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Author Topic: Damned Utd
Alania Vladikavkaz Satie
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bollix........i was in FOPP on tottenham ct rd today and picked this up meaning to buy it on the way out but got waylaid at the sight of "calcio","forza italia","garrincha" and the double johnny cash live prison concerts CD at a knockdown rate..............will buy it on the way to watch safc v wba.
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Hieronymus Bosch
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My review . . .

quote:
The Damned Utd
By David Peace
Faber & Faber, €20

The union of Brian Clough and Leeds United in the summer of 1974 was a marriage made in the blackest pits of hell. It lasted 44 days, yielded one win in six competitive fixtures and inflicted permanent damage on the reputations of both parties.

Though it looked a foolproof plan on paper – take the best young coach in Britain and put him at the helm of the strongest team in the league – it ended in recriminations, rows, a swift sacking and a hefty severance package. Now one of the strangest and most controversial episodes in the history of English football has been re-imagined by David Peace in this powerful novel about the gradual mental unravelling of a football genius.

Clough had steered unfancied Derby County to the championship in 1972 – pipping Don Revie’s Leeds by a point – but, little more than a year later, he was sacked by a board who were unhappy with his frequent attacks on the football establishment and the amount of TV punditry he was doing. A depressed Clough retreated to the bottle for solace before confounding observers by returning to management with lower-division outfit Brighton, where his results were mixed.

In the summer of 1974, Don Revie formally left Leeds to take the England job. Surprisingly, the Leeds board sought Clough as a replacement; even more surprisingly, he accepted, becoming manager of a team that everyone knew he despised. During that 1972 title season, he had been enraged by the brutal fouling and gamesmanship that characterised much of Leeds’ play.

Peter Taylor, his assistant and right arm, refused to join him. This left Clough isolated and friendless at his new club apart from coach Jimmy Gordon. So it was perhaps with a heavy dose of fatalism that, during his first meeting with the Leeds squad, he told them to “chuck all your medals and all your caps into the biggest fucking dustbin you can find, because you’ve never won any of them fairly – you’ve done it all by bloody cheating”.

Peace specialises in dramatic reconstructions of real events: his most recent book, GB84, was a superb fictionalised account of the miners’ strike. His writing style – sentences ending violently in mid-air, short staccato bursts of words, and numerous instances of syntactical repetition – is little changed here. Each chapter is a series of short scenes, alternately written in the first person (Clough’s day-to-day life at Leeds) and the second person (flashbacks to his time managing Hartlepool, Derby and Brighton).

Like GB84, The Damned Utd is a book of awesome intensity. Every paragraph is like a punch in the face. You can almost taste Clough’s creeping paranoia and his gradual enslavement by alcohol. Viewed through his eyes, Elland Road is a desolate, hateful place crawling with demons and snakes, traps waiting around every corner.

Don Revie is a spectral, shadowy entity throughout, only actually present once or twice – a face in the crowd for Clough’s first game and his last – yet his spirit infests Elland Road, his mocking voice always in Clough’s ear while the latter is holed up in Revie’s old office getting miserably drunk. And he’s there too in the shapes of his former lieutenants Owen and Lindley, who roam the corridors like gnarled, baleful sentinels, muttering and chuckling derisively every time they walk past their new boss.

On his second day, Clough marches into Revie’s old office armed with an axe. He destroys the desk, chair and furnishings in front of a horrified Lindley and the club secretary. Then, helped by his son Nigel and Jimmy Gordon, he heaps all the wreckage and rubble in a corner of the car park, douses it in petrol and watches it all burn.

The players are a gang of scowling malcontents, largely faceless except for Billy Bremner and John Giles. With one exception – revealed near the end of the book – they don’t want to play for him and they don’t want him in Revie’s shoes. The results prove it. One win, three draws, three defeats. Clough is dead meat before he’s even started.

Bremner, the captain, is monosyllabic and sullen, perennially responding with the words “Can I go now, boss?” whenever Clough asks him to do something. Giles is portrayed here as a smiling schemer, effortlessly foiling Clough’s efforts to sell him to Spurs; it is worth remembering that Giles had been the initial front-runner to succeed Revie.

It all ends with a dismal draw at Huddersfield in the league cup. Looking on, Clough muses: “There will have to be a replay now at Elland Road in two weeks’ time. But I will not be there. I will not be their manager – Because they are not my team. Not mine. Not this team, and they never will be – They are his team. (itals)His Leeds.(itals) His dirty, fucking Leeds and they always will be – They are not Derby County and I am not Donald Revie.”

Five years later, Clough was leading Nottingham Forest to the first of two successive European Cup victories. Leeds, meanwhile, got relegated in May 1982 and weren’t seen again in the top flight for almost a decade. And you can bet that Clough raised a thousand glasses to that.

The Damned Utd is an incredible feat of the creative imagination, brilliantly realised. It is nothing short of one of the best British novels of the past ten years.


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and I am the life
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So you liked it then?
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Hieronymus Bosch
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Well, I've read worse.

"I couldn't pick it up" -- Sunday Business Post

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Jorge Porbillas
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As everybody else has said it's an absolutely fantastic read and I just couldn't put it down.
I also found myself smirking and smiling at Clough's arrogance and actually quite liking the portrait of him which Peace paints.

Also gone out and ordered the 70s books and GB84

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garcia en dolor
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john giles is a weekly pundit on our radio show and we're trying to get him to read it - i offered him my copy when he came into the office the other day but it turned out his wife already has it and he's going to read it after her. he didn't promise to tell us what he thought of it, but hopefully he will, i'll link an mp3 up here if so.
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Jorge Porbillas
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now that would be interesting!
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wingco
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Read the book in a single sitting the other weekend, in Latvia of all places. Great review, Citizen. Can't think of a lot I'd want to add to that, although an attempt to do so would constitute one of a number of things I've earmarked for my long-delayed blog revival. I think Giles would be flattered, actually.
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The 7th Baron Bartok
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quote:
And you can bet that Clough raised a thousand glasses to that.

Genius.
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Hieronymus Bosch
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I can understand why Leeds supporters might view the book with pretty mixed feelings.

Peace himself is a Huddersfield Town fan.

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imp
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Surely you mean peace itself is a Huddersfield Town fan.

Thanks for posting the review - definitely top of my Christmas list.

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Cavalry Trouser Tips
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<exhuding zen-like calmness - at one with himself>
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imp
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I've just about finished this. It's a truly great and original football book, though not quite the Nobel prize-winner touted above. Take out the word 'fucking' and it would only be about half as long. And that's my quibble with it - it gets really repetitious in places. Now, like battylad, I love to hear the phrase "dirty fucking Leeds" as many times in a day as you can fit it in, but those streams of Clough consciousness don't half go on, and if the idea is to give the impression that's what it's like listening to a mad alcoholic, then it works, but it's not always great literature.

Did they all really smoke and drink as much as this in the 70s? It's a wonder any of them ever made it to half-time on opening day.

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The Batebe of Toro Foundation
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I'm somewhere between imp and Citizen here. But it is marvellous. And I thought that most of the repetition was very effective.
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Hieronymus Bosch
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The repetition thing is Peace's inherent writing style, Imp. He does it in all his other books too, to varying extents.

I think it's as much a book about hating your job as it is a book about 1970s football.

[ 10.10.2006, 17:04: Message edited by: Citizen ]

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