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Issue 77 - The beautiful game

Whisky Magazine Issue 77
January 2009


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The beautiful game

Jefferson Chase delves between the leaves of another novel.

Sports, like whisky, can be many things to many people. For some, they're a pastime, for others they're a passion, and for a few they're a downright obsession.

Legendary English soccer manager Brian Clough belonged to the third of those categories, and he's the subject of David Peace's marvellous 2006 novel, The Damned United.

Clough is best known as the coach of the Nottingham Forest sides that won two consecutive European club championships. But Peace focuses on a different, far darker and more quixotic period in Clough's career – his 44-day stint in charge of his most bitter rivals Leeds United in 1974.

The Damned United doesn't just tell the story of Clough's misguided days at Leeds, though.

Through a series of second-person flashbacks, it also explores how he got there, including the knee injury that ended his playing career.

You stop crawling. You turn over. Your mouth is open. Your eyes wide, You see the face of the physio, Johnny Watters, a worried moon in a frightening sky. There is blood running down your cheek, with the sweat and with the tears, your right knee hurting, hurting, hurting, and you are biting, biting, biting the inside of your mouth to stifle the screams, to fight the fear.

His playing days prematurely terminated, Clough set out to become England's best manager the only way he knew how – brilliantly, arrogantly and obsessively.

As those who remember him can attest, Clough was a big-headed blowhard with style.

Part of his secret was his dev...

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