What’s stranger, an American political blogger who writes obsessively about English soccer or a bio-pic about an English soccer manager showing in American move theatres? The movie in question is “The Damned United.” The soccer manager is the legendary Brian Clough.
Clough is played by Michael Sheen, who has previous starred as Tony Blair in “The Queen” and David Frost in “Nixon/Frost.” At last, Sheen gets to portray a great man.
For those of us who remember the great manager, Sheen isn’t 100 percent convincing as Clough. But qua actor, he turns in another outstanding performance.
The film has received good reviews from non-soccer fan critics, who recommend it as a study in character to a general audience. I concur, but recommend it especially to fans of English soccer. Where else can you see the (ambiguous) glory days of Leeds United recreated, along with likes of Billy Bremner (brilliantly played by Stephen Graham), Johnny Giles, Dave Mackay, and even (very briefly and unflatteringly) Duncan McKenzie, before he became an Everton legend?
Fans of the classic 1967 film “Ulysses” will also enjoy seeing Maurice Roeves (Steven Dedalus) playing Clough’s assistant at Leeds United.
If you’re interested, you should hurry to the theatre. From what I can tell, “The Damned” isn’t exactly a box office smash.
Like much of the world, Clough has appeared on Power Line. I used one of the many Clough anecdotes in this 2004 post.
My favorite Clough story, though, concerns Wayne Rooney. Near the end of his life, Clough went to check out Rooney, who was then a 15 or 16 year-old phenom. A reporter asked him what the thought of the rising star. Clough replied, “I don’t know about Rooney, but his dad is very good.”
In addition to getting a laugh, Clough thus identified an important reason why Rooney would succeed where so many other 15 year-old sensations have failed — he had the body and carriage (not to mention the hair line) of a man twice his age.
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