Clough Review: Old Big Head and His Infamous Big Mouth

March 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

CLOUGH, ITV1, Wednesday 25th March, 22.35pm Alert me

Brain Clough was a victim of his own candid opinions. I don’t know much about football but having watched this documentary, it is impossible not to admit that Clough was a legend in his day. Winning two European Championships back to back with Nottingham Forest is still considered to be one of the greatest achievements in the history of the beautiful game.

Despite establishing new heights of success on the field, Clough’s opinions made him as polarising as Marmite; in 1977 when the voice of the people hailed Clough for England manager, the FA and in particular Sir Harold Thompson preferred a tamer, more malleable man for the job. “If he was alive today,” Geoffrey Boycott said, “They’d be knocking his door down.?

Clough‘ tells the story of the man behind the forthcoming movie, a man who wanted to fashion a team that played great football, and do it in his own way. Even when faced with his greatest adversary, Leeds manager Don Revie, on national television, he could only be himself. “I want to win the League,? he said “But I want to win it better [than you].?

The documentary follows the rollercoaster of Clough’s life; from humble beginnings at Derby County where “he took a pigsty and made it a football club? through his meteoric rise in the public eye, which lead to his departure from Derby in 1973.

In Clough’s younger days he was a big talker, he lapped up the limelight and was a regular commentator on football programmes; especially willing to give his critical opinion on “dirty Leeds? and their dishonest style of play. It’s therefore understandable that upon Don Revie’s departure Clough’s tragic fourty-four day stint at Leeds would be appealing to novelists, as a poignant tale of one man’s fall from grace.

David Peace’s The Damned United had been cast in a new light for me after watching this documentary, as many of Clough’s close friends and relatives denounce the book for its “outrageous and mean spirited? portrayal of the ill-fated manager. One of the contributors tellingly pointed out that all of the central characters in “The Damned United? (bar one) were dead and therefore unable to sue. David Peace made no comment when contacted. Fortunately for Clough, the film starring Michael Sheen as Ol’ Big Head himself, is “more flattering? that the controversial novel.

From the views of fans, family and friends it is clear that Clough was hardly an easy man to get on with but he was respected and loved, albeit in an odd way by his colleagues. The most revealing quote emphasised the passion for winning that Clough instilled in his Nottingham Forest teammates, “I wouldn’t go out for a pint with him, but I’d walk across the Sahara desert to work for him.? Clearly being his painfully honest, outspoken self was the best move Clough ever made.

Sally McIlhone