From its cover (the eyes of the Leeds United players of 1974 and their manager Brian Clough blackened out) to people's verbal reviews of it ("You have to read this. You're in Brian Clough's head!"), David Peace's 'The Damned Utd' has been one of the most attention-grabbing books of recent times.
That's before you even start to read it. Once inside the pages, Peace's painful and controversial take on Clough's 44 days as Leeds manager becomes more addictive by the paragraph - not just for the depictions of the rough and tumble of 1970s soccer, but also for the way Peace articulates male rage, obsession and insecurity.
That Peace's book has reached cinemas is very exciting and very worrying at the same time: this is a story that could go either way onscreen. Thankfully, there's a lot to admire here - even if the film is very different in certain ways to what's in print.
The best young manager in England (and in his own estimations the best old one, too), Brian Clough (Sheen) takes over at Leeds United having guided Derby County to the Division One Championship. Hugely unpopular because of their success and strong arm tactics, Clough is determined to change Leeds' image and make them loved by the masses. But he's trying to fill some very big shoes: former manager Don Revie (Meaney) had more success than Clough; he's now the England manager and all the players and fans still look to him.
Soccer is notoriously difficult to do justice to on the big screen; here's a film that gets it right and still has enough for people who will get up and leave a room if a game comes on the telly. Powered by a great central performance from Sheen - with an excellent, if underused supporting cast - 'The Damned United' avoids trawling the pitch black depths of the male psyche and is far lighter in tone than the book. There are plenty of laughs, the era is brilliantly recreated (from the crisp packets to the 'Newsround' footage and legendary Clough interviews) and like the best biopics, even though you know how it's going to turn out, you still find yourself sucked into another world.
The biggest complaint here is that, at 97 minutes, 'The Damned United' is too short. If you're expecting many of the conversations between Clough and the players from the book; don't - they've been trimmed right down. Much of the focus of the film is about Clough's relationship with his co-manager at Derby, Peter Taylor (Spall), and the club's chairman, Sam Longson (Broadbent), and while he was only 44 days at Leeds, there needed to be more scenes involving him and those he was working with. Hooper does a fine job of dealing with the book's forward-and-back sequences, but it's just a pity he couldn't have slowed things down from time to time.
Like the book before it, the Clough family have said that they will avoid the film. With the exception of fans of certain teams, those who do should find themselves cheering on this screen Clough, and fascinated by the mixture of flaws and virtues that make any of us what we are.