Thursday, 15 January 2009

Boycott's Red Riding

Novels about sport are a bit like Naomi Campbell: notoriously difficult. The trick, if there is one, seems to be to take the sport out, or at least to use it as texture. The most successful for some years, artistically and commercially, must be David Peace's The Damned Utd, a reimagined secret history of Brian Clough's 44 days as manager of Leeds United in 1974.

Peace's take on the tropes of soured northern manhood, from Clough's alcoholic revenge-fuelled fantasies and paranoias to Don Revie's obsessive secrecy and compulsive planning took place at a football club, but weren't really about football. His real subject, as he has mentioned several times, is Yorkshire and the 1970s and 80s, from the Ripper murders in his Red Riding quartet to the miners strike in GB84

Geoffrey Boycott, like Brian Clough, was a man of that time and place; like Clough had done at Derby County, he provoked a revolution by being sacked. When Yorkshire CCC refused to offer him a new contract in the October of 1983 a winter of civil war followed, a war that concluded with Boycott's reinstatement and the departure from the Yorkshire committee of  Fred Trueman, Billy Sutcliffe and the terrifying Ronnie Burnet. The people had risen up behind Geoffrey.

It's a perfect subject for Peace's writing, and he has said that he has begun researching the story. I hope he writes it; his Boycott will have Shakespearean dimensions, and Geoffrey deserves a mythology of his own.

The Red Riding stories have been adapted for Channel 4, and The Damned Utd movie comes out this spring, with Michael Sheen as Clough. Which leads to the glorious proposition of Boycott: the movie. Sheen's a natural for Clough, but who could possibly play Geoffrey, and who could capture Frederick Sewards Trueman? All suggestions welcome.


6 comments:

Anonymous said...

David Peace is a great writer, so it would be a great read - check out Tokyo Year Zero as well, not about Yorkshire but a very good book.

Tony said...

James Bolam as old Boycott, Matt Damon as young Boycott. (It's past time he played a cricketer.)

For old timer's sake, Fred Trueman should be played by the bloke who played him in All Creatures Great & Small.

The Old Batsman said...

Am still laughing at James Bolam, in part because it raises the prospect of Rodney Bewes getting a role too. Although there aren't too many ineffectual bumblers in David Peace's stuff. Maybe David Morrissey for FST. There's got to be something for Sean Bean. Maybe Ronnie Burnet.

Anon - am halfway through Tokyo Year Zero - intense.

Ceci said...

Sean Bean for Fred Trueman please. It might make me actually want to watch (am afraid I'd vote for Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bouquet for your Geoffrey)

The Old Batsman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Old Batsman said...

Meant to say - as long as Bean agreed to go method, dyed his hair and stuck on three stone...