Just had a nice relaxing week down in Sussex. On Friday - the day before we were leaving to come home - I walked into a bookshop in Bognor Regis (a good contender for Britain's most boring seaside town - makes Clacton-on-Sea look like Brighton. There is a delicatessen selling the best damn coffee I've had all year but that's it. Only go to Bognor if you want a decent coffee, and even then, get out fast) and came away with a copy of David Peace's The Damned United. At 4pm, we got home. By midnight, I'd finished the book.
An absolute classic. I have read one previous effort by Peace - Nineteen seventy-four - which is a great, if wearing and brutal, read. The guy makes Irvine Welsh look like a faker and a wuss. Damned United is light reading by comparison - no-one dies, not literally anyway. A smattering of violence, for sure, but this is the seventies, kids. When the terraces were like something off a Tarantino film but with a soundtrack by Sweet. Or so we are told, anyway.
It's a memoir from a different era. Today's "Premiership" football (i.e. soccer for non-Brits) is a pile of steaming and I mean that without reservation. It's inflated egos with inflated wads and inflatable brains, bouncing off each other, a personal benefit gig for Rupert Murdoch week after week after week. And you fucking idiots out there FEEDING THE BEAST. Paying your Two thousand quid a year for season tickets or Sky in the living room, or a New Dealer to pretend to beat you up to give it some terrace authenticity, or whatever the hell it is You People do.
Only 12 months after Brian Clough departed Leeds United in 1974, Pink Floyd saw it coming: "Welcome To The Machine". Football was, for sure, changing into a piece of shit even then. But it weren't quite there. Because someone like a Clough, or a Bobby Robson, or (a few years later) a Graham Taylor could take on the money men and win something. The small man still had a chance. Now? Ha ha. Iain Duncan Smith's "quiet man" would have more chance of winning the premiership than anyone of yer fair-to-middling clubs out there.
Oddly enough, the length of Brian Clough's "reign" at Leeds - 44 days - is the most modern aspect of seventies Leeds Utd, the one way in which they were looking Forward Not Back. Any of you kids remember Colin Todd? He lasted 90 days at Derby a few seasons ago. That was considered short but not exceptional. Nowadays if you lose two on the trot you might be for the chop. Whereas in fact, anyone managing a premiership club that isn't Man Utd, Chelsea or a couple of others with big pockets (temporarily) is doing very well to be optimistic enough just to turn up on the field with their team.
If I was Prime Minister (unlikely!) my New Years' Honours list for 2010 would be a knighthood for any football manager in a premiership team with less money than the Big Five (or Six or whatever). because it takes guts to do the job without the resources. They also serve, who only stand and wait for the takeover by foreign billionaires.
And after that nice little gesture, the grand redistribution of resources in favour of the small clubs - football's Cultural Revolution, if you like - could begin. Starting with the compulsory purchase of all teams by the relevant local authorities, who would then sell controlling stakes in the club off to supporters. Or something like that, anyway... I'm sure Brian Clough would have approved. He was, as The Damned United tells us, a socialist.
I will be ordering the DVD of the same name very soon and I'll let you know how that one goes.