The Church Of Stuart Pearce and other stories – Q&A with Rich Fisher
I have a continuously growing collection of NFFC related literature on my bookcase at home. Many of you will be the same, perhaps with the same nagging partner complaining that they clutter up the place and who wants them to be stored away out of sight. No?
There is a depth of fascinating characters and stories that have entwined with the Garibaldi Red through the years and I never grow tired of reading about them.
One subject I would honestly like to see more of is those tales of fans following Forest through the years, everywhere and anywhere. I have previously documented my admiration for a book called ‘Forest Ever Forest’ by Chris Broughton which captures his personal experiences as a Red. The fan stories regularly featured in Bandy & Shinty are also regularly my favourite part of each issue.
It was therefore a pleasant surprise when I learned of a new book on the way that regales stories from a fan point of view. The book carries the rather wonderful title of ‘The Church of Stuart Pearce and other stories‘ and has been written by Forest supporter Rich Fisher. He has kindly answered some of our questions and, as you’ll see below, has made a very generous offer to Forza Garibaldi:
FG: What inspired you to write this book?
RF: Well I’ve been passionate about writing ever since I was a kid – within the Forest community, a fair few fans of a certain age know me for having published the fanzine ‘Forest Forever’ back in the 90s. This led to me going into journalism as a career, and I’ve gone on to earn a living as a wordsmith for most of my working life. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago though that it occurred to me to write a book. The idea came about through me having been doing some work for a company that provided a ghostwriting service for people who decide to have their memoirs professionally written. Working on various books as part of that, it got me thinking that my journey as a Forest fan might be a story worth telling.
The title will equally intrigue and bemuse people. What is the book about and are you able to tell us where the title arose from?
The book is a memoir of my 25+ years as a Reds fan, and the title references one particular story that’s included within the pages. Aside from Forest my big passion in life is music – and in 2003 some mates and I went to the Glastonbury Festival and decided to take a lifesize cardboard cutout of Stuart Pearce with us.
I won’t tell the full tale here, but a chain of events that happened over the weekend led to 100,000 people believing that we were the founders of the Church of Stuart Pearce!
One of my favourite parts of a matchday in the nineties was Psycho saluting the Trent End immediately before kick-off. He is a bonafide hero for so many of us. For those who never saw him play for Forest can you describe his relationship with the fans and your own admiration for him?
Well being the age I am – I’m 38 – I was lucky enough to be initiated into the world of Forest at a time when we had that great team of the late 80s and early 90s. And Stuart Pearce was obviously the beating heart of that side.
I think the reason why a Psycho is held in such high regard by Forest fans is simply because he genuinely seemed to be as passionate about the club as we were. We’ve long been in a hollow era where players kiss the badge only to clear off to another club a few weeks later without a backward glance. But Psycho really, really meant it. There was also the small matter of course of him being an absolutely wonderful footballer. Everyone remembers the free-kicks he scored, but for me the greatest thing about him as a player was the ability he had to single-handedly take games by the scruff of the neck and make things happen.
Is Pearce aware of this book? I’d love a signed copy!
He certainly knew about the whole Church of Stuart Pearce thing at the time when it happened. It attracted some national media coverage, so a few days after that trip to Glastonbury it suddenly occurred to me that he may well have heard about it and might be wondering what was going on. As such I decided to write to him to explain everything. He actually wrote back to me, and seemed highly amused by it all!
I did write to him again last year to tell him that, over a decade on, the story had inspired a book. I haven’t heard anything back this time – I like to think though that it’ll be clear to him if he ever gives the book time of day that all the bits that refer to him were written in the greatest of respect.
The book contains stories and anecdotes of your 25+ years following NFFC. What was your first ever game and what is the best game you have attended?
My first game was when I was nine – a 2-1 home defeat against Arsenal at the beginning of the 1989-90 season. My favourite is probably a 4-1 win away at Tottenham in 1994, shortly after Forest got promoted back to the Premier League under Frank Clark. It was always satisfying back in those days to beat Spurs on their own turf, but what made the victory particularly special on that occasion was the fact that I was one of only 300 Forest fans who were there to see it – as it was at that time when a lot of clubs were rebuilding their grounds to meet the requirements of the Taylor Report, and as such ticket allocations for away fans were massively reduced at a lot of clubs. To get the tickets for the game at White Hart Lane on that day my brother and I actually queued overnight! It was well worth it though.
Without revealing too much is there a section of the book or a specific part you class as your favourite?
Well over the chapters, the book tells the story of my years as a Forest fan – and from early experiences of going to matches with my Dad to trips to Wembley, a lot of it is stuff that most fellow Reds will hopefully be able to relate to. I guess my favourite chapters though are the ones that tell a slightly more unusual story. For instance, there’s two chapters about what it was like to publish a Forest fanzine as a teenager in the 90s – which cover everything from bunking off school to go and hang around the Forest training ground and try and blag interviews with players, to the joys of standing outside the City Ground in all weathers trying to sell the thing on matchdays. There’s also a chapter on the Brian Clough statue, as I was one of the group of fans who raised all the money for that between 2005 and 2006.
This is a loaded question but what is your view on the club in 2018?
Football had obviously changed massively in the last 20 years or so – and arguably not for the better. In 2015 I was actually so disillusioned with Forest and all the nonsense of the Fawaz al Hasawi era that I actually gave up being a season ticket holder after 24 years.
I’m cautiously optimistic with the way things seem to be going under the new owners. Over the years though I think I’ve made peace with the fact that Forest will probably always be like some sort of dysfunctional relative – one that I sometimes wish I could turn my back on, but deep down I know I know that it just runs too deep!
You have kindly offered to donate a percentage of the profit from each book sold to the Forza Garibaldi campaign. We are incredibly grateful for this gesture. What is your reasoning behind it?
Quite simply, I thought it would be nice to use the book as an opportunity to give something back to the Forest community – and having watched with interest as a Forza Garibaldi has developed, I thought it’d be great to do something to help you guys continue the excellent work. Of course, the book is quite niche so I’m not anticipating it selling masses of copies – however, if it does end up becoming one of those unlikely million-sellers like Nick Hornby’s ‘Fever Pitch’, I’ll look forward to seeing what you’ll be able to do with £500,000!
When is the book released and do you have anything planned to mark the occasion?
It’s out on Monday 12 March – a date chosen very deliberately because it’s actually 30 years to the day since Brian Rice scored his famous winning goal for Forest away at Arsenal in the FA Cup. There’s actually a whole chapter in the book about the cult of Brian Rice, and the great man has written the foreword too!
In terms of what’s planned to mark the release of the book, I’m having two launch events in Nottingham – one at the Waterstones book shop on Bridlesmith Gate at 6.30pm on Thursday 15 March, and one at the MSR Newsgroup shop on Angel Row the day after from 4pm to 6pm. The Waterstones event will feature me doing a reading from the book, followed by a Q&A hosted by David Jackson from BBC Radio Nottingham. We’re also hoping to have a load of classic Forest footage from the 90s playing on a big screen. The MSR event will be a bit more informal – please do feel to come along though to either event, fellow Reds fans! You can just turn up to the MSR event – for the Waterstones one though we’re asking folk to register in advance so we know how many people to expect on the night. You can do that on the Waterstones website here: https://www.waterstones.com/events/mass-at-the-church-of-stuart-pearce/nottingham
Our thanks to Rich for taking the time to talk with us and, once again, for his offer. Get yourself a copy and, if you can, get along to one of the launch events.