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Brian Clough's widow angered by book

James Macintyre
Friday 19 October 2007 00:00 BST

The widow of Brian Clough, the towering football manager who steered Nottingham Forest to Cup victories at home and in Europe, hit out yesterday at a fictional book about a controversial period of the tempestuous coach's career.

Barbara Clough has criticised The Damned United by David Peace, which focuses on the 44-day period when her husband was in charge at Leeds United in 1974.

Clough – known as "Old Big 'Ed" – clashed repeatedly with the star players of the then league champions as he attempted to establish authority and order at the club. The rows resulted in Clough's premature departure from the side before he took the reins at Forest. Mrs Clough expressed her disappointment that Clough – who was born in 1935 and died in 2004 – had been portrayed as a "chain-smoking, obscenity-shouting and selfishly driven man".

The highly-acclaimed novel, from Faber & Faber, was published in August last year, but the Clough family decided to protest after reading a recent review in their local newspaper. They called in the Derby-based TV and film writer Don Shaw – a friend of the family since he led a fans' campaign to keep the manager at Derby County in the early 1970s – to speak out on their behalf.

In a statement, Mr Shaw said: "Barbara Clough and I are together in condemning the portrayal of Brian in the book The Damned United by David Peace.

"He was considerate and civilised but with enormous self-confidence and a psychological awareness that made him a great manager.

"He was often forthright and outspoken, sometimes to his disadvantage, but behind this facade of egotistical bravado he was a deep thinking man with a remarkable memory.

"His small acts of generosity are well known to friends and ex-players."

Faber & Faber would not comment on Mrs Clough's criticisms yesterday. The publishers described the book as: "A portrait of one of the most idiosyncratic and wilfully perverse Englishmen of the past century, and a story of the power and the paranoia that come together to shape a people and their times."

During Clough's time at Leeds – in which the side won only once – he reportedly argued with prominent players of the era including Johnny Giles, Billy Bremner and Norman Hunter. He was given a pay-off estimated at just below £100,000.

Before his period at Leeds, Clough managed Brighton and Hove Albion and Derby, which he took to the top of Division Two and then made winners of the league championship, as well as semi-finalists of the European Cup. At Forest, he twice won the Cup in Europe.

Clough was also a respected player and prolific goal-scorer for Middlesbrough and Sunderland during the late 1950s and early '60s. He also gained two caps for England.

Millions of football fans went into mourning when Clough, who was an alcoholic, died of stomach cancer. The footballing giant was dearly loved for his gruff wit as well as exceptional talent, and once said of his own career: "I certainly wouldn't say I'm the best manager in the business, but I'm in the top one."

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