The genius of the life of Brian

“When I go,” Brian Clough once announced, “God’s going to have to give up his favourite chair.”

Two years after his ascension, having no doubt changed the formation of the Holy Trinity into a flat back four, you imagine the original “special one” is currently putting his feet up and enjoying the view. Last week it was announced that disciples of Clough who have fought to have a statue erected in his honour in Nottingham have raised the £60,000 required. At the same time it was all but confirmed that Stephen Frears will direct a feature film about Cloughie written by Peter Morgan, who also scripted his film The Queen. David Morrissey and Michael Sheen, who has useful megalomaniac form as Tony Blair, are in contention to play the lead.

The book on which Frears’s film will be based, David Peace’s The Damned Utd, a novel based closely on fact, was also the only football book worth having – or giving – this Christmas: the life of Brian in all of its blunt glory. Beside it, Wayne Rooney’s meditation on his primary school days, or Cashley Cole’s money worries, looked desperately dull.

Peace’s novel, which has become a word-of-mouth hit since its publication in August, is concerned principally with the 44 fateful days its hero spent as manager at Elland Road, Leeds, after taking over from Don Revie in 1974. It imagines Brian Howard Clough exactly as he always wanted to imagine himself: a protagonist of Shakespearean proportion, outrageous, maniacal, big-hearted, vindictive, brilliant, pissed – a Coriolanus of the dug-out.

The book takes Clough’s voice – that inspired nasal bombast that was once such a feature of British life – and turns it inwards. Peace attempts to see the world as Clough might have seen it; the book is told in diary form, a page or three a day for each of the purgatorial 44 days at Leeds, with flashbacks to his triumphs at Derby County a couple of years earlier. It is a football manager’s guide to heaven and hell.

Read Tim Adams’ full article in The Observer by clicking here.