The Damned Utd

The Damned Utd is a biographical novel by British author David Peace, published in 2006. Depicting events in the life of English football personality Brian Clough, it is set during Clough's brief and unsuccessful 44-day spell as manager of Leeds United during 1974, with frequent flashbacks to his earlier period as manager of Derby County. Despite critical acclaim, the novel was also the subject of controversy for its perceived negative portrayal of Clough and some historical inaccuracies. It was adapted into a film called The Damned United, released in 2009.

The Damned Utd
AuthorDavid Peace
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherFaber and Faber
Publication date
17 August 2006
Media typePrint (paperback)
823/.914 22
LC ClassPR6066.E116 D36 2006


The novel is based on real events in the life of Brian Clough

Told from Clough's point of view, the novel is written as his stream of consciousness as he tries and fails to impose his will on a team he inherited from his bitter rival, Don Revie, and whose players are still loyal to their old manager. Interspersed are flashbacks to his more successful days as manager of Derby County. Described by its author as "a fiction based on a fact",[1] the novel mixes fiction, rumour and speculation with documented facts to depict Clough as a deeply flawed hero; foul mouthed, vengeful and beset with inner demons and alcoholism.


The Damned Utd was published by Faber and Faber in August 2006 to great critical acclaim and sold steadily – by the end of the year it had also become a word of mouth hit.[2] The critical reaction to the book was generally positive. It was described by Rick Broadbent of The Times as "probably the best novel ever written about sport",[3] while Chris Petit of The Guardian praised its imaginative use of Clough's inner voice, and the "warts and all" portrait of its protagonist.[4] However, the portrayal of some of the characters has attracted controversy, and the book has been criticised by members of Clough's family as presenting an overly negative view of the late manager.[5][6]

Leeds player Johnny Giles complained about the way he was portrayed in the book and claimed he had been libelled. Giles wrote, "Many of the things Peace talks about in the book never happened and for that reason, I felt it necessary to go to the Courts to establish that this was fiction based on fact and nothing more." Faber disagreed, and applied to strike out his claim. Giles won the case and, as part of a compromise, Faber made minor changes to the text without any admission of liability.[7]


A screen adaptation of the novel starring Michael Sheen as Brian Clough was released in 2009 to critical acclaim.[8]


  1. Burn, Gordon (25 August 2006). "Waiting for Cloughie". The Independent. Retrieved 19 December 2007.
  2. "The genius of the life of Brian". The Observer. 31 December 2006. Retrieved 19 December 2007.
  3. Broadbent, Rick (9 October 2006). "Novel approach to Clough story". The Times. Retrieved 19 December 2007.
  4. Petit, Chris (19 August 2006). "Once more unto the pitch". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 December 2007.
  5. Naylor, Martin (18 October 2007). "Clough's family angered by book". Derby Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 19 December 2007.[permanent dead link]
  6. Alberge, Dalya (19 November 2007). "Film is offside, says Brian Clough's widow". The Times. Retrieved 19 December 2007.
  7. "Leeds United legend wins apology from author". Yorkshire Evening Post. 6 February 2008. Retrieved 24 April 2008.
  8. Dawtrey, Adam (24 April 2008). "Sony scores 'Damned United'". Variety. Retrieved 2 September 2008.