The Damned United

I so hope this movie lives up to the book. My copy was sent to me a few years ago by Weber Shandwick’s Tim Sutton, a lifelong Derby fan and a scholar of the game and the ways of Cloughie. It is a great book, even if you are not football fan or too young to have seen the man in action. Tim, like me, has always seen parallels in managing a PR business and managing a football club, though perhaps this is just some middle-aged male vanity we share given we have neither of been near the insideof a football business.

PR meets football again this week in the New Statesman where Alisatair Campbell (Tony Blair’s ex communication supremo) has a very interesting interview with Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson. He asks who would make an all-time greats team from the players Ferguson has managed throughout his career. Can you ask the same question of someone who runs a PR business? Who would fill the top 11 positions in the all-time agency dream team. Formation would in my mind be a 4-4-2 (in the UK, but recognising that in Italy maybe they would prefer the diamond formation) based on the following roles:

Head of B2B
Head of Consumer
Head of Corporate
Head of Crisis
Head of Digital
Head of CSR
Head of Financial
Head of Health
Head of Tech
Head of PA
Head of Strategic Media

Not sure the PR industry has a Ferguson, let alone a Cloughie, but I wonder for the UK who Tim Bell and Peter Chaddlington (probably our nearest contenders) might nominate?

Some Cloughie classics:

“I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one.”

It’s a cup tie, 10 minutes to go, Forest are down 1 – 0 and they’ve used all their subs. For once in his life Stuart “Psycho” Pearce comes off second best in a tackle. The physio shouts out to Cloughie … ‘He cant go back on, he’s taken a knock to the head, he doesn’t know who he is…………’ Cloughie replies….’Tell him he’s f###ing Pele and put him up front.

One reason I never became the England manager was because the FA thought I would take over and run the show. They were dead right.

David Brain


  1. God bless Brian Clough. There’ll never be another like him. You should read “Provided you don’t kiss me” by Duncan Hamilton

    if you’ve not already. In this sterile age of media trained zombies (“we’ll take each game as it comes, a cliche, I know…”) and only four teams ever winning anything, a modern day Clough would be absolutely the most welcome thing.

  2. Out of that starting XI, I would go with Head of Digital as the striker, always walking the offside line between what’s now and what’s next.

    Great post. I love the football/pr comparison.

  3. Nice tribute David. For one of the most moving ane emotional articles I have read about BC and good contect for Damned United, look up the International Herald Tribune:

    ‘God is dead’ but Derby fans at least have the ‘son of God.

    Also here in Clough’s words is the antidote to all the modern strategic crap about formations, ‘work the channels’, prozone etc etc. Asked for the secret to his coaching, he said: “Right, I tell them to keep it on the ground. Hold it. Pass the ball forward to a player wearing the same shirt. Hold it. Pass the ball forward to a player wearing the same short. Hold it. Pass the ball forward….”

  4. Love it. The best thing about the whole Damned United cinema experience for me when I saw it last week was sitting next to my flatmate… a forest supporter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *