When it comes to football, especially when it comes to books on football, David Peace’s The Damned United. Football is not only just a game, it is world’s most watched sport. It is not just a game of ninety minutes and between twenty-two matured men running after a ball of 8.65 inches in diameter, it is a lot more than that. It is excitement, sportsmanship, glory, emotions, and history.
The tale of The Damned United is a bit more exciting than the game itself. It is about Brian Clough’s time as a manager at Leeds United. Forty four days. In 1974, both the club Leeds United and the football manager Brian Clough were famous and achieving a lot in the game, sometimes overachieving, but both were eccentric in their own ways. David Peace writing makes this book a passion both for himself and the readers, as he represents this sport passionately.
The book is split into two distinct sections which run side by side throughout. One follows Brian Clough’s transition from the end of his playing career, cut criminally short by injury, via Hartlepool and through to turning Derby County into a domestic and European force. The other charts those forty-four traumatic days at Leeds United. Peace switches between the two narratives throughout, and intriguingly also uses Clough’s inner voice frequently to add a sense of drama and personality. It leaves the reader feeling they are buried deep inside Clough’s psyche, which isn’t a pleasant place to be. The players at Leeds had no love for Clough either, and even less once he arrived and told them to throw all their medals away as they’d won them all ‘by bloody cheating’ as he so eloquently put it.
David Peace uses a present voice which with Clough’s psyche indulges a reader in the book and leaves no loose ends until the book is completed. I remember watching the movies made on the book and I must say Martin Sheen has done so well by portraying Brian Clough and adapting the character of Clough described in this book. It is a remarkable book and a must read for football fans.
4 out of 5