character that you cannot stop reading & that, at least, would have pleased Clough no end.
You do not need to be a fan of Football or indeed of sport to enjoy this book, you just need to know great writing when you see it. After this, try the 'Red Riding' quartet of novels, not for the squeamish they are however mesmerising & unique.
I wouldn't say David Peace was the best writer of his generation but..
Buy it here