IT’S enough to send a shiver down the spine of any Leeds United fan of a certain age.
Brian Clough, back in the Elland Road dugout he occupied so infamously for 44 days in 1974.
That ill-fated episode, of course, ended with the sack for Ol’ Big ‘Ead as a long period of decline began for the United side that had dominated English football over the preceding decade.
Now, more than 40 years on, and on the weekend Leeds face his old club Nottingham Forest, Clough – or at least an actor playing him – has returned to the city for what promises to be a much happier venture.
The cast of a new theatrical production of The Damned United visited Elland Road yesterday ahead of the world premiere next month, two miles away at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Andrew Lancel, the man tasked with capturing Clough’s idiosyncratic ways on stage, revealed he is aiming to bring something fresh to a role already portrayed on screen by Michael Sheen.
The former Coronation Street star said: “It’s exciting and challenging to be playing someone so iconic but he’s going to be played in a way he’s never been played before.
“To come here to Elland Road is great, it’s very early days for us in rehearsals but Brian is physically and mentally taking shape.”
Clough’s appointment as Leeds manager stunned football as he had been an outspoken critic of their occasionally-belligerent style under his legendary predecessor Don Revie.
He further antagonised Revie’s stars after his arrival at Elland Road by ordering them to throw their “unfairly won” medals in the dustbin before he was ousted amid swirling claims of player power.
A joint production between West Yorkshire Playhouse and Red Ladder Theatre Company, The Damned United tells the story of Clough’s disastrous tenure and has been adapted by writer Anders Lustgarten from Ossett-born David Peace’s darkly gripping novel of the same name.
Red Ladder artistic director Rod Dixon said: “David, Anders and I wanted to make something that captures the atmosphere of David’s book but we’re doing yet another version of this story for the stage.
“The thing that really excited me was David saying in doing research he could find fact after fact about Don Revie but he couldn’t find facts about Brian Clough as everyone’s story was different.
“He was such a massive celebrity – the day he was sacked he was on the front page of all the newspapers.
“I can’t think of another football manager that courted that celebrity and he loved it. That is your classic tragic-hero, overreaching himself trying to be king.”
Released in 2006, Peace’s novel and its interweaving of fact and fiction has had its detractors, not least Leeds hero Johnny Giles, who won an apology from its publishers over the way he was depicted.
The subsequent film version – which starred Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent and Colm Meaney alongside Sheen – was also boycotted by the family of Clough, who died in 2004.
Football great Dave Mackay secured damages from the movie-makers after he was inaccurately shown breaking a dressing room revolt following Clough’s resignation as Derby County boss in 1973.
The Damned United runs at West Yorkshire Playhouse from March 4 to April 2.
Actors appearing with Lancel in the production include Tony Bell, who will be playing Clough’s right-hand man Peter Taylor, as well as John Graham Davies, Tom Lorcan and Tony Turner.