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Brian Clough succeeds in turning bottom-of-second division team Derby County into the English champion. His self-esteem makes him successful, but lets him permanently clash with the club owners. One such turns leads into his sacking, and he ends up coaching the arch-rival, Leeds United, whose manager has been promoted away to take over the England squad. The time at Leeds starts as a disaster…
Who does not immediately think of Jose Murinho when seeing the smirking in Michael Sheen’s eyes and grin? He is not the best manager in England, but certainly among the “Top 1”… that sounds like a role model for modern posh coaches. But he is depicted as a torn character, there are doubts, and there is the realisation what he is unable to do. His assistant coach plays an important role in unfolding this vulnerable side of his, and the two stand in the centre of the movie like the good and the evil angel on the shoulders of professional football. Clough seems himself as such a superhuman being that the sheer realisation that some other people can perfectly ignore him (like former Leeds coach Don Revie, who does not even remember why he is supposed to have insulted Clough years ago) shatters his foundations.
Michael Sheen plays brilliantly (again), Timothy Spall as Clough assistant Peter Taylor and Colm Meany as Don Revie (I always have to think of him telling off his family for questioning Elvis’ greatness, sorry…) make this a really enjoyable cultural period piece, with pro-football locker room full of smoke and an ashtray next to every locker, with two-class football mannerism that is probably even worse today, and with the age of innocence ending slowly through the realisation that money does score goals.
I did not know any of the characters to begin with, but that never mattered. At the end, you know them.

One Comment

  1. Great review Thomas. I really enjoyed this one. I can see your point about Mourinho and that “top 1” comment Clough makes.

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