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The Damned United

There are two types of people who will express opinions on the new 'Damned United' film, about the story of Brian Clough's 44 day spell with Leeds United in 1974.

The first will be too young to remember what happened and will take the film as they see it, believing everything that is portrayed and coming away from the cinema with the feeling that Clough 'beat' rival Don Revie (Colm Meaney) and forming their opinions of the great man from just under two hours of entertainment.

The second, and hopefully there are more of these, will be annoyed at the fact the script has strayed from reality, that Clough's relationship with assistant Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall) is portrayed in vaguely homoerotic terms and that there is a distinct lack of actual footballing action.

Clough has always been an acquired taste. For arrogance, some may read incredible self-belief, but the film succeeds in what should be considered its main aim: portraying his personality to a new generation of fans. Martin Sheen is superb and, with a cheeky grin and a northern drawl, he brings the character out.

The trouble is, that is where the reality ends. Sheen's best scene is when he is alone in the depths of Derby's stadium, listening to the distant choruses of despair or triumph coming from the stadium above his head when his side beat Leeds. But Clough would never have missed a game of this importance and to suggest he would be unable to watch casts doubt on his bottle as a manager; and the poetic licence doesn't end there.

Clough's own family have boycotted the film, while one of the stars of Leeds' side in the 70s, John Giles sued the publishers of the Damned United book successfully and author David Peace was forced to re-write sections of the plot because of the inaccuracies. He has not been to see the film either, claiming: ''the movie is based on a false premise'' and there are reported to be 17 different factual errors that litter the script.

It is hard to argue with someone who knew the facts because he was there. But for the knowing fan, the most disappointing aspect of the film is that it seems to merge the alcoholic, smoking, Clough of the late eighties, into the 1974 version.

However, as Clough dumbed down his media performances after taking the Forest job in 1975, it is easy to see why this film will do well. There has been a requirement to find out more about 'Ol Big 'Ead', since '75 and this is the opportunity to bring an icon into the minds of today's youngsters.

There are moments that don't ring true, but that is to be expected in today's cinemas and they can get away with it by labelling the film as 'faction' not a biography.

Genuinely funny and enjoyable, as long as you don't take it at face value, the film has a lot to offer and is well worth seeing. Just make sure that you either read Clough's own book, or watch a respected documentary on the man before you do.

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