Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Damned United

When I was in Form One there was only one football hero for me. It was Norman Hunter. The team was Leeds United. Playing at left-back, Norman Hunter was a certainty to put a snarling stop to any flanking attacks down the left side of the pitch. And, once the ball was won, Hunter used his trusty left foot to lay on inch-perfect passes back to the centre of the pitch. He was my role model. It was 1975. Leeds were still at their peak. In that same year, Leeds reached the European Cup Final playing a dominant match against Bayern Munich. But, in that foggy day, Bayern prevailed. It was a heartbreaking match.

The year before that, 1974, was in many ways a pivotal year. Don Revie, the legendary Leeds manager who had nurtured a Second Division team from 1961 to become League Champions in the 1968/69 season and again in the 1973/74 season with many silverware in a trot was tapped by the English FA to replace Sir Alf Ramsey as England manager. Regrettably, Revie never repeated his success at the international stage, resigning as England manager in 1977 under controversial circumstances to a lucrative stint as manager for the UAE team.

David Peace, wrote a historical fiction about one key episode for Leeds United in 1974. It was about the highly emotional and controversial replacement for Don Revie. That replacement manager was Brian Clough. He was manager of Leeds United for only 44 days. It was a stormy 44 days.

Peace's book was made into a movie called The Damned United.

The movie is about the great friendship and partnership between Brian Clough and Peter Taylor. This great partnership created the great Nottingham Forest team that won back-to-back European Cup victories in the 1980s. But, to me, the movie is a nostalgic period piece that transports me back to the 1970s, when my boyhood footballing hero, Norman Hunter and his team mates, Billy Bremner, John Giles, Paul Madeley, Allan Clarke, Terry Cooper, Jack Charlton, Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer, Paul Reaney, Trevor Cherry and, later on, Terry Yorath, Gordon McQueen, Joe Jordan, David Harvey, Duncan McKenzie and the rest of them dominated the English First Division. Hunter pix from here.

The movie also speaks of the terrible animosity between Revie and Clough which begged the question as to why, for the life of me, the Leeds United board determined that Clough was a logical successor to the Don. The following Youtube clip is revealing of the hostility between the two gentlemen. Until today, Leeds United partisans believe that Clough planted himself as a Trojan Horse to sow the seeds of the eventual destruction of the great Revie team.

With the great character actor, Michael Sheen (he was Tony Blair in The Queen), playing the protagonist Clough, and ably supported by a great cast, The Damned United is a must-watch for fans of football and, others.

For me, it is well and truly a nostalgic trip. Proof absolute that the team that now dominates the League One, the old Third Division has the necessary pedigree to bring the historic Elland Road Stadium back to the glory of the English Premier League. It may take a little while longer. But, we'll get there.

Hardcore Leeds United supporters can get a full dose of Leeds United history here.


Tommy Yewfigure said...

TQ Mr Choo, brought back some good memories. In the old days, I played forward like the ‘Sniffer’ Allan Clarke himself, dumb me thot he was the lead singer of The Hollies too…hahaha.

Hey how come you did not mentioned the great Mick Jones in that line up. If memories serve me right, he scored a wonderful ‘bicycle/overhead’ kick against errr…forgotten which team already but somehow that specky goal stuck to my mind after all this years.

Did Revie eventually manage some rich Middle Eastern countries & then died a mysterious death?


de minimis said...


You're quite right. A terrible omission of Mick Jones. I was just prattling off the names from memory.

Revie did end up disgraced. After leaving the England management in a huff, he signed up to manage the UAE. Soon after there were allegations of financial impropriety. Revie never regained the reputation he had in his years at Leeds.