We Speak to Julie Pritchard, Creator of 1980s-90s Nottingham Forest Football Fanzine Brian

Interview: Jared Wilson
Tuesday 07 May 2024
reading time: min, words

It’s the late ‘80s, the internet doesn’t exist yet, and neither does the Premier League. However, the community around local football clubs is strong and one avid supporter, Julie Pritchard, decides it’s time for a Nottingham Forest fanzine. Thus Brian is born lasting eight years and 47 issues…

Juliepritchardbrian (1)

Before Brian you also created other fanzines. Can you tell us a bit about those?

I was the sort of kid who was always drawing my own comics. When I was 15, I was a massive fan of The Jam and created a music fanzine called Dreams of Children. Shortly after that the football fanzine explosion started. At first I thought I couldn't do a Forest fanzine because I was living in London at the time. We were going to most games, but I'd get the train back after. So I created a general football fanzine called Balls, which was put together by myself, Darryl Hunt and a journalist friend of ours called Myles Palmer. We ran philosophical articles interspersed with bits cut out from old girls magazines like My Guy & Jackie. We only produced two issues, but it was reasonably well received. 

You mentioned Darryl Hunt. He was quite a well-known musician, wasn’t he?

When I first started doing the Brian, I was in a long-term relationship with Darryl, who was the bass player of The Pogues. He was a big Forest fan and their guitarist Phil Chevron also came to the games. They knew all about the fanzine and sometimes helped me sell it outside the ground. This also meant I knew a few other musicians too. I remember giving a copy to Joe Strummer and he said “Julie, you're a genius”. He didn’t have to say that, but he was such a kind and generous man that he always wanted to pick people up and encourage their projects. 

What led to you creating that first issue of Brian back in April 1988?
I kept waiting for someone to start a Forest fanzine. However, no-one did and so I just got on with it. I found an old-fashioned typewriter in a junk shop and wrote the whole first issue myself on it. I believe I was the first ever female editor of a football fanzine. It wasn't something I made a song and dance about though. I would never write articles under my own name, so at the beginning no-one really knew.

Tell us about the production process…

Production was always very ad hoc and often done in the early hours. I’d start an issue with a game in mind to launch it at and work back from there. Contributions would come to me by post and it would get to a point a week before where I'd know how many blank pages I had to fill myself. Some articles were sent to me typed, but two-thirds of them I had to re-type by hand on a typewriter. I’d stick it all together on pages like a collage and we’d take it to be printed thousands of times and stapled. The original printers’ was in the West End of London, so I had to lug big boxes around with me on trains to take it to Nottingham for the games.

Who else was involved in the fanzine?

There was always the unbridled joy of getting an envelope through the letterbox with offerings from Teacherman. He was undoubtedly the best writer we had and the first thing people wanted to read each issue. I only ever met him three times in real life and I believe he has emigrated to somewhere very far away. A guy called Matt Yeomans wrote for us a lot early on but after a couple of years became a Notts County supporter. Another was Pete Hillier who wrote some brilliant stuff, all under various pseudonyms. Around issue 4 a guy called Bob Stevens became our chief salesman. Other people I should mention are Steve Hanley, Tim Gough (aka the Sandiacre Tree), Damien Mackinney, Alex Money & Trev Woolley too. I’ve been friends with Pete, Tim and Bob ever since.

It felt as if there were a lot of intelligent people who were sick of being treated as pariahs and just wanted to watch live football. In those early days it seemed like nobody cared about us apart from us, so we had to do things for ourselves.

Tell us a bit about the matchday experience of the 80s and 90s. What pubs and clubs did you go to before and after the match?

There’s a before and after of when pubs were allowed to stay open all day, which people forget only happened in 1988. Before then all pubs had to close between 3-5pm on weekdays and Saturdays. So in the days before, all day opening I was a member of the Jubilee Club at the City Ground. This cost £10 a year and was an add-on to a season ticket. It meant you could go in the bar to drink before and after the game. Often the players would come in and sometimes opposition players would too. When it was cold, I'd use the rest rooms to defrost my feet under the hand handrail and there would often be players wives staring at me doing so. I think it's just a sponsor's lounge now, but it was it was a great little club.

However, once I got to know more people through the Brian, everything centered around the Newshouse on St James’ Street. The Newshouse is, in my opinion, the best pub ever in the history of Nottingham and possibly the world. It had a fantastic jukebox lovely bar staff and, and, licensees. It basically became Brian HQ. People would come and buy the fanzine and there was a box for them to put the money in.  People would leave articles for me with the bar staff, we’d arrange all our meetings there and it was our office. It was also somewhere that I felt completely comfortable going in on my own after a game, if I had time to kill before my train home. A fantastic place. Many of my closest friends from that time are still my closest friends now. Aside from that we’d also go to The Dragon and the Turf Tavern, both pubs nearby. It was like our little drinking triangle. Then if we wanted to carry on really late we’d go to Faces nightclub, which just so happened to be directly opposite the Newshouse. 

Did you feel like you were part of a national movement of football fanzines?

It felt as if there were a lot of intelligent people who were sick of being treated as pariahs and just wanted to watch live football. In those early days it seemed like nobody cared about us apart from us, so we had to do things for ourselves. I used to swap fanzines with a dozen or so others by post, and although we all worked in our own silos whenever you went into Sportspages or Selectadisc you got the feeling there were a lot of like-minded people out there.

What does Brian Clough mean to you?

He was basically God. He changed Nottingham Forest remarkably and helped change the profile of the city of Nottingham too. He was one of those rare superstars in sport that people worldwide connected with. I’d put him on a par with Muhammad Ali and more recently people like Federer, Nadal, Messi and Ronaldo. That's the level of fame he had everywhere in the world. I remember going to China in 1992 and instantly people there knew of Brian Clough and Nottingham Forest. He also had that common touch with people and was a lifelong socialist.

In January 1989 you met him and handed him some copies of Brian and a big bottle of whisky. Tell us about that?

Forest had won every game in January of 1989, so normally he would have been a shoo-in for the ‘Manager of the Month’ award and receive a bottle from the sponsors Bell’s. But some supporters had invaded the pitch in a game against QPR and he’d slapped them and it became national news. So the award went to Alex Ferguson at Man United instead. A few of us from the fanzine and the Newshouse (pub on St James’ Street that acted as Brian HQ) decided to club together and bought him a big bottle of whisky. We presented it to him in the dressing room and The Evening Post took our picture. Someone told him that I ran the fanzine and he said “So it’s you who does it, you little minx?” I gave him issues one to seven which he seemed pleased with. I also remember being confronted with Psycho’s jockstrap that day too.

Who were your favorite forest players around this period? 

You'd have to go for Psycho, Des Walker and Nigel Clough. These are three of the most legendary players ever to play for Forest. I think you could call that the third great Clough team. Firstly you had the European champions, secondly you have the team who should have won the UEFA Cup in 1984. Then you have this team who went to Wembley six times in four years.

Did you get much feedback from the players?

I remember the day I was introduced to Stuart Pearce. Forest had agreed to play a game against Cobh Ramblers in County Cork as part of the transfer deal for a young midfielder called Roy Keane. It was a cracking day out and many Forest fans descended upon Ireland and were welcomed with open arms to their great little clubhouse. I ended up staying in the Commodore Hotel in Cove, with Phil Chevron from The Pogues. He introduced me to Stuart Pearce by saying “This is Julie who does The Brian.” Apparently the look on my face went from horror to shock to scrape me off the floor, please. He said “Oh, great the lads like the Brian.” After that we got on famously and we had a great night taking the piss out of Nigel Jemson for not wearing any socks.


Forest appeared at Wembley a lot in the late 80s and early 90s. What are your memories of those days?

It was great. Wembley became our second home. We had some fantastic players who played free-flowing football. We got to know the pubs in Stanmore very well and usually we saw our team win and bring home a trophy. They were exciting times and we probably started to take them for granted. However, I learned not to try selling the fanzine outside. I had no idea you’d need a license or how officious they would be. I got stopped by some Wembley staff, who confiscated all our boxes and I was hit with a very large fine to get them back.

Issue 10 was published a couple of weeks after the Hillsborough disaster and contains a lot of first-hand testimonies from the game. What do you remember from that day?

It's not a day that I will ever forget. When the Liverpool fans started coming on the pitch, we didn't know what was going on. We desperately needed a tannoy announcement saying there was a serious incident and telling people to remain calm. We saw a lot of Liverpool fans running towards us, but the police reaction to that was to take a line of dog handlers and put them on the halfway line to block them. I imagine that many of those handlers had some sort of basic first aid training and perhaps could have saved a few lives if they’d been deployed to do that instead. We saw some awful things. I'm able to compartmentalize to a degree, but it's something that I struggle to talk about at times and there are many people who are affected much worse than I am. There is a Hillsborough Nottingham branch support group which Pete from The Brian is very much involved in. It is something that more people should be aware of because I'm sure there are others out there who would benefit from it. I think in Nottingham, where everybody knew several people who were there, people often didn't talk about it and bottled it up and perhaps have more problems as a result.

The May 1991 Forest FA Cup Final against Tottenham proved to be quite a seminal game…

We got to Wembley the hard way that year. I think there were four postponements and four replays. I went to every single one of them. We got there in the end and I was completely and utterly convinced we would finally win the FA Cup under Brian Clough, the only English trophy that had eluded him. Then came the day of the game and for some reason I just knew we were going to lose. I put a bet before the game on Paul Gascoigne getting sent off as I knew he’d be over-hyped. So I was particularly upset when he wasn't sent off, having tried to assassinate everybody in a red shirt called Gary. I think the referee Roger Milford decided to just put it down to over-exuberance. That decision screwed his career because he got a terrible injury that kept him out for over a year and he was never the same player after.

We took the lead through Psycho and played well for the first half. But after Paul Stewart equalised early in the second half you had a sense it might not go as we’d hoped. Then obviously Des Walker scored that own goal in injury time, which really hurt. It would have particularly hurt him too as someone who grew up in nearby Hackney. It would have been the perfect send-off for Brian Clough if we could have won that. I’m convinced he would have retired gracefully and gone on to tend to his back garden and perhaps lived the rest of his life without all the angst, bitterness and full on descent into alcoholism. But, unfortunately that’s in a parallel universe.

In 1992 you release an annual and a summer special. The summer special also came with a free flexidisc from the band Sultans of Ping FC. How did that come about?

The lead singer of the band Niall O'Flaherty is a Forest fan and read our fanzine. Bobbins and I went to see them at a gig at Trent Polytechnic and someone told them we were in the crowd. So we ended up being asked to go backstage and we got quite friendly with them. The song was Give Him A Ball and A Yard of Grass and the lyrics were full of Brian Clough quotes. I presume the suggestion for the giveaway came from their record label and I think they just gave them to us as they were probably looking for a little bit more promotion at the time. I do remember how long it took to sellotape each one into the fanzines.

A lot of people were suspicious of the Premier League. The motives didn't seem to be anything that would necessarily make football better for fans, it was just to make certain clubs richer. It hasn't really been good for real supporters and I'm not sure that that could ever be.

By early 93, it all started to go a bit wrong for Brian Clough. What would you say was behind his decline?

It would have been perfect if we could have won the FA Cup. He could have retired. But I think that alongside his never making it up with Peter Taylor before he died in 1990, tipped him over the edge with the drinking. It was a very sad end and not something you really want to dwell on. You want to remember all the things he achieved rather than the last year or two. 

He got a magnificent run of send offs at those final matches. We got relegated against Sheffield United at home. Then we went to Ipswich away and lost. Then we had the County Cup final. His very last game was a reserve game at home to Stoke. We didn’t play well in any of these games and were getting relegated, but the fans applauded him and kept chanting his name throughout. It mattered more that we were losing Brian Clough than that we were going down.

That was the first season of the Premier League. Did you have any idea how much football would change from that point?

I think a lot of people were suspicious of the Premier League. The motives didn't seem to be anything that would necessarily make football better for fans, it was just to make certain clubs richer. It hasn't really been good for real supporters and I'm not sure that that could ever be. It's made it far more difficult for any club outside the big six to actually win anything. Obviously it happens occasionally, Leicester obviously had that amazing season when they won the league and Wigan have won the FA Cup. But it's mainly like competing with one hand tied behind your back all the time, especially with the recent dawn of FFP rules. If you get promoted then you're just not allowed to spend as much as somebody who's been finishing fourth from bottom for the last ten years, how is that fair? It's it's been fantastic to be back, but it's such a double edged sword. Football has changed beyond recognition. Occasionally I go to non-league games and it's just so much more fun in many ways if you don't have the emotional engagement to the same degree.

After Cloughie, Frank Clark came in and began a new era for the club. He also gave an interview to the Brian fanzine straight away. What was what was he like?

He was lovely. He had come in from Leyton Orient and they had a very good fanzine called The Orientear, which he had already given his time towards, so I don't think he thought it was odd when we got an interview with him. He also knew our club well from playing for us and winning the European Cup with us. Pete and I went to the club to do it and if I remember correctly Frank got his guitar out at some point. I'd bought a tape recorder but no batteries. So I spent the whole interview just trying to scroll things as quickly as possible so we'd actually remember things. But it was a lovely chat. He was so engaging.

Of course, what Frank Clark brought to Forest was European football, which we hadn't had for a long time for circumstances beyond our control. Firstly he got us back promoted, then we finished third in the Premier League and we were in the UEFA Cup. We played Malmo, Auxerre, Lyon and Munich, all of which I went to and those are some of the best days of my life. He also signed Stan Collymore who was also one of my favourite players to watch. He would get the ball and go one-on-one with the keeper and you just knew he was going to score.

So in 1996 you published a ‘Munich European Special’ which ended up being your last issue. Why did the fanzine stop? What was going on in your life at the time?

Somewhere, at my mum's house, there is half of what would have been issue 48 somewhere. But there was a lot going on. I was living with a chap that I later married and was back in London again at the time. I had to get a proper job and to fit it all in something had to go. It wasn't going to be going to watch football, so I had to stop writing about it. I didn't necessarily mean to stop it, I just put it on pause but after a year or two it just sort of withered away.

What does Nottingham Forest mean to you?

Nottingham Forest has been pretty much the only constant in my life, apart from family and friends. I've gone through some long runs where I never missed a game. People would never invite me to weddings or parties on Saturdays, because they knew I wouldn't be able to get there if Forest were playing. It's just been my life.

As well as being a Forest season ticket holder, you also regularly travel across Europe to watch two other teams. Tell us about those…

Yes, for the last 20 years, I've been supporting Union Saint Gilloise in Belgium. They have the nicest fans in the world, you can drink beer on the terraces and everybody is so friendly. The result is less important than the friendships. I've also ended up following Gibraltar internationally, visiting about 20 different countries. We go to all their games and there's a little crew of us, the Gibrultras. The absolute highlight was in Armenia, when we saw them win their first ever competitive game 1-0. 

Brian fanzine ran from 1988-1996. You can now read the entire archives from issues 1-47, plus a few specials online thanks to a LeftLion project, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

Visit the Brian fanzine digital archive

On Thursday 23 May we'll be screening some new films and talking to the people behind Brian and The Pie fanzines at Metronone. Tickets for the event are free and available here. 

We have a favour to ask

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion

Please note, we migrated all recently used accounts to the new site, but you will need to request a password reset

Sign in using

Or using your

Forgot password?

Register an account

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.

Forgotten your password?

Reset your password?

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.