The Damned United
DVD Cover

Directed by

Tom Hopper

Produced by

Andy Harries; Grainne Marmion

Writen by

Peter Morgan (script); David Peace (novel)

Released year



Columbia Pictures (UK) Sony Pictures Classics (US)


The Damned United is a film directed by Tom Hooper. The screenplay was adapted by Peter Morgan from a novel by David Pearce of the same name.

A largely fictional story, it is loosely based on a series of real events focusing on Brian Clough's tenure as manager of football team Leeds United which lasted a period of 44 days in 1974.



It starts with Brian Clough being offered the Leeds United manager's job. Clough is nervous about taking over the team, as he has previously criticised the former manager, Don Revie, and its players for being too violent. The story switches between 1974, when Clough commences his tenure at Leeds, and the late 60s when he is the manager of Derby County, who prior to his arrival had been languishing at the bottom of the second division for 10 years.

Clough celebrates with his assistant manager, Peter Taylor, when Derby are drawn against Leeds at home in the 4th round of the F.A. Cup. Clough presses his staff to get the place spotless prior to the visiting team's arrival. Clough seems to look up to Revie as they come from similar backgrounds.

Derby lose the match, and Clough feels personally snubbed when Revie leaves the grounds without a word or a hand shake. He wants another crack at Leeds, and so determines to get his team into the first division. He asks Taylor to scout some new players in an effort to breath new life into the team.

Derby's chairman, Sam Longson, is not happy about Clough spending the clubs money without authorisation, but backs off when the team starts to creep up the division.

By the end of the 68/69 season, Derby are at the top of the league, and Clough is considered a hero. Derby continue to do well over the next few years in the 1st division, and even manage to win a match against Leeds.

A few days prior to a big match with Juventas, they have another match against their rival Leeds, and Longson asks Clough to field a weaker team, as he considers the european match of greater importance. Clough's pride and bitter rivalry with Leeds forces him to ignore this request, despite the risk of injuries. The match is brutal, and many Derby players suffer greatly at the hands of the Leeds players and their dirty tactics.

Longson is furious, and gives Clough a piece of his mind. Clough reponds arrogantly that the team is where it is today solely due to him. Longson, who had been getting impatient at Clough's increased and very vocal media profile, responds in kind and tells him that the manager is the lowest of the low, and completely expendable.

Peter Taylor then collapses of a heart attack. When Clough visits him in hospital, he tells Taylor how disappointed he is with the board, and that he has tendered both their resignations.

Taylor is alarmed but Clough reassures him, confident that they will not accept the resignation.Unfortunately, Clough has not gauged the situation correctly, and the board do indeed accept the resignation. Clough asks them to tear up the letter but they refuse them both. The fans and players of Derby mount a campaign to reinstate Clough and Taylor.

Taylor is fed up and convinces Clough to meet with board members of Brighton & Hove Albion, who want the two to sign on as the management. They are offered a good package, with 1st division level salaries. Clough accepts, on the condition that he is allowed a family holiday first. Taylor and his wife join them on the holiday, and all seems well, except Clough is approached on the beach by a representative of Leeds United. It seems that Revie has been offered the England manager's job, and so there is now a vacancy that they would like Clough to fill.

Clough is very interested and talks to Taylor. However, Taylor is not as enthusiastic. He wants to take the Brighton job, but Clough, blinded by his ambition to beat Revie, and to be better than him in all things, will not accept anything else.  The partnership crumbles after a bitter row, where both men say hurtful things, both claiming that the other is nothing on his own.

Clough takes the Leeds job without Taylor. He finds that his years of very public criticism of the team, its manager and its players dirty tactics mean that he gets a less than warm reception from the team on the practice field.

Their first match is against Liverpool in the charity shield, and sadly for Clough, they lose. The violence on the pitch was out of control and results in the team's captain being given a 6 week suspension from playing by the FA.

The fans start singing anti-Clough songs as Leeds have the worse start to a season in 20 years, winning only one of the 6 matches played during the 44 days Clough is manager. After alienating many of the Leeds players, he is summoned to the board room, and told that they are letting him go. In retaliation, he demands a massive pay off.

He is then seen doing a TV interview, where he is surprised to discover that the other guest is Don Revie. His response to this situation is confrontational and tries his best to embarrass Revie. The interviewer instinctively picks up on the fact that the differences between these two men is more than just business, and that it is personal. Clough explains that he remembers plainly how Revie refused to shake his hand when his team came to Derby in the FA cup years earlier. Revie denies this, claiming that he always makes a point of shaking the opposing manager's hand.

Clough realises he has made some mistakes and drives down to Brighton, with his two young sons in the car, and stops at Taylor's house. Clough talks to Taylor, and begs his forgiveness, which is given.