A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Imagine if Al Lopez, not long after leading the White Sox to their 1959 pennant, had resigned to take Casey Stengel's job at the Yankees, insulted the players and fans, and plummeted the team into a losing streak. That would parallel the career of Brian Clough, who led the underdog of Derby County to British football glory, and then took the manager's job at its hated archrival, Leeds United, and informed the players they were hooligans.
That we haven't heard of Brian Clough in this country is no reason not to see "The Damned United," the story of a man and the nature of professional sports. Football, known as soccer on this side of the waves, inflames passions in a way unknown to American football fans. To insult a Brit's team is to defame his mother. It's more democratic than U.S. football, because all it really requires to play is a ball. What must they think of us around the world when they witness pro football with its fearsome protective equipment and brief spurts of activity? "How do you find the patience to watch it?" I was asked by a London friend. I countered with cricket, the nearest thing in sports to a timeout.
Clough was the youngest manager in history when he took over Derby County. He was funny and friendly, and once before a match, tousled the hair of a young man and told him, "You will never forget this day." That fan grew up to be the novelist David Peace, who wrote The Damned Utd., about the Shakespearean tragedy of Clough.
Clough was a helpless partisan. He identified with Derby so deeply that when he took over Leeds, it became almost an act of revenge. Even as their leader, he hated them. And he was stepping into the shoes of their legendary manager Don Revie, who had been named manager of the English national team. Revie, who once neglected to shake his hand after a match. Clough hated Leeds, Revie and the team's management, and it's believed by some that Leeds players deliberately lost matches to sabotage him.