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'Brian': A Tribute

There were numerous Forest fanzines back in the day but one stood out amongst the rest: 'Brian.'

Fade In:

Ext. Trent Bridge

Boy to parents:  Can I have an extra 50p?

Parents in unison: What for? Have programmes gone up again?

Boy to parents: No. But I think there are two programmes today. Can I get the other one from the bloke stood over there?

Parents to boy: I suppose so. I WANT THE CHANGE THOUGH.

(Boy never ever did bring change back)

Boy sits and devours entire contents of Brian in the back of the car on the way home after the game.

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The 90s was a strange old decade. On the one hand, it brought us Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Teenage Fanclub and Point Break. But it is easy to forget about all the garbage it deposited onto our laps: the whole Blur V Oasis thing, The Offspring and Highlander II: The Quickening.

The point being is that it is easy to throw stardust up anyone and anything's backside simply because it reminds us of the good times.

In truth, Brian predates the 90s but perhaps reached peak exposure as the 90s, with its cool swagger and two fingers raised, ambled like Liam Gallagher over the horizon. Such a period brought competition for dear old Brian - some good, others less so - but Brian trundled on and fought off the new wave of Young Turks for a while until its eventual demise.

definitive tribute to Brian already exists, written by former LeftLion editor Al Needham for When Saturday Comes back in 2006. Instead, here we have a whistle stop tour of some Brian highlights.

It's also worth noting that Buffy wipes the floor with Highlander II and then rinses it out over a dirty floor. Brian is certainly Team Buffy here and deserves the acclaim it received then and should still receive now.

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Back in the days before access to players was more restricted than your parents' booze cabinet when you were 12, Brian produced some very tasty interviews. Here's one with Neil Webb, rather improbably after a training session with his new club, Manchester United. Imagine that - hanging around at Carrington and grabbing a long chat with Bastian Schweinsteiger for a blog nowadays.

This interview with Brian Laws is a joy too, in which he freely discusses *that* John Aldridge moment:

What is striking is that in the late 80s/early 90s, the rivalry between Forest and Liverpool was quite fierce. No doubt 1978-79 played a part in this (Colin Barrett's goal and John O'Hare's 'trip') but during this period, Forest were once again seriously bothering another excellent Anfield team and getting right up their noses. Naturally, Liverpool were far from everyones's favourite other club on Trentside. This 'A-Z of Scousers' piece still raises a chuckle to this day, especially the entry for 'M':

Around this time, a certain Ian Woan was plying his trade down the left furrow and although in possession of an outrageously talented left peg, his work rate was always open to question, earning him the moniker of 'LSG' (Lazy Scouse Git). This is excellent from the mysterious and talented 'Teacherman':

The anti-scouse rhetoric is apparent in this appropriation of some busting songs from back in the day too:

Sticking with the music, maybe Brian's finest moment came with the giving away of a free flexidisc of The Sultans of Ping FC's magnificent single, 'Give him a ball and a yard of grass'. If you've still got the flexidisc, tip top hoarding skills:

We've all sat in wonder at David Squires' illustrations each week in The Guardian which beautifully capture each week's prevailing football story with a lovely dose of cynicism. But the Library End Gillotts were churning out equally insightful and enjoyable comic strips for Brian. This is one of their finest:

The annual end of season polls were a particular highlight. It's fascinating to see who won the Player of the Year back when Forest won promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Stan Collymore perhaps? Colin Cooper maybe? Surely Stuart Pearce?

Staying with the polls, have a look at this regarding the Ticket Office. Nothing - NOTHING - seems to have changed in 22 years. Everything about it about arguably rings true today. (Apart from the Robin Hood tune - quite partial to this making a return if truth be told):

Some lovely hopes for the season ahead expressed here too, even if it's a tad harsh on poor old Richard Fisher, editor of the worthy rival, 'Forest Forever':

But it wasn't all just for fits giggles. The edition immediately post Hillsborough is deeply moving.

Even now - 27 years later - I find it nigh on impossible to express any words or sentences on the issue that might make any sense whatsoever. But the piece by JR (Julie? The editor?) written in the aftermath captures both the raw emotions of sadness and grief but also expresses anger at the ruling class, ending with a call to arms for football fans to get organised. Here is an extract:

But more hypocrisy, in some of the papers they maintain that they've been calling for better facilities and more say for the common fan for years. If it wasn't all so tragic it could almost be funny - remember The Express with its billboard ads depicting football fans as baying mobs of skinheads who eat clean-cut middle class brats for breakfast? Remember The Mail with its rigged opinion polls on the ID card scheme? Since when have they been champions of the football man? Where has been the eager publicity for the FSA (Fans Supporters' Association, a forerunner to the modern day FSF: Football Supporters' Federation)? Why hasn't Rogan Taylor been splashed all over your Sunday trash ad magazine? Why weren't they extolling the virtues of the fanzines? They were all too busy fawning over the ID scheme to notice When Saturday Comes.

And as for The Sun and The Star with their 'Drunken Animals' tales, they're just beneath contempt. It's always the same, blame the fans, they're all scum - it must be their fault. Of course some people were drunk; in an event of that magnitude it's a reasonable assumption that 90% of the adults attending will have consumed varying amounts of alcohol. Some will be out of order, whether it's a football match, a concert or the Tory Party Conference. It's human nature and the police should be prepared for it. Urinating on the corpses? Under the circumstances you could hardly blame someone for losing control of their bladder. Even when 95* people DIED they still have to slander them. No doubt a few people on the Zeebrugge ferry and the Clapham train had had a few beers, perhaps they pushed and shoved to get a decent seat, probably they trod on a few people as they tried desperately to escape. No one could or would condemn them for it, but then they were Decent Human Beings, not Football Fans.

Everyone says this must never happen again, but they said that after Heysel, after Bradford, after Ibrox, after Bolton. The clubs will stick their heads in the sand if we let them, the government have eyes only for their smart cards. It's all down to us. Get organised, join the FSA. Make sure that the lessons of April 15th do not go unheeded.

(*at the time, the tally was 95. Tony Bland passed away in March 1993 after the withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment)

Therein lies the beauty of Brian. It made us smile, titter and laugh out loud yet it also made us think. At the same time though, it is a shame that football fans are still moaning about the same things they were back in the heyday of the fanzine. It hasn't got better: it's got worse. Ticket prices, moveable kick off times, annual kit changes, limited access to players, treated as a commodity by an owner who sees a club as a plaything or an investment. It is our game and it belongs to us. Discontent with how the game is run at the highest level seems rife. Fanzines like Brian offered a voice. Fan websites and blogs have sprung up like a rash to replace the printed form - sure, guilty as charged - but online content can seem ephemeral compared to inky print.

Long live Brian. Long live the printed word.

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Thank you to anyone who contributed to Brian and whose work is referenced above. It is done so with a warm heart.

Also, thanks to Phil for bringing round some back copies of Brian to peruse.