Thursday, 26 March 2009

Clough (ITV1, 10.35pm Wed)

"HELLO young man!"
There he was. Brian Clough, back on the box; large as life and twice as natural in Clough (ITV1, 10.35pm).
Hazel eyes, crackling with humour, sizing up his interviewer to see what kind of reaction he’s provoking. And a mouth turned in a steady half-smile, always ready to say something outrageous.
And, by ‘eck, how we’ve missed him.
It has to be said, the last time ITV attempted a documentary about any of Nottingham’s sporting heroes, it was a great hide-behind-your-hands-in-horror disaster. Their tacky Torvill and Dean "tribute" involved such leading luminaries as Suzanne Shaw and Bonnie Langford giving their views on iceskating’s greats.
But the Clough family probably reckon things can’t get much worse, as far as portrayals of their patriarch are concerned. They’ve seen David Peace’s The Damned United – a "faction" they regard as an offensive fallacy – turned into a film. In this, the week of the movie’s release, they demanded their say.
And the result was a deeply moving, tremendously entertaining look at the life of Brian, seen through the eyes of his nearest and dearest. Brian’s beloved wife Barbara, his sons Nigel and Simon, and his players were all present and correct.
Narrator Pete Postlethwaite rumbled in the background. What was not to like? (At least, until Geoff Boycott appeared).
As you’d expect in a Cloughie retrospective, there were ripples of controversy. It turned out he never stood a chance with the England manager’s job, despite 95 per cent of the country baying his name. – Sir Harold Thompson, the FA’s domineering chairman, had already plumped for Ron Greenwood. And you could see the hurt The Damned United had wrought on Barbara.
"Have you read a novel with a real person’s name in it?" she demanded, angrily.
Still, we also saw Forest’s European triumphs, via a few clips of vintage Cloughie.
"I would sit ready for what he was going to say next," said Barbara, with a nervous laugh. "You sort of got used to it!"
There was no shying away from the misfortunes that beset Clough’s later years – recounted movingly by Nigel – who has now inherited his dad’s Derby mantle.
"He’s turning into my father," quipped a mischievous Simon.
"They should have got together again. It was ridiculous," sighed Barbara, before smiling. "They probably are together again!"
My only quibble was the timeslot. 10.35pm made it a late night for anyone wanting to see ITV finally do something right.