Stupid Boy

Upon reflection, this week probably wasn’t the best week to start reading “The Damned United”, David Peace’s outstanding debut novel about Brian Clough’s ruinous forty-four days in charge at Leeds United. Clough comes across in it as frustrated to the point of being a tortured soul, the massive ego becoming a security blanket against the impotent rage of having his playing career finished before its time, and against the psychological frailties that come with never having quite made it at the top level of English football. In tandem with Peter Taylor at Hartlepool United and Derby County, Clough channeled his inner rage into taking teams from nowhere and lifting them above their natural station. He took Hartlepool from the bottom of Division Four to a close shave with promotion and Derby County into Division One and then on to the League Championship and the semi-final of the European Cup. Brian’s inner demons and frailties have been copiously discussed elsewhere, so we’ll leave him there. NIgel, on the other hand, in a blank sheet of a man. He managed a shade over ten years at Burton Albion, taking them from the Northern Premier League to the top of the Blue Square Premier and having the temerity to hold Manchester United to a draw in the FA Cup Third Round on the way. Burton’s maxim over this period of time has...

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