I’ve just finished reading David Peace’s much talked-about novel The Damned United (I might make it to see the film this weekend). It’s excellent, and part of the enjoyment, I think, is wondering just how much is fact and how much is fiction. I can understand why the Clough family might be a bit annoyed at the portrayal of Brian Clough in it, but I don’t think he comes out of it badly (in fact, I reckon only Don Revie, his backroom staff, and Billy Bremner really do). In essence, the book seems a sort of love story, or rather two love stories – between Brian Clough and football, and Brian Clough and Peter Taylor. It’s as a portrayal of a platonic male friendship that it works best.
But anyway, at the back of the book, Peace includes a list of sources and background reading. On it is The Goalkeeper’s Revenge, by Bill Naughton (best known as the writer of the Michael Caine film Alfie).
When I was a kid, I reckon I read that book more than just about any other. It’s a collection of short stories, mostly set in industrial Lancashire between the wars, although one or two also draw on Naughton’s family background in Ireland. And although they’re aimed at children, they work well enough for adults too. I started reading them again last night, and they didn’t disappoint. A little unsung masterpiece, I reckon.