I was drawn to this movie primarily by the presence of the lead actor, Michael Sheen, who did such a wonderful job portraying Tony Blair in "The Queen,' and David Frost in "Frost/Nixon." The trailers of the film also looked interesting, so I decided it was worth seeing. When I saw the picture on opening night at the Regal Cinemas Union Square Stadium, only 20 or so other people were in the audience. I knew I had made a mistake.
The script is based on a novel by David Peace. Don Revie (Colm Meaney) is leaving his position as the manager of a number one British soccer team, Leeds United, to take a position with a national team. He is replaced by Brian Clough (Michael Sheen), who built a championship team, Derby, from the ground. Clough is assisted by his ubiquitous sidekick, his good friend and expert scout of players, Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall). Clough hates Revie because Revie rudely ignored him when Clough coached humble Derby. The film flashes back from 1974 to 1968 to tell the story.
The rough and thuggish team members engage in deliberate fouls and assaults to win. Clough attempts to make them decent, play-by-the-rules adversaries, but that is not their style and they start losing games. Clough betrays his friend Peter by threatening to quit the team, resulting in Peter's departure. The loss of Peter's expertise and the team's game losses result in Clough being fired.