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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 4 July 2011
This is one of the best page-turners I've read all year, or indeed, ever. It takes the 44-day train wreck of Brian Clough's managership of Leeds Utd and imagines it through what might have been Clough's thoughts, interspersed with his recollections of his earlier career, the one feeding off the other. At times, it's horrifying. When it's funny, it's in the grimmest way possible. It's driven relentlessly along by obsession and equal measures of self-belief and self-loathing. None of which makes it sound too enticing but I was gripped by it. If you're not a football fan or sports fan generally, don't be put off. Yes it's a football story but ultimately it's a novel about obsession and the limits to which relationships can be pushed.

Many comments of other readers refer to the repetition; for me, this served two purposes - given it's told entirely through someone's thoughts, it simply reflects the way people's minds can work - we sometimes do go over things again and again in our heads, especially under pressure and probably even more so for a highly driven obsessive personality. Also, it reflects the repetition that can afflict our working lives - most of us do walk along the same corridors each day and fall into routines we might feel trapped in; a top-flight football manager whose once high-flying club are struggling would have to field the exact same questions and undergo the same stresses and strains, especially in the 1970s when the 3pm Saturday kick-off was centre of the universe and dominated everything, giving the same 'shape' to every week.

As usual, there are those who seem unable to accept fact-based fiction as fiction and bleat about inaccuracies, not to mention of course those who criticise the swearing, one reader even hilariously doubting that Clough would have sworn like this. (Would these people even frown over swearing in novels set in barracks or building sites as well, I wonder?). If these are concerns of yours, it's unlikely you'll enjoy this book. But if you can cast those minor issues aside you might be in for a treat, albeit a rather grim one.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 November 2011
David Peace's fictional account of Brian Clough's 44-day period in charge at Leeds United in 1974 has (in my view) rightly been acclaimed the best sporting novel ever. Now, I know there has been a lot of controversy over to what extent fact backed up this fiction, but the book should be read principally as fiction albeit based around a series of events that did occur. Clearly the details should not be taken as gospel - however, Brian Clough was an arrogant, but brilliant, football manager, and Leeds United in 1974 had, in Norman Hunter and Billy Bremner, two of the most dirty footballers (probably ever) and Johnny Giles did throw a punch (largely unprovoked) to flatten Kevin Keegan in the 1974 Charity Shield. These are facts. One can infer from these facts what one likes in relation to what happens in the book.

The Damned United is a brilliantly written account of those 44 days at Leeds, also charting Clough's earlier amazing achievements at Derby County, including the infamous incident of Don Revie not shaking Clough's hand following a Leeds victory over Derby in the FA Cup at the Baseball Ground (which largely prompted Clough's dislike for Revie). David Peace frequently uses repetition in his prose style as an exaggerative effect, brilliantly (I believe), but obviously not to everyone's taste. This exaggerative effect is also used by Peace in relation to his use of expletives - again, not to everyone's taste. However, on this point, I would ask - if you put the likes of Brian Clough, Billy Bremner, Jack Charlton, Norman Hunter (or indeed any footballers) into a room (particularly a changing room) and left them to it, would there be much swearing? I think we all know the answer.

Whilst I think it is true that one's interest in the book would be heightened by some knowledge of the football at the time of the Clough/Leeds saga, it still stands alone as a dramatic and brilliant account of sporting obsession.
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VINE VOICEon 24 August 2009
Supporting your local football team comes with maturity. Small boys often prefer the 'glory boys' of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea or - in the early 1970s - the legendary Leeds United team of Clarke, Bremner, Gray, Giles and Lorimer. So yes - I admit it - in those days, I identified myself with Leeds.

This gave me a particular fascination with this book - indeed, I stayed up till 2 am to finish it - but it cannot be said too often that you do NOT need to understand, or even to like, soccer to enjoy this novel. It is a dark, brooding book, and a superbly crafted one.

Much has been made about how accurate, or not, is this book's portrayal of Brian Clough's 44-day reign at Elland Road. I wasn't in the dressing-room or the board room at the time, of course - I was at school - so I can't know, but it's pretty convincing.

The tale is told in alternating chapters, with the 'present day' (1974) tale of Clough's days at Leeds interspersed with flashbacks through his career as player (a great goalscorer) and manager (at Hartlepool and Derby County).

The book is undeniably dark. And, ending as it does in 1974, it does not recount Brian Clough's subsequent triumphs - such as taking Nottingham Forest from the second division to promotion, then to the League Championship, and then to two successive European Cups.

This is not - neither does it claim to be - a balanced biography of one of the two greatest managers that the English game has ever produced. Rather, it's a very good novel.

Personally, I would have liked more on the positive side of the ledger where Clough is concerned. Clough was not just a great manager, he was a great man; a football genius; a man of ready wit; a man of courage, who took on football's then-stuffy establishment and usually triumphed; and, above all, a man who attracted great loyalty and affection.

But remember that this is a novel; it is one very talented author's take on an undoubtedly fascinating chapter. Agree with it, or not. But read it.
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on 1 February 2012
Initially, I believed that The Damned Utd was a biography of Brian Clough and would therefore cover my "non fiction" quota. But, though it is based on biographical information, it is in fact a novelisation of his life. A known character of the football world Brian Clough was a man who was never afraid to say exactly what he thought, and do exactly as he pleased, but this approach made him enemies and lost him friends. The novel tells the story of his rise and fall as a manager between 1965-1974.

Told in "present day" 1974 in which Clough has just become manager of successful Division One side Leeds United, the novel flashes from his ill fated 44 day tenure there to Clough's past as a manager of Hartlepools and Derby. It chronicles something of an existential crisis for Clough who adored Derby and was a Derby man to his core, but having left the club on bad terms goes to manage Leeds. The problem is throughout his managing career Clough's passionate hatred had always been for Leeds and their former manager Don Revie. He is unable to see them as his men or his team, but Revie's men, the rotten dirty cheats he has always known. Lonely, isolated and homesick, Clough's world spirals out of control.

The novel provides this fascinating psychological portrait of a man who lived for the game, and who was consumed by it, it was more than a job, there was real emnity and drama off pitch. The prose at times can be slightly repetitive "Revie. His team. His players. His club" and lists of wins, losses and draws against various sides, but this is to reflect the obsessional nature of Clough and the repetition does convey this aspect well, and actually didnt irritate me it added to the atmosphere.

A film starring Michael Sheen was made, but, I liked the story as I saw it in my own head and I imagined Clough as he was back in the day and wouldn't want to see someone elses portrayal I don't think. The story also shows a bygone era of football before it became more of a commercialised business and also of a bygone era of society, where men were drank like fish and smoked like chimneys and spoke as they found and didn't care if they gave offence.

I liked The Damned Utd very much there was something quite addictive and charming about it, and it took this bluff arrogant alcoholic and made you see his frailties and his flaws and made you love him and root for him and pity him. It made you hate Don Revie too. A must I think for any Clough fan or football fan but if you are neither it is still a great story about a man unable to stop sabotaging himself teetering on a psychological brink.

Really enjoyed it 8.5/10
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on 22 February 2012
This book is an account of Brian Clough's 44 days as manager of Leeds United.

There is some backstory first. Clough's playing career was ended in its prime by injury, and that, plus a massive ego, gave him a burning desire to 'show them'. His managerial career took off at Derby County, where he took a smalltown club with limited resources and built one of the best sides in England. This brought him into conflict with the League Champions, Leeds United, and their manager Don Revie. Leeds were one of the biggest and richest clubs in the land, and their manager, who like Clough was from Middlesborough, was the one manager (and father-figure) that Clough wanted to impress. Revie and Leeds put Clough and Derby in their places, and that fanned the flames of his resentment. To him, Leeds were 'Dirty Leeds', who fouled and cheated. Revie was his nemesis, waiting in the wings to taunt and belittle him.

Clough cobbled together a team at Derby, through a combination of bullying and genius, and, brilliantly, won the League. Meanwhile, Revie had left Leeds to manage England, and Clough did the unthinkable; he agreed to become Leeds' manager. He was therefore brought into direct conflict with the players he had very publically insulted. His first words to the dressing room were that Leeds had won all there was to win in the game, and they'd won it all by cheating. It went downhill from there.

This story has an Shakespearean sweep to it. The book's great strength is to tell the story via the voices in Clough's head - the obsessive, aggressive, occasionally ecstatic voices that drove him on. This is incredibly effective. I became totally wrapped up in this interior monologue, holding my breath until the next confrontation, the next game, the next interview, the next drink. Bloody show them, Clough!

Totally original, superbly written, hypnotic and addictive.
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By choosing to write a semi-fictional biography David Peace has managed to invigorate a tired genre and I'd be surprised if his book isn't used as a template in future. "The Damned United" tells the story of Brian Clough's pre-Nottingham Forest career with two timelines running in parallel. In the first we see how he became a manager and made a name for himself with Hartlepool and Derby, whereas the second tells the story of his nightmare month at Leeds United, with the book ending as the two tales converge. It's a brilliantly revealing book that doesn't pull any punches and the story still seems relevant today. Pearce has clearly done his research (and then some...he credits 40 books) and we get all the benefit, I can't believe how much I've learned about Brian Clough, Derby, Leeds United and the workings of a football club and I can't believe that it was such an amazingly enjoyable experience. "Damned United" works as an incredibly pacey, page turner to be read in one sitting or (thanks to the numerous and regular chapters) a perfect bog book to dip in and out of. This is how all biographies should be written.
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on 17 August 2006
mesmerising, heartbreakingly funny and simply heartbreaking. a stunning portrait of the best england manager there never was in his short tenure as manager of the leeds side of the early seventies, and so much more. interweaving the time periods of before and during his leeds tenure, this book is brilliantly written by the consummate David Peace, a true piece of haunting originality that is par for the course with this author. this is about football, but also about what it means to the men off the field aswell. hope and heartbreak, dreams and nightmares, a stunning work which i read in one sitting - 'un-put-downable'.

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on 4 May 2009
David Peace's study of Brian Clough during his brief spell as manager of Leeds United is an exploration of one man's unflinching self-confidence, an arrogance that allows the character to question the integrity of the sport he loves, callings its champions cheats and ridiucling the successes of his predecessor. Clough emerges as an unloveable egoist, a bully and a lier and yet one who is frequently seen to be right.

Peace's novel is split into chapters, each one chronicling the events of one of Clough's days at Leeds and the narrative jumps between his experiences at Leeds and his past, chronicling his emergence as a manager after the ending of his playing career. It is a portrayal of a fickle and complex character, obsessing over past failures and recklessly raging at those who have stood in his way.

It is not a novel about football, but you probably have to love football to love this novel. It is a work of fiction, but one which is grounded in factual events and which portrays media events as they happened. It is a difficult book to put down even though the ending is inevitable, but it is not a book which invites sympathy for any of the main characters and it is one which must have hurt many of those who were involved in the events themselves.
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on 6 August 2006
David Peace writes as Brian Clough, the irrascible, controlversial, bitter yet gifted football manager. Looking at the cover you could be led to believe that this brilliant story is solely about Clough's short tenure at Leeds United. It isn't, there is just as much about his managerial days before Leeds and even a short, painful history of his brilliant but doomed playing career.

This is as much politics as it is football, and Shakespearean in plot and characterization (could Cloughie be the Yorkshire Othello?!. Fantastic, I loved every minute of it, even the parts which, as a Leeds United fan, I found almost hurtful to read.

Fans of David Peace will love it and new readers SHOULD if there's any justice in literature - supremely original, expertly written and greatly entertaining.
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VINE VOICEon 27 October 2009
I think it's true to say that you couldn't write a story like this about anyone else, in any other situation. Brian Clough was only at Leeds Utd for 44 days, and this novel begins at Day 1 and ends at Day 44. In tandem it tells the story from retiring as a player to joining Leeds.

As a football fan who is was not alive during the time in question, I am not interested in which is fact and which is fiction. The references at the end show that the author has done some serious research into the characters, and the result is an intriguing drama told in the past in the second person, in the present in the first person.

There is a machine-gun delivery to the prose, repeated statements, motifs running through the book, with the friendship between Clough and Taylor at the centre of the piece.

Though there are times where I just wanted there to be more going on, I found myself drawn into the dressing room, imagining how it must have been for real.

If you like football novels like Fever Pitch, and you can stomach the language, you will enjoy this, whether you are old enough to remember it for real or not.
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