To most of the world the name means nothing. But to me and a few others, the name ‘Forest Pump’ means everything. It represents a football team, a permanent bond, a shared existence, a way of life.

I’m exaggerating, but only a little. Forest Pump started as just a weak pun for the name of our Edinburgh University intra mural soccer team. But the name stuck, and so did our friendships.

Side note: Much of this chapter will make no sense to anyone who hasn’t played intra-mural football in Edinburgh in the 1990s, or who isn’t part of the broader Forest Pump church. But that’s sort of the point. We have our own religion. We are a cult. Indeed it was often said to us on the field of play, that we were a bunch of cults. Welcome to the World of the mighty Forest Pump.Curry

Forest Pump F.C., often shortened to just ‘The Pump’, started life as just a group of 18 and 19 year old lads, who happened to be resident in the Fraser House of Pollok Halls in Edinburgh University in October 1993. Someone organized a kickabout during Fresher’s week and a soccer team was born. And by soccer I mean football.

For some obscure reason, the team was originally called ‘Brian Clough’s Dodgy Deals’. We rebranded as Forest Pump in 1994, as a play on words on the team Nottingham Forest and the popular Tom Hanks movie that had just been released. Also in the UK to ‘pump’ means to fart. For a bunch of teenage boys it was perfect.

Our first couple of seasons were decidedly average. We avoided relegation or finished in mid-table the first few terms, but we finished runners ups in Division 2 in the spring term of 1995. The team took a sabbatical in 95-96 because most of us were out of the country on a year abroad. But in October 1996 we reformed, older and wiser, and after some lobbying I was able to convince the Sports Department at Edinburgh Uni to put us in Division 1.

At some point in our first season, I had taken over the managerial duties of the team, basically because no one else could be arsed to do it. It was a job. We were a Wednesday afternoon team and co-ordinating a bunch of permanently hungover students in the mid-90s was not an easy task.

It sounds like the dark ages, but this was a time when no one had mobile phones or emails. Instead I had the phone numbers for every player’s flat written down on the back of a club night flyer. I also had the phone numbers for the flat of every player’s mate and any girl that they happened to be seeing at the time. Every Monday night I would ring round the team to see who could play and, just as importantly, figure out how they were going to get from central Edinburgh out to the playing fields of Peffermill or Jack Kane.

We had our core group of players and I had another list of ten or so lads who could fill in as necessary. Obviously the further down the list I got, the more I was scraping from our already shallow talent barrel. The key was to making sure we had 11 certainties. If we only had 10 players show up, that was a problem. But if we had 12, then that meant having a substitute freezing his tits off on the side of the pitch. And no one wanted to do that. It had to be 11.Clubbin

It’s strange to think that at first many of us played football together before we actually became friends. But by our final year at Edinburgh University, we were very much a team of mates. Many of us lived together, and when we went out, which was often, we generally went out together.

For my entire student life, I was obsessed about Forest Pump. At the end of every term, when it came to the exams, and I looked back at my lecture notes for the first time, half the pages in my notebook would be filled with team permutations, or formations,Badges or new strip designs. I even designed a logo to look like the Nottingham Forest badge, but instead of a tree coming out the ground, I turned it into a fart coming out an arse. We had it embroidered on our shirts. I don’t think anyone else found it as funny as I did.

In 1994, I got black and white football tops made in the style of Blackburn Rovers, with red numbers and our nicknames printed on the back. Later we added a rugby shirt, and a polo shirt to the Pump casualwear collection.

But there were only 10 original footy tops made. The goalie had his own kit. This also meant that if one of the original ten were not playing, then we had to arrange to pick up his shirt before the game, which may or may not have made it into a washing machine, or dryer, since the week before.

Now more than 20 years later, the eleven original Pump members are still some of my best friends in the world. I should take a moment to introduce them.

#1 Oliver Dale.
Nickname(s) – ‘Jigsy’
Nationality – English
Position – Goalkeeper
Strengths – Had his own kit.
Weaknesses – Didn’t like getting his kit dirty.

#2 James de Veulle
Nickname(s) – ‘Jersey Jim’, ‘Tug’
Nationality – Jersey
Position – LB
Strengths – Never complained about being at left back.
Weaknesses – No left foot.

#3 Stefan Boehm
Nickname(s) – ‘Bullshit’, ‘Stef’
Nationality – English
Position – RB / RM
Strengths – Believes that he once scored an amazing volley from 50 yards.
Weaknesses – Terrible memory.

#4 Jonny Graham
Nickname(s) – ‘Jonty’, ‘Blade’
Nationality – Scottish
Position – CM
Strengths – Footballing genius. Zidane-esque poise and skills. Also had a car.
Weaknesses – Could only fit 7 lads in his car.

#5 Pat Earl
Nickname(s) – ‘Patski’, ‘Big Pat’
Nationality – English
Position – CB
Strengths – Natural footballer. Dominant in the air. Adept at defending corners by heading the ball over our own bar.
Weaknesses – Liked to go up for our own corners. Adept at heading the ball over their bar.

#6 Ian Benton
Nickname(s) – ‘Beno’
Nationality – English
Position – RM
Strengths – Will to win. Highly motivated. Always had his shit together.
Weaknesses – Occasionally would follow through.

#7 Phil King
Nickname(s) – ‘Elvis’, ‘Pyob’
Nationality – English
Position – CB
Strengths – Excellent at defending with his huge barse.
Weaknesses – Became too reliant on his barse.

#8 Bryan Hamilton
Nickname(s) – Hammy
Nationality – Northern Irish
Position – CM
Strengths – Always got the ball in a 50-50 challenge.
Weaknesses – Always got the man in a 40-60 challenge.

#9 Jaime McNeill
Nickname(s) – ‘Jambo’, ‘Sixty’, ‘Hero’, ‘Villain’
Nationality – Scottish
Position – RM / CF / GK
Strengths – Very good at diving and being able to convince referees to award fouls against him.
Weaknesses – We never had referees at our games.

#10 Pete Reid
Nickname(s) – ‘Peej’, ‘The Gaffer’
Nationality – Scottish
Position – LM / CF
Strengths – Picked the team. Played every game.
Weaknesses – Picked the team. Played every game.

#11 Neil Hamblen
Nickname(s) – ‘Nelly’, ‘Nellio’
Nationality – Scottish
Position – RB / CF
Strengths – Lethal from less than 2 yards out.
Weaknesses – Useless from more than 2 yards out.


Ed Tyler
Nickname(s) – ‘Big Ed’
Nationality – English
Position – CM
Strengths – Tall, skinny, majestic midfielder. Would have excelled on the manicured grass of the San Siro.
Weaknesses – Found it difficult on the frozen, bumpy, dog shit covered surfaces of East Edinburgh.

Craig Winning
Nickname(s) – Craigy
Nationality – Scottish
Position – RB / LB
Strengths – Never let speedy wingers get past him.
Weaknesses – Loved kicking speedy wingers.

Anthony Doyle
Nickname(s) – Doyley, Tony D.
Nationality – English
Position – LM
Strengths – Flatmate of Phil, Pat and Jersey. Good player. Better mate.
Weaknesses – Refused to play for the Pump, staying loyal to rival team Inter Mepants.

Philip Montgomery
Nickname(s) – Fonzy
Nationality – Northern Irish
Position – RB / LB / Cheerleader
Strengths – Champion FIFA ’94 player (with me) on Sega Mega drive. Excellent hand-eye coordination.
Weaknesses – Foot-eye coordination.

Stuart McComb
Nickname(s) – Gary Linekar
Nationality – Northern Irish
Position – RM / LM
Strengths – Looked like Gary Linekar.
Weaknesses – Played like Des Lynam.

Honorable mentions – Joel, Scammsy, Doctor Dave, Joe, Banksie, Ricky Matchett, Myles, Tommy Crocket, Richie Rich, Danny, Bailsey, and many more.

Jigsy was our goalie from that first Freshers week kickabout, and Stef and Fonzy lived just down the hall from me in Fraser House. Fonzy’s best mate from Ballymena was Hammy, and Stef’s best mate from Nottingham was Phil who had been allocated a flat with Pat and Jersey.

I’ve known Nelly and Jonny since I was 12 years old. In fact, Nelly was sat directly in front of me in my first class at Glasgow Academy in 1987, and Jonny was sat right behind me. Jambo was Nelly’s neighbor and childhood friend in Bearsden, and Jonny signed up Beno one night in a toilet before the start of 4th year.

We played a classic 4-4-2 formation and I would always aim to have some speed on the wings, your hard man / silky man combo in center midfield, and a big man / wee man partnership up front. That was it as far as ‘tactics’. But we were not bad. There are a few highlights from a game in 1995 at the bottom, and I don’t just mean the highlights in my bleached blond hair. Woolpack

Our last season was the Spring Term of 1997. There were eight teams in Division 1 and so we had seven games to decide the championship. The other issue that we dealt with every week was the weather. Typically, Edinburgh in late winter, early spring is very cold and very wet. That year was no exception. We had won two out of our first three games in January, (against 10 Men and Donald and Arthurs Feet), but then it rained for the whole of February and every other game was cancelled. But in what was perhaps my greatest managerial feat, I was able to rearrange 3 of those fixtures for the one sunny week in March.

We beat Ballingay 3-0 on the Wednesday, thrashed Pitch Invasion 5-0 on the Friday night with Nelly back up front, and then we won 3-2 on the Sunday against Beef Curtains. All the other games were cancelled so we won the league. It might have helped that we had played two more games than everyone else but that’s not the point. We were the disputed, undisputed champions of Edinburgh.

Then in April 1997, we entered the Edinburgh University Summer Cup. All teams were eligible to play, including members of the actual University First XI. We demolished Holland House 11-1 in the first round, with Jonny and I both scoring hat-tricks. Then we beat the Cunning Stunts 4-1 in the quarter final, to set up a semi final with Gambler’s Wotsit in what was to be the last competitive game for the Pump.

Unfortunately it’s a game that I don’t remember much about because I got a concussion early in the first half. I can’t even remember how it happened. But I took a nasty knock on the head and everything went dark for a few seconds. When I came around I had completely lost my short-term memory. I genuinely didn’t know where I was or how I had got there. I was dizzy and really disorientated. As usual though, I hadn’t arranged a sub, so I got up and kept playing.

Jambo was in goals because Jigsy was stressed about exams, and I do remember at one point before half-time I went back to talk to him because I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t get off the pitch though. So Gambler’s Wotsit ran up and scored because I played everyone onside.

We were two nil down at half-time. I had a sit down and a few slices of orange and started to feel better. That was my other managerial skill – I always brought half-time oranges for everyone. Second half we were much better. I scored a goal, a header, to get us back in the game, and then Beno bulleted in another header from a Jonny corner to bring the scores level at 2-2. That’s how it finished and so we went straight to penalties.

I was still out of it, and so I didn’t volunteer to take a penalty. But I do remember saying that Jambo should stay in goals. Some others were suggesting that Pat, who is about a foot taller than Jambo and a decent goalie, should go in goals for the penalties. But Jambo had reluctantly gone in goal that day as a favor to me, and I felt that he had earned his chance to be a hero.

At it was, we lost on penalties 4-3. Like the long list of English footballers who have missed penalties at major championships, the names of the Pump penalty missers have long been enshrined into the Forest Pump Hall of Shame. But to reveal their names here would be a discredit to them and to the rest of the team. They remain heroes to me, not least because they had the balls to volunteer to take a penalty, and I didn’t.

But it was Beno and Jambo that missed.

As Gambler’s Wotsit celebrated their win and making it to the prestigious Summer Cup Final, the Pump trudged off the field, for the last time, as one. Actually not quite as one. After Jambo missed his penalty, he dropped to his knees and covered his face with his shirt. He was inconsolable. So no one consoled him. He was still lying on the penalty spot when the rest of us made it back to the changing room.

I spent the night in hospital having weird deja-vu dreams, and then got my brain back together to study for my final law exams, that took place less than two weeks later. I don’t think there was any permanent damage. But I’m sure some may disagree.

The Pump has played together a few times since. We toured Jersey that summer, and we played three matches in Austin during my first bachelor party. Then in January 2000 we had a bit of reunion in Edinburgh and I entered two teams into the Edinburgh University indoor five-a-side tournament. JamboEven though we had graduated three years earlier, the Uni let us play, presumably because they thought we just a bunch of old cults. Of course, we won the tournament and laid to rest some of the 1997 Summer Cup ghosts.

Nowadays, I get to see some of these guys maybe once a year. Some I haven’t seen since I moved to the States. But we all still talk and give each other the same abuse almost every day on an IM app.

Once in 2002, on a weekend trip to Dublin, a dozen of us were sat around a table in a pub drinking Guinness. Then someone had the idea to play a game where we all took turns saying something that we liked or admired about each other.

That’s not a typical thing for a group of guys to do on a boozy night out. It got emotional. I wish I could remember what was said about me, but I know how I feel about them, and I’m not going to be shy about expressing it in later chapters.

And the Pump family continues to expand. The next generation of the Pump is growing rapidly across the globe. Today you can find members of the Pump, and their offspring, in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, France, Sweden, Canada, USA, and Australia. Another reason why it’s hard to get together these days.

So yeah. That’s the story of the Pump. And the ending is as yet unwritten. But I have to close this chapter somehow. Unable to find the appropriate words, I turn instead to the writings of another who expresses my feelings about these men far more eloquently than I could ever contemplate. Long Live The Pump.

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother.

Henry V | Act 4, Scene 3