Can you be successful if you do nothing to please others?

Directed by Tom Hooper - 2009 - UK - 97 min

The Damned United

2024 February 13 | by Arduino Mancini Boss and Staff member - Change management - Leadership - Resilience - Sport - Teamwork

The film is based on the book The Damned Utd by David Peace, which tells the story of Brian Howard Clough‘s 44 days in 1974 at the head of Leeds United, at that time the most prestigious English soccer team.

The coach, who in the Premier League is a real manager (he often has responsibility for the club’s financial management as well), arrived in Leeds after Don Revie had left the club’s bench to occupy the one for the national team; here, in fact, Alf Ramsey had been replaced when England failed to qualify for the final phase of the World Cup in Mexico.

Don Revie had left the team after years of success and after shaping a team devoted exclusively to winning, no matter what the cost; loyalty, beautiful play, and respect for the opponent represented concepts that the coach had left outside the door for years and that Brian Clough had always embraced.

The latter had come to Leeds after winning a league title with Derby County, a team he had taken over when it was in the second division, and which he managed with his second and great friend Peter Thomas Taylor.

But in Leeds, Peter had not followed him, and Brian was alone facing a most difficult situation, which I will not tell you about here in full so that you will enjoy watching the film.

The Brian Clough profile is interesting because he is considered the best English coach ever and one of the greatest in the history of soccer, having managed to win everything there was to win by taking over clubs that played in the second division; in fact, he successfully coached Derby County and, most importantly, Nottingham Forest, a team that he led to the victory of two Champions Cups, in 1979 and 1980.

Why do I find the film interesting? First, watch the trailer, and then we will discuss it.


How to watch the film

Brian Clough is portrayed as an arrogant, irreverent, short-tempered person, but also a carrier of values such as sports loyalty, results collected after hard work, and respect for the opponent on the field; a person who does little or nothing to please and fit in with the environment in which he works to achieve results that others, other than footballers, can also share.

The film allows observing several interesting situations in which the above points take on relevance:

  • the proof that even in a sport like soccer, values such as loyalty, respect for the opponent, victory achieved on the field without tricks can be a factor of success;
  • the ability of the coach to mold an environment that is eager to achieve results, transferring values, methods, and ideas that slowly become practice. And collecting the desired results;
  • the lack of interest in making a change within an organization that has different values and functioning mechanisms from the desired ones. In this case, the coach does not care to generate the trust that would enable him to bring the group to share his point of view, but goes straight ahead by imposing new rules;
  • the visceral rivalry with Don Revie, whom he despised and considered a genuine enemy (see the joint interview scene on TV);
  • the devastating effects that a head-on attack directed at the boss can generate;
  • the importance of “seconds” like Peter Taylor, capable of complementing the boss’s expertise and limiting conflict by skilfully using reason and feeling;
  • the value of friendship, which emerges powerfully by observing a relationship, the one between Brian and Peter, that goes far beyond the personal.

Sufficient for you? It was for me, even though I’m not among soccer lovers.




Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, Jim Broadbent, Stephen Graham, Maurice Roƫve, Elizabeth Carling, Henry Goodman

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