words: David Marples
Rich Fisher is one of many souls whose life orbits the institution that is Nottingham Forest. Attending his first game as a nine-year-old in 1989 wasn’t quite enough for him; he spent much of the 90s editing the Forest fanzine Forest Forever and was also part of the group of fans who raised £70,000 for the statue that now stands in Nottingham city centre of Brian Clough, for the club’s greatest ever manager.
Of course, that doesn’t make him more of a fan than anyone else – a fact Fisher would be the first to admit. But his intention in ‘The Church of Stuart Pearce’ is not to stake his claim as the ultimate Forest capo. Far from it. What he does is tell stories illustrating the gravitational pull that football clubs have on their fans.
As Fisher himself puts it, “Forest have usually been there [in my life] – either in a starring role, or just lurking in the background. In fact, there are certain landmarks in my life where I can only remember what year they happened because I can relate them to what the Reds happened to be doing at the time.” Like a handrail, football clubs are like that for some – an ever-present guiding hand in life: sometimes a little wobbly in their fixing to the wall but always there.
That’s not say you can expect lots of tedious anecdotes in the vein of ‘there was this one time…’ The chapters detailing the fund-raising for the Brian Clough statue and his experiences of editing a very respected fanzine at the height of the 90s fanzine explosion are when the book works best. Of course, there are tales of first games, memorable away games, high points and low points but Fisher avoids self indulgence in the telling of such tales; he does so in a way that most readers will find themselves nodding along in recognition and reminiscing on their own formative experiences. Besides, not everyone will have a tale to tell about Former Forest defender Jon Olav Hjelde’s visit to a toilet cubicle at half-time in a dingy football ground.
Fisher’s writing style is easy on the eye too and he is careful not to take himself too seriously. Thinking back to his own university days and the absence of social media, he wittily reflects, “The only Instagram we had during my student days was the dodgy lad who used to lurk in a dark corner of the student union bar selling drugs.”
Ultimately, it is a bildungsroman of sorts, charting the author’s psychological and moral growth from youth to adulthood, with football – and Forest – as the ever-present background curtain. Since you’re reading this, no doubt that is something to which you can strongly relate.
You can buy Rich's book at MSR newsagents, Waterstones in Nottingham or here.
Or even better, pop along to the book launch this coming Thursday at Waterstones and meet the man in person.