“I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one”
– Brian Clough
Stay with me on this one. I’m not being entirely flippant. One of my formative writing experiences was the editing, and collaborative writing, of a football fanzine. At the time, I’d moved to London with no clear idea of what I was going to do other than becoming an award-winning screenwriter (more on that in an upcoming post), make piles of cash and marry Uma Thurman. Okay, a clear delusion rather than a clear idea.
Instead I found myself experiencing a wide range of – often weird – temporary jobs and editing the short lived and much missed (by me) fanzine The Mutton Mutineer with home city collaborators Stuart Horn and Phil Evans. This was back in the days when Robert Maxwell owned the club and our outspoken criticism of his cack-handed regime led to us being banned from selling the Mutineer anywhere near the ground and precipitated the eventual collapse of the Maxwell empire (well, the first part is true).
I was introduced to the joys of fanzine writing, and more importantly the possibility of fanzine writing, by a young Mancunian by the name of Stan Griffin one of the collaborators on a Manchester United fanzine called The Shankill Skinhead (named for Norman Whiteside), which was a much more professional and long lived creation than the Mutineer.
While the Mutineer indulged in anarchic Maxwell baiting and cartoons made with chopped up newspaper photos of Nottingham Forest players, the Shankell Skinhead did journalism: with quotes and everything.
In retrospect, the quality of the Mutineer didn’t really matter, it was fun, well received by other fans, and most importantly opened my eyes to possibility of just creating something that other people might read and enjoy.
It was also the start of a great friendship and endless hours in pubs discussing books, films, screenplays and, of course, football.
When I launched my kids horror novel, ALL THE DEAD THINGS, Stan pulled together a crack team of collaborators (actors, cameraman, editor, composer, costume etc …)
and made an outstanding trailer. You can watch it here.
Of course, the flip side of following any football/cricket/rugby (delete as appropriate) club is that if you are an addictive personality type you can find your creativity crimped (or overwhelmed) by the ups and downs (predominantly downs in my case) of following your club. Supporting a team is like popping pills that act directly on the ‘hope’ receptors in your brain.
You keep hoping, this time it’ll be different, this time they won’t screw it up! What?! They’ve screwed it up! Blame the owners! Let’s start a fanzine!
And why you should ignore this golden rule: supporting Derby County is not good for your emotional equilibrium.
NEXT TIME: #4 Don’t use criticism as a razor