Some footballers become pundits or postmen when they retire. And some join bands. Steve Wright looks at a couple of ex-Forest players who hung up their boots and picked up a guitar.
Forest chairman Frank Clark was well known in his playing days for taking his guitar on the team bus to entertain the team on long away trips. More recently, Andy Reid is not averse to pulling out a guitar and, once upon a time, had a share in the Running Horse pub and music venue in Nottingham. And, of course, the whole Forest team took the, er, music world by storm when they released the ‘classic’ We’ve Got the Whole World in our Hands in 1978.
Two lesser lights in the Forest alumni, however, have gone one better than them all and are trying to make names for themselves as full-time musicians. Irish midfielder John Burns, once somewhat desperately heralded as the new Roy Keane, plays guitar in The Establishment whilst former Forest striker Paul McGregor is currently fronting ‘dark rock’ outfit Ulterior.
As a young player just breaking into the Forest first team McGregor was labelled the ‘Britpop footballer’ as he combined playing the beautiful game with performing as part of Merc, famously playing Rock City with several of his teammates in the crowd.
It looked like he might have a bright future in football at that point and he made his mark on the 1995/96 season by scoring the only goal of a two-legged UEFA Cup tie with Lyon, latching on to Stuart Pearce’s saved penalty to slot home.
Music always seemed to be a distraction though and maybe that was, at least in part, why his sporting star faded badly after that high point at the City Ground. He made 30 appearances for Forest, scoring three goals, before loan spells at Carlisle and Preston were followed by a permanent move to Plymouth. In 2001 he moved on to Northampton but in 2003 he retired from football at the age of 28 having made a career total of 182 appearances and scored 30 goals.
Paul was joined by his brother Benn in forming Ulterior in 2006 and the band quickly gained a reputation for intensity bordering on aggression, with fans not deemed to have participated enough in live performances being regularly abused.
In March 2011 they released their debut album on Speed Records Wild in Wildlife which carries song titles such as Sex, War, Sex, Cars, Sex and Too In Love to Fuck which one review describes as possessing an “inherent nastiness” in its sound while the NME gave it 7/10.
This all seems a long way from the young man who used to play for Forest. While he always seemed to carry himself with the cockiness of youth this appears to have developed into a full-blown rock star ego in later life, if not as yet a full-blown rock star career.
John Burns’ Forest career was even more short-lived and less glamorous than McGregor’s. Burdened by that Roy Keane tag – a strange thing that seems to happen to young footballers, anyone remember the ‘new Kenny Dalglish’ Alan Mahood? No, I’m not surprised – he made just four appearances for Forest before moving to Bristol City as part of the deal which brought Canadian left-back Jim Brennan to the City Ground.
He didn’t manage to make an impression at Ashton Gate either, however, and after only 11 appearances and a brief stay at Carlise United his career petered out, making way for his return to Nottingham with his band The Establishment.
Clearly a popular guy with his colleagues despite his lack of appearances he managed to involve a number of football personalities into the band’s video Be That Way. Former Forest players Stuart Pearce, Des Walker and Teddy Sheringham were joined by their England international teammate Les Ferdinand in the video for the band’s first single at the back end of 2010, while they are managed by another ex-footballer in Dion Dublin.
Their sound is altogether lighter and easier on the ear than that of McGregor’s Ulterior, although that does mean that it may prove all the harder to distinguish themselves from other bands trying to make it. Be That Way was a well-received debut, however, and they do appear to be making some progress after initial interest from football-related media.
The band have released an EP Last One Home, performed regularly at The Southbank, just a stone’s throw from the City Ground, and in November 2011 they supported Ocean Colour Scene on three dates in their UK tour.
Have you seen Ulterior or The Establishment live? Or do you have any other stories about the musical careers of former Forest players?
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