Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: Perfect Marriage of Football Skills; Actor Timothy Spall Scores with a New Film Highlighting the Talents of Middlesbrough Success Story Brian Clough. Kate Whiting Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: Perfect Marriage of Football Skills; Actor Timothy Spall Scores with a New Film Highlighting the Talents of Middlesbrough Success Story Brian Clough. Kate Whiting Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: Kate Whiting

FOOTBALL legend Brian Clough doesn't appear to have a lot in common with music mogul Simon Cowell, but Timothy Spall thinks otherwise.

The seasoned British actor - well known for playing gormless Barry in hit 80s series Auf Weidersehen, Pet - takes on the role of Clough's right-hand man Peter Taylor in controversial new biopic The Damned United.

He has read more than most about the Middlesbrough-born football manager and has his own theory about Clough's popularity.

"He was a loudmouth and he liked annoying people," he says. "Every now and again these personalities turn up who are both infuriating and fascinating but you can't help but like them.

"You could compare them to Simon Cowell - they drive you nuts but they are so original that you can't resist them; they're marvellous in their own right. And I think Clough enjoyed the limelight."

Brian Clough, who died in 2004, was thought to be one of England's best managers. He won back-to-back European Cups with Nottingham Forest and took Derby County from the bottom of the second division to beat every team.

The Damned United follows the striker-turned-manager's rise with Derby from 1968 up to his disastrous 44-day stint in charge of Leeds United, then the biggest club in the country, in 1974.

While Clough, played by Michael Sheen, enjoyed being the front man, his loyal assistant manager Taylor was more of a shrinking violet, who worked hard behind the scenes.

Their dynamic, sometimes volatile partnership is at the heart of the film.

"Obviously it's a sporting piece, but it's very much about the marriage between Clough and Taylor," says 52-year-old Spall.

"Taylor was a typical backroom boy, like a wife in the background, he brought all the support. His real talent was for knowing which players worked together and for spotting other players that had been undervalued.

"Clough, apart from many other brilliant - and annoying - things, was an incredible man motivator, he knew how to get the best out of people. So it was a perfect marriage and a bit like a lot of double acts, comedians and showbiz partnerships, they're not as good without each other."

The film, based on the book by Red Riding author David Peace, paints Clough as a charismatic, ambitious young manager, who liked to court controversy. His family are reportedly bitter about the book and the film, which portrays Clough as the victim of his own ambition and competitiveness.

His long-standing rivalry with Leeds manager Don Revie led him to take the post when Revie became England manager, even though he had railed against the club's aggressive playing style.

Clough and Taylor fell out over the decision, and Taylor refused to join him at Leeds. Clough soon began to realise he couldn't cope on his own and became the least successful manager in the club's history. …

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