The game of the damned

FA Charity Shield 1974

Liverpool 1
Boersma 19

Leeds United 1
Cherry 70

(Liverpool win 6-5 on pens)

This weekend saw the release of The Damned United a film about Brian Clough’s, short but eventful, 44 days in charge of Leeds United. I haven’t seen it yet but if it’s half as good as the book (click here for the review) then it should be a good watch.

Cinema isn’t exactly awash with classic football films. I guess the most famous one is Escape to Victory which is probably the most ridiculous but paradoxically the most enjoyable because of that. Liverpool interest, John Wark even though he was an Ipswich player at the time? Others are a mixed bunch. There’s Fever Pitch which is not a patch on the book. Gregory’s Girl and Kes both contain good football scenes but are they really about the sport? There’s Bend It Like Beckham which I’ve not seen and a film that follows Zinedine Zidane about whilst playing for Real Madrid which just sounds like voyeurism or stalking!

There was the instantly forgettable Shot at Glory starring Robert Duval and, wait for it, Ally McCoist who try to save their football club from moving to Dublin, sound familiar Wimbledon fans? There’s Yesterday’s Hero staring Ian McShane who plays a footballer has been who gets a second shot at the big time. Then there is When Saturday Comes starring Sean Bean who plays a working man who achieves his dream by breaking through to make it with Sheffield United.

McCoist’s character is a player with a troublesome past and a lack of respect for authority. McShane’s is an alcoholic with a troublesome past. While Sean Bean plays a player with a troublesome past who is hard drinker! Notice a theme here? I blame George Best. Which brings me to “Best” to story of George Best a player with a troublesome……. fill in the words yourself!

Other common themes seem to be that most films have a crunch game at the end, usually a cup final or a game that needs to be won to achieve promotion of prevent relegation. It starts off with our heroes’ team going behind usually by two or three goals. Enter the main man having overcome his adversity and pulled himself together having under gone some “Damascus” type conversion during, or just before, the game. Eventually, through brilliant individual play, he inspires a comeback. Needless to say he scores the winning goal probably in the last minute, from a penalty. Happy days, as Liverpool fans we know comebacks like that never happen!

Back to the Damned United and in the book and film we see Clough make his managerial debut for Leeds at Wembley in the 1974 Charity Shield Final against us. Since the book was published it’s been the source of much controversy particularly over how it portrays Clough. His family and Johnny Giles have disputed its accuracy. However, its account of the actual game cannot be disputed and Clough’s envisaged comments, via the book, add some spice to the game which was recently repeated on ESPN.

The real game has until now been famous for the dismissals of Billy Bremner and Kevin Keegan but it is also a tale of two mangers. Clough, for reasons already documented, but also Bill Shankley who was leading Liverpool out for the last time before handing over control to Bob Paisley, a fact that’s almost totally forgotten now.

In the book Clough muses about his arch rival Don Revie who he succeeded at Leeds and was having difficulty in replacing. Prior to the game it suggested Clough had phoned up Revie and asked him to lead out Leeds, as he had guided them to the Championship the season before. Revie declined and sat in the Royal box which must have irked Clough.

“His eyes in the stands. Behind my back…”

Both sides wasted no time in getting stuck into each other. Allan Clark drew first blood with a hack at Phil Thompson, but Tommy Smith (who else?) got his revenge on Clark with a tackle from behind. Norman Hunter repaid the ”complement” with an equally vicious assault on Heighway. All three challenges would surely have got the players sent off today? However, in between the football was quite free following. Keegan kept popping up on ether wing and it was his move that lead to the first goal. Picking up a ball from Thompson he evaded Hunter and Giles and found himself free on the edge of the six yard area. Harvey could only parry his shot but the ball then somehow flicked off Boersma into the net.

“From then on it’s all Liverpool; Heighway and Callaghan running rings around Hunter and Cherry. Thank Christ for Paul Reaney on the right and Eddie Gray on the left because the rest of them are bloody sh*te”

The second half was notorious for the sendings off. As Leeds were attacking Keegan hacked Bremner from behind (again it would have meant “red” today) however, play continued and Johnny Giles, presumably having seen what Keegan did, gave our player a right hook. Giles was booked. Shortly after the incident there was more trouble between Keegan and Bremner. Sadly the cameras didn’t pick up what had happened but presumably they weren’t exchanging phone numbers!

“Bremner and Keegan walk along the touchline. It is a lonely walk to a deserted, empty dressing room. Bremner and Keegan strip off their shirts, the white number 4 and the red number 7; shirts they should be proud to wear, these shirts they throw to the ground”

I remember being shocked by the incident. Bremner yes but Keegan? It was the equivalent of say Gary Lineker getting sent off for head butting someone! The incident caused Commentator Barry Davies to go into “public school headmaster mode” and admonish the players as if they naughty pupils. And then, later on the game, he went on to cite Ian Callaghan as an example to schoolboys. All true stuff but the way Davies said it made you want to smack him! Please endth the lecture?

After that Leeds equalised. Cherry rose above Thompson to glance in Lorimer’s centre and then both sides, as if embarrassed by the sending off, tried to make a game of it but no one could muster a winner. The resulting penalty shoot out was knock about affair with Clemence and Harvey joking between kicks.

“The penalties go to 5-5 Harvey and Clemence make a goalkeeper’s pact to each take the sixth penalty for their side. David Harvey steps up. David Harvey hits the bar. Ray Clemence stays put…”

I hope Clemence was overruled by his team mates rather than reneging on the pact however Callaghan finished things off to win us the Shield.

Keegan was banned for three games and Bremner for eight, both were fined £500.

“No one is sat next to Bremner on the coach out of Wembley. I sit down next to him. I tell him, “You’ll pay your own bloody fine or of your own f*ckng pocket and, if I had my bloody way, you’d f*cking pay Keegan’s fine and all”

That season we went on to finish runners up in the league behind Clough’s old club Derby County. Leeds never recovered from their bad start under Clough and finished in mid table and Brian Clough of course well we all know what happened to him, regardless of what those critics of The Damned United might say!

Liverpool: Clemence Smith, Lindsay, Thompson, Cormack, Hughes, Keegan, Hall, Heighway Callaghan, Boersma

Leeds: Harvey, Cherry. Reaney, Giles, McQueen, Hunter, Bremner, Jordan, Clark, Lorimer, Gray

Att 67,000

Related post: Feb 2007 The Damned United – book review.

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4 Responses to The game of the damned

  1. AlsopLad says:

    In the list of great footie movies, you left out ‘There’s only one Jimmy Grimble’. Absolute classic.

  2. des downey says:

    what did clough win without tayter

    • redfloyd says:

      Nothing save a few League Cups with Forest I think?

      Managerial partnerships don’t always seem to work but this one clearly did and when Clough (at Leeds) and Taylor (at Derby) managed on their own they were not as effective. I wonder if Clough ever recovered from the fact that he didn’t get the chance to make it up with Taylor before he died?

  3. TJ says:

    The funniest – and best – football film is Mike Basset: England Manager

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