This novel ranks right up there with the best books ever written about football, such as ”Fever pitch” and “Brilliant orange”. I read it last week, and it’s an absolute page-turner. Most of you are probably familiar with the background story of Brian Clough’s spell as manager of Leeds United in 1974 (yes, it’s about Leeds, not Manchester).
The book is very elegantly structured, with the story of the 44 disastrous days at Leeds told in parallell with Clough’s career as a player at Sunderland and very successful manager at Hartlepool and Derby County, and the two story-lines converge towards the end. It’s a novel based on a true story (and apparently very well-researched) which makes it a mix of fact and fiction.
I like this book a lot, but I still have a couple of reservations. Firstly, I find it difficult to match the image I get of Clough with the fact that he was one of the most successful English managers of all time. He took Derby County from the bottom of the Second Division to the League Championship, and he won the European Cup with Nottingham Forest. But in the book he seems completely unable to handle the, admittedly difficult, situation at Leeds. Secondly, it is well documented that Clough had a drinking problem but if it was on the scale indicated in the book it’s beyond me how he could be a top manager for so many years.
But never mind the reservations. A must read!
David Peace: The damned Utd (Faber and Faber).