Leeds v Derby County: 17 Bogus Damned United 'Facts'

It's not easy being a Leeds United fan at the best of times, so when a director takes the truth with a pinch of salt in a film like The Damned United, that really takes the biscuit. Pedant alert.
Publish date:
Updated on

Damn you cinema



Leeds v Derby County: 17 Bogus Damned United 'Facts'

Leeds United fans have a tendency to feel a touch victimised. The club is not only deeply misunderstood, they claim, but with a history of league expulsion, ground closures, UEFA bans and, latterly, points deductions, considerably more sinned against than sinning. It was certainly the familiar taste of malice that was left in the mouth as the final credits of The Damned United rolled.

The film was meant to portray the obsession Brian Clough had with Don Revie’s Leeds United, and the supposed football purist’s enduring distaste for the tactics employed by his fellow-Middlesbrough native on the way to a glut of trophies and, ultimately, the England job. For an hour and a half, the scriptwriter subjected Leeds to the same old accusations: a team of talented but flawed individuals operating on the margins of legality, overseen by a suspicious, aloof and easily corruptible manager.

Unfortunately, when you apply artistic license to real events and involve people still very much alive, you need to get your facts straight. You don’t get key sequences out of order, mistake results and, in one instance, completely invent games – it does tend to undermine your case. Johnny Giles, depicted in the film as a gangly extra from a Rolling Stones documentary, called The Damned United “outrageous and wrong”. Pat Murphy, regarded as Clough’s most thorough biographer, said he actually lost count of the factual gaffs. After two viewings, a lengthy spell with Leeds United: The Complete Record and a decent internet connection, we can only agree that this was one error-strewn performance.

Leeds versus Derby  – 1 (FA Cup 3rd Round, January 1968)


The script: When the Third Round draw is made, Clough and Taylor are seen widely celebrating the prospect of a tie with Leeds, with Clough later ordering the cleaners and the groundsman to make the ground fit for Don Revie’s team. The pair then eagerly wait outside the ground for the Leeds coach to arrive.

The reality: Leeds had actually played Derby at the Baseball Ground 10 days earlier in the League Cup Semi-Final first leg – the year Leeds went on to win it for their first major trophy – rendering many of the “revelations” about Leeds habits and style, plus Clough’s excitement, completely redundant.


The script: In the commentary by Tony Gubba in the FA Cup game, he says: “Derby very much the underdogs against Leeds, the First Division champions.”

The reality: In January 1968, Leeds were still 18 months from securing their first title. Manchester United were the reigning champions when the game was played.


The script: Roy McFarlane, Derby’s centre-half, is seen being carried from the pitch after a Johnny Giles foul, with commentary saying he is “out of the game”.

The reality: McFarlane in fact played the whole 90 minutes.


The script: It says that the goalscorers were Allan Clarke and Johnny Giles from the penalty spot, after a dive from Billy Bremner.

The reality: Jack Charlton and Peter Lorimer scored in the game in question, which means the dive and the “cheating” jibe from Taylor are complete fabrications.

5 and 6.

The script: The first goalscorer is shown to be Allan Clarke, wearing number 3.

The reality: Clarke didn’t actually join Leeds until the summer of 1969, a year and a half later. He famously wore the number 8 throughout his time at Elland Road.

Leeds versus Derby – 2 (Division 1, Elland Road, 1969)


The script: The first meeting between the sides after Derby’s promotion, which took place on October 1969, ends with the caption Leeds 5 Derby 0.

The reality: This game actually ended 2-0 to Leeds, with Allan Clarke scoring both goals. Leeds did beat Derby 5-0 at Elland Road three years later when, in October 1972, Derby were reigning champions.


The script: In the post-match analysis, Clough asks what was John O’Hare doing, “letting Madeley bully him like that”.

The reality: John O’Hare was a centre-forward and the mild-mannered Madeley played left-back, meaning it would have been Hunter or Charlton marking him.

Leeds versus Derby – 3 (Division 1, Baseball Ground)


The script: The game that depicts Clough’s first triumph over Leeds as Derby manager shows a nervous manager waiting in his Baseball Ground office during the game. Peter Taylor comes down to report that the result is a 2-1 win.

The reality: The game shown simply never took place. While Derby did beat Leeds 2-0 at home on their way to the title in 1972, the first win against Leeds for Clough came in 1970 with a 4-1 win as Leeds fielded a weakened side as they battled for the European Cup and FA Cup.

Leeds versus Derby – 4 (Baseball Ground, 1973)


The script: This is fixture is said to come on the Saturday before Derby’s European Cup Semi-Final against Juventus, when Leeds’ supposedly “dirty play” robs Derby of a number of key players for the crucial game.

The reality: Arsenal were the team who played Derby directly before the Juventus game, and Derby fielded a full strength side in Turin – so Clough’s press conference blaming Leeds for defeat is another invention. The writers may be confusing the game with Leeds-Derby tie with the famous Hunter-Lee brawl that came before a European Cup game with Real Madrid in 1976. Clough was, of course, no longer Derby manager then, nor was Revie at Leeds.

Derby players’ strike, 1973


The script: When the list of Derby players supporting Clough’s reinstatement as manager is read out, he is interrupted by Peter Taylor saying “but not Dave Mackay” – who we learn has taken the job as Clough’s replacement.

The reality: In 1973, Mackay had not only retired from playing, he’d left Derby altogether and was managing near-neighbours Nottingham Forest at the time of the strike.

Clough’s Spanish holiday, 1973


The script:The scenes on the beach in Marbella portray Clough reneging on a deal to manage Brighton while he was on holiday at chairman Mike Bamber’s expense. As he sunbathes ahead of his new challenge, he is approached by Leeds secretary Keith Archer and invited to manage the league champions, prompting a plot-defining row with Peter Taylor.

The reality: Clough and Taylor did in fact manage Brighton in tandem for the majority of the 1973/74 season, a full year before Leeds even had a managerial vacancy, with the famous 8-2 defeat to Bristol Rovers even being shown on Match of the Day. Clough was not approached by Leeds until the summer of 1974, when Taylor opted to remain on the South Coast.

Leeds versus Liverpool, Charity Shield, 1974


The script: After Billy Bremner’s sending off at Wembley, Clough is shown pleading Bremner’s case to the FA.

The reality: Clough didn’t even go to London with the Leeds captain, leaving the job of representing the player to assistant Maurice Lindley.


The script: After the game, it shows a photocall with “new signing” Duncan McKenzie alongside John McGovern and John O’Hare.

The reality: McKenzie was not only signed before the game against Liverpool, he came on in the Wembley showpiece as a substitute.

Leeds versus Luton


The script: The caption says Leeds lost 1-0 at home to Luton, a result that precipitates Clough’s sacking.

The reality: The game actually ended 1-1, with Allan Clarke scoring for Leeds.

16 and 17.

The script: Manny Cussins states that it’s Leeds worst start to a season in 20 years, with “four points from five games”, which then ushers in a crisis meeting of the players which leads to Clough’s exit.

The reality: The Luton game was in fact the sixth league game of the 1974/75 season, and the legendary players’ meeting took place before a league Cup game away at Huddersfield Town, not directly after the Luton game.

Click here for more stories about TV & Film

Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter

Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook