I went to see the Damned United yesterday lunchtime, in a cinema in Derby. There were fewer than 20 of us in the auditorium (perhaps the later showings are better attended), but nonetheless, we were treated to a glorious trip down memory lane – albeit quite a few of the memories are obviously fictional (Clough begging Taylor to forgive him at the end of the film – I don’t think so!)
The interviews Clough gave to Austin Mitchell on Yorkshire Television bracket the film(*), and as the originals are still available in the archives, they provide an anchor in reality for the story being told. The mixing of archive footage with the film is skillfully done and you leave feeling that the real villain of the piece was Don Revie, wonderfully played by that bloke off Star Trek.
It doesn’t bear much resemblance to David Peace’s novel, and the Clough we see here is far more sympathetically treated than the portrayal in the book. But it’s still a fictional portrayal.
For people like me who were growing up in Derby around the time of Clough and Taylor’s exploits, it was great to see the Rams rising up the table to become champions of England. I doubt strongly that I’ll ever see that again in my lifetime, even with Nigel in charge!
And for a film set around football, it’s definitely not a film about football. Nostalgic, certainly, but it’s the relationships between the characters and how they develop that grips you from the beginning of the film to the end, where Clough is shown at Forest, ultimately successful, with Revie cast out into the outer darkness.
(*) The Calendar interview, “Goodbye Mr. Clough” was at the time of writing available on the itv.com website, though it appeared that you’d need to use Internet Explorer or Silverlight to view it. The people that run the site clearly don’t recognise that about 25% of the world doesn’t run the Windows/IE combination on their home computers. Whoever the itv.com webteam are, they need to go and read Jacob Nielsen’s books and articles on web usability; this one, paragraph 6, would be a good starting point.