Phil Brown takes on Brian Clough's Leeds antics

19 March 2009 07:56
Cloughie's animosity towards Don Revie, the bitter fury which, so the film makers suggest, underpinned Old Big 'Ed's determination to dismantle his rival's legacy the moment he set foot in Elland Road, could be traced to an FA Cup tie at the Baseball Ground five seasons earlier.

That game between Derby and Leeds was Clough's first encounter with Revie and in the film we see his character preparing for it with schoolboy relish.

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There he is lovingly polishing two glasses into which he anticipates pouring a little something to lubricate a post-match heart-to-heart. But Revie never takes up the invitation for a chat, never stops on his way back to Leeds. Worse, he doesn't even shake the younger man by the hand.

And Clough never forgets. At the film's conclusion he is seen in a television studio, bringing up the time he was scorned. "See," he says. "I can even remember the date."

And still the power of the missed handshake lingers in football. It was Phil Brown this week taking on the Clough role. The man who admits that a manager needs to be a bit of an actor was playing the injured party after his Hull side lost their FA Cup quarter-final at Arsenal.

His complaints about his opponents' behaviour were many and varied, ranging from uncontrolled phlegm to sartorial ill discipline. But the one that seemed to rile him most was his assertion that Arsene Wenger refused to shake his hand.

The Arsenal manager, Brown insisted, had been similarly dismissive in both their League encounters so this was now the third time it had happened (though photographic evidence of hands being clasped earlier in the season suggests maths may not be his strong point).

Brown's anger at the latest snub was clear. Whatever the circumstances, he believes, however tetchy and acrimonious the match, however much one party has been aggrieved during the previous 90 minutes, at the end the two managers shake each other by the hand.

It is one of the unwritten conventions of the game, a signal that combat has ceased, an acknowledgement of mutual respect.

Wenger, however, sees things differently. He has a distaste for Brown's aggressive tactics against his team that lingers from the Hull manager's time at Bolton.

And, after being frustrated once more for 90 minutes, he would have regarded it as the apex of hypocrisy to effect any sort of accommodation simply for form's sake.

Such an attitude sets the Frenchman apart from his fellow managers. Last week Brown himself was comparing Wenger unfavourably with Sir Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp.

Brown claimed that while the two seniors of the British game willingly dispense advice and bonhomie to their fellow managers, treating them as colleagues rather than rivals, Wenger maintains a distance, refusing all traditional overtures to share a managerial glass or two. Brown reckons that is because he was brought up abroad.

But watching The Damned United, it suggests the attitude to the handshake is nothing to do with nationality. Revie, English to the bottom of his pockets, snubbed Clough because of his total obsession with his own club.

There was no time for niceties when he had to address his players' concerns; for him, they were all that mattered. And Wenger is the same. Convention is irrelevant, it is his players that count. In defending them, he could not be seen to shake the hand of someone who so vigorously challenged their well being for 90 minutes.

It is an attitude that has served him so well over the past decade that it is unlikely to change. Indeed, given the events of this week, Brown would do well to frame that photo of him shaking hands with the Arsenal manager: it may well become a collector's item.


Source: Telegraph