Clough’s time at Leeds United will make a Damned good play

Andrew Lancel.
Andrew Lancel.
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You’ve bought the book, seen the film – now get ready for the stage play.

The first ever theatrical production of The Damned United – the tale of Brian Clough’s doomed 44 days as Leeds United manager – is coming to the West Yorkshire Playhouse next year.

Starring former Coronation Street actor Andrew Lancel as Clough, it is a joint enterprise between the Playhouse and Leeds’s Red Ladder Theatre Company.

Ossett-born novelist David Peace awarded Red Ladder the theatre rights to his original Damned United book last year to help its struggle for survival in the face of funding cuts.

Acclaimed writer Anders Lustgarten has now adapted the book for the stage and the finished product – which will have a cast of five – is said to be much darker than the film version of the story.

Red Ladder producer Chris Lloyd said: “The book is very distinct from the film in the way it puts more focus on Clough’s demons.

“That’s going to be reflected in the play, as will things like his relationships with his mother and also [managerial sidekick] Peter Taylor.”

Mr Lloyd added that the production team had met former United players Eddie Gray, Norman Hunter and Duncan McKenzie to get their take on Clough’s ill-fated reign.

West Yorkshire Playhouse artistic director James Brining said: “The Damned United is not just about football, it’s a story about power and prejudice, the individual against the collective and weakness and strength.

“I hope its drama and passion will appeal not only to football fans but also to theatregoers from Leeds and beyond.”

The Damned United will run at Leeds’s Playhouse from March 4 to April 2.

The production then moves to Derby, where Clough has hero status thanks to his exploits as manager of Derby County between 1967 and 1973.

His appointment as United boss in 1974 stunned football as he had been a fierce critic of their abrasive but hugely-successful playing style under predecessor Don Revie.

Published in 2006, the Damned United novel’s mix of fact and fiction has had its detractors – not least Leeds great Johnny Giles, who won an apology from its publishers over the way he was portrayed.

Clough’s family also vowed to boycott the 2009 film version, which starred Michael Sheen as the man known as Ol’ Big ‘Ead.