Simon Bristow: Nottingham Forest on fire


A lifelong Forest fan, Bristow chose the ideal season to catalogue their fortunes, although it all looked far from rosy as the season began with a run of defeats that saw manager Chris Hughton faced with the Forest axe.

In came Cooper, though, and Forest were immediately revitalised, their first win finally coming mid October after a torrid first few games that saw them languishing 24th and in need of a miracle.

It made for a brilliant adventure that Bristow shared with his fellow Forest fans, as well as through his OurGloriousBanners Instagram account that provided the perfect platform.

Nottingham Forest fans, Coventry
Coventry 2-1 Nottingham Forest. Ricoh Arena, 8th August 2022. League position: 20th. “Looking back it’s almost unfathomable to think this season began under a cloud of Covid. This was the first time 3,000ish Forest fans had congregated together in more than a year. It felt slightly odd, until a late equaliser and an even later winner for Coventry condemned Forest to defeat. That all felt strangely familiar. Football – and – Forest were back.” Copyright: Simon Bristow

A marketing and creative consultant by profession, Bristow has always had a keen interest in photography, inspired by his father, a lifelong employee of Kodak.

Says Bristow: “I’ve been a Forest fan since about the age of 6 or 7. My family had moved up to Nottingham just before I was born and despite my dad being an Arsenal fan I chose to support who my mates followed, so Forest it was. 

“At the time Forest were the better team so it was an easy decision – Arsenal have probably had the better of the following 35 years though to be fair!”

Stuart Pearce was his idol. You still get tingles when you see him on the TV today. What a man. and the first game he remembers attending was the 1989 League Cup Final and a 3-1 victory over Luton.

“I have no memory of getting to Wembley,” he said, “but I do remember being on Wembley Way where my dad bought me a huge rosette and one of the legendary (if you’re a Forest fan) inflatable trees. 

“My mum threw it away a few years later as it had a puncture, I’ve never forgiven her.”

Nottingham Forest fans, Bournemouth. The City Ground
Nottingham Forest 1-2 Bournemouth. The City Ground, 14th August 2021. League position: 23rd. “That opening day defeat was followed by another at The City Ground a week later. Weirdly, I think we were all experiencing a joyous haze of being back at the football, so the results didn’t really seem to matter at the time, it was just nice to be back alongside friends supporting the Reds.” Copyright: Simon Bristow

Fast forward 30 years and Bristow embarked on his mission to photograph Forest’s season from start to finish, and what a glorious finish it was.

“For various reasons, I was looking for something a bit different from my experience following Forest in the summer of 2019,” he said. “Being a creative type person I was drawn towards doing something around the match day experience. There were already great blogs and fan zines and I’d never be anywhere near as talented as the Forest designers so I thought taking photos could be my thing. 

“I think the biggest obstacle to doing this was that I’d never really used a proper camera before, so getting used to the dials, aperture, exposure etc took a little while. “I remember in particular getting back from my first night game and being confused as to why everything was so dark. But I quickly got up to speed.

“My go to is a Fuji XT30 but on special occasions I like to go old school and use a Canon AE1 to do some film stuff as well. If I trusted myself more I’d do more on film but I’d be in a constant state of anxiety that the film would come back blank!”

Nottingham Forest fans, Derby away
Derby County 1-1 Nottingham Forest. Pride Park, 28th August 2021. League position: 24th. “We headed into the East Midlands derby with zero points and bottom of the league. Derby fans joked that even with their points deduction they’d finish above us this season (Spoiler Alert: they didn’t). We got a draw and continued our unbeaten run against them, which stretches back to just after a time when dinosaurs roamed the East Midlands.” Copyright: Simon Bristow

It’s a truly unique thing, being a football fan, and unless you are one I don’t think it’s possible to understand just how special it is.”

Simon Bristow
Nottingham Forest fans, Middlesbrough, The City Ground
Nottingham Forest 0-2 Middlesbrough. The City Ground, 15th September 2021. League position: 24th. “After not being allowed to games for 18 months, only Forest could manage to muster a worst start to a season in 108 years. The sun set on Chris Hughton’s time as manager and not many were sad to see him go, in fact, most of us were questioning whether we could stomach going to another game under his leadership.” Copyright: Simon Bristow
Nottingham Forest fans, Blackpool, The City Ground
Nottingham Forest 2-1 Blackpool. The City Ground, 16th October 2021. League position: 16th. “Steve Cooper replaced Chris Hughton and in just under a month Forest had won four and drawn one (including a win at Huddersfield with Steven Reid in temporary charge). The enjoyment of going to games was back and we were all relatively confident we wouldn’t get relegated, a huge relief at the time. We were even confidently ‘giving it’ to the away end again.” Copyright: Simon Bristow

SoccerBible was an early inspiration. “I loved the fan focussed photo case studies they produced, they always felt so real and they had a great tone to them,” he explained.

“Since then I’ve found so many great accounts to follow on Instagram in particular – the likes of Jonny Silcock, Football35mm, pitch.side, FloodlightsOn and paulina.ftbl.

“There are so many amazing professional football photographers – and I’ll give a specific mention to Ritchie Sumpter, the Forest club photographer, who is incredibly talented – but their focus, quite rightly, is the action on the pitch. 

“What I wanted to do is tell a different story of a match day, the one that happens in the stands (or in the pub before the game). You can write a great match report or blog but no words can ever capture what it’s like in the stands when you score a last minute winner, or the tension before a penalty is taken, or the heartbreak when you concede.” A photo can and that’s what I’ve been so interested in whilst doing OGB, OurGloriousBanners.”

Nottingham Forest fans, Preston, The City Ground
Nottingham Forest 3-0 Preston North End. The City Ground, 6th November 2021. League position: 13th. “Despite a tricky run of games Forest had only lost to Fulham since Cooper took over. A comfortable win versus Preston had us starting to look up the table and think ‘we couldn’t, could we?’ But it was after Christmas when the real fireworks started.” Copyright: Simon Bristow
Nottingham Forest fans, Millwall The Den
Millwall 0-1 Nottingham Forest. The Den, 15th January 2022. League position: 9th. “This was ‘the’ moment for me. We’d just dumped Arsenal out of the FA Cup and when we followed that with a win at Millwall (you never win at Millwall, not in January, not when it’s cold and wet). I honestly believed we could sneak into the play-offs. This team had become what we’d all wished for, for so long. The celebrations for Lewis Grabban’s injury time winner were amongst the best I’d ever been a part of too.” Copyright: Simon Bristow

“Stuart Pearce – I idolised him as a kid, just as pretty much every man, woman and child in Nottingham did at the time. You still get tingles when you see him on the TV today. What a man.”

Simon Bristow
Nottingham Forest fans, Millwall away
FA Cup 4th Round. Nottingham Forest 4-1 Leicester City. The City Ground, 6th February 2022.
“The funny thing is, we really don’t care about Leicester, all we care about is Derby. I’d wager a fair amount of Forest fans were even cheering Leicester on when they won the Premier League. Before kick-off a tiny bed sheet banner was unfurled in the Leicester end declaring ‘The East Midlands is our Kingdom’, by full time Forest had embarrassed the FA Cup holders to follow on from a(nother) win over Derby two weeks earlier. Safe to say there’s only one King around here, the Reds.” Copyright: Simon Bristow
Nottingham Forest fans, Reading, The City Ground
Nottingham Forest 4-0 Reading. The City Ground, 12th March 2022. League position: 9th. “Usually at this time of year our season is over. People shuffle in and out the ground on a match day. The 90 minutes tends to pass you by in a haze. But this season was different. There was a swagger about The City Ground, on and off the pitch. There was an incredible momentum, the city was buzzing and we genuinely couldn’t wait for the next match day to come around.” Copyright: Simon Bristow

Bristow is happy to share some tips for any would be photographers out there.

“Buy a fixed lens camera,” he says, “as clubs / stewards only really seem to have an issue if it’s a zoom lens. 

“Be extra careful at Bournemouth as their stewards seem to think cameras are weapons (I was genuinely accused of carrying an offensive weapon during a bag search there this season!).”

His best advice? “Take way more photos than you think you’ll need!”

Nottingham Forest fans, Peterborough away
Peterborough United 0-1 Nottingham Forest. London Road, 23rd April 2022. League position: 4th. “Games were becoming a blur by this point. We had eight in April alone (we won seven of those by the way). The clamour for tickets was intense and every goal was celebrated with increasing passion and delight. This was probably one of my favourite photos of the season, there is so much joy everywhere you look.” Copyright: Simon Bristow
Nottingham Forest fans, Swansea, The City Ground
Nottingham Forest 5-1 Swansea. The City Ground, 30th April 2022. League position: 3rd. “Another win. A big win. Perhaps the best win of our regular season. A win that set up the mother of all games versus Bournemouth and although we’d ultimately fall short in the hunt for second spot it was this game that started a run of huge fixtures, each increasingly more important.” Copyright: Simon Bristow
Nottingham Forest fans, Sheffield United, The City Ground
Championship play-off semi-final 2nd leg: Nottingham Forest 1-2 Sheffield United (Aggregate 3-3, Forest win 3-2 on penalties). The City Ground, 17th May 2022. “If football isn’t your thing (and I feel sorry for you if that’s the case), then you can’t begin to fathom the emotions you experience on nights like this. It was like Forest packaged up all the highs and lows of the last 23 years and crammed them into 120 minutes plus penalties. Come the end I was just numb, I couldn’t muster the energy to run onto the pitch and when I left the ground I just wandered the streets for an hour, trying to make sense of what I’d just witnessed.” Copyright: Simon Bristow
Nottingham Forest fans, Wembley, Huddersfield
Championship play-off final: Huddersfield Town 0-1 Nottingham Forest. Wembley, 29th May 2022. Forest win promotion to the Premier League. “Every time I think back to this day / game, I start welling up. After 23 years – a generation (at least), Forest finally returned to the Premier League. It’s a day, and experience, I’ll always cherish and never forget. It wasn’t just the culmination of a great season, it was the culmination of a journey we’d all been on for so long. The tears and hugs and dancing and general scenes at full time were magical. When I started doing Our Glorious Banners, I always hoped and dreamt I would get a day like this one.” Copyright: Simon Bristow

“You can write a great match report or blog but no words can ever capture what it’s like in the stands when you score a last minute winner, or the tension before a penalty is taken, or the heartbreak when you concede.”

Simon Bristow

Now following promotion Bristow is relishing the thought of a new season with the big big guns.

 “The future of OGB is trips to Old Trafford, Anfield and all the rest. To say I’m excited would be an understatement.”

It’s a journey that has clearly brought great joy to himself, his fellow Forest fans and his many Instagram followers.

“I’ve  never had one complaint,” he said, “despite the photos not always being the most flattering, and it’s really quite lovely when people come up to me in the pub and ask if I’m ‘that Glorious Banners guy’.

“So thanks. I’m glad people are enjoying my little hobby.”

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