I have never been one to watch sports. I enjoy playing sports, although I am drawn to golf and recently tennis over others. Of course, as a kid growing up in Canada all we did was play hockey .. On the pond, on the canal, at recess, in the rink and of course, Saturday night was "Hockey Night in Canada" on the black and white TV.

But I never really enjoyed watching it. Which is why, shocking as it might sound, despite living in England and working for a company that had tickets at Arsenal and Wembley .. I never caught a single football game. One day ….

That being said, I was drawn to the movie "The Damn United" on the plane. Not because of the football, but because of the story. I was curious and it didn’t let me down. The summary:

After tackling Tony Blair and David Frost, actor Michael Sheen turns to another driven historical figure: football manager Brian Clough. Talented but abrasive, Clough alienates some of those around him, including his rival, Don Revie. When Clough has the chance to coach Leeds, Revie’s former team, he takes on the role of the manager of the country’s best soccer team. Also starring Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent, and Colm Meaney, this film marks the fourth time screenwriter Peter Morgan (THE QUEEN, FROST/NIXON) has crafted a character for Sheen

I am not sure why actor Michael Sheen is drawn to playing arrogant characters, but he was as good in this movie as Brian Clough as he was in Frost/Nixon playing the driven, but equally arrogant David Frost. The story is fantastic, covering the life of a great English leader as he rises, drops and rises again.

And as it concluded, I reflected on a few lessons from the life of Brian Clough, who is “widely considered to be one of the greatest managers of the English game and the greatest English manager never to manage the England team”:

  • Teams feed on passion. On drive. On setting a goal and going for it. Set your goals low .. And you will perform low. Set your goals high, train hard, work hard, and you will get there.
  • Success is all about people. Brian achieved greatness when he inspired his team, when he built the team and they worked together. Like hundreds before and after him, his failure in Leeds was all about people. His success before and after was all about people.
  • The higher up you go, the faster you can fall.  Brian Clough let his arrogance and pettiness blind him. At his peak, he abandoned the person who helped get him there and paid the price.
  • The greatest lessons come from failure. If you are not making mistakes, you are not pushing hard enough and learning. Of course, you also need to recognize they are mistakes and learn. Fascinating to watch him go through that lesson.
  • It is never too late. To make a change, to apologize if you hurt someone, to see a situation as it is and change it. After everything he did, after all the people he hurt, he wiped himself off, begged forgiveness and started again, to go on to even greater success with his partner right beside him.

While this is a fictional portrayal (who knows how much is real), it is a great movie, with one or two things to reflect on.

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