What would you say makes a great singer – is it charisma as much as ability?
Totally. It was the raw energy that drew me to punk music in the seventies, and it was also the personalities of the singers.
Was punk the first music that really made an impact on you?
I started off with Bowie in the early seventies. He was outstanding. And then in ’77 I got really into punk. I’d be thrashing around my bedroom with a baseball bat in my hand, pretending to play guitar.
Who were your biggest heroes?
John Lydon. And The Stranglers are my all-time favourite band, so Hugh Cornwell was another hero for me. Plus Joe Strummer, and Jake Burns from Stiff Little Fingers.
Are lyrics as important as the voice?
Definitely. For me, most of the top singers and songwriters sing about where they come from, experiences they’ve had in their lives, so the words of those songs are absolutely vital.
What was it that made The Stranglers so important to you?
It was their menace. They came up and flourished in the punk era, but they always had more about them musically. Punk was all about ‘any fucking idiot can pick up a guitar and play’ – three chords and all that. But there were some good musicians in punk, and The Stranglers were a cut above anything at the time, with Dave Greenfield on keyboards and the way JJ [Jean-Jacques Burnel] played bass.
What was it like meeting The Stranglers?
I’ve never met Hugh, but I’ve got to know the others pretty well over the years. Last time I saw them I turned up backstage at a festival in Surrey, and they put the kettle on and made a cup of tea for my mate. He said to me: “Fucking hell, is that punk these days?” I said: “Listen, sometimes the reputation goes before the whole movement and the individual.”
_Jean-Jacques Burnel had a reputation in the seventies as a tough nut who’d beat up anyone who crossed him. _
Well, even to this day I’m acutely aware of his reputation, don’t worry about that!
Was he acutely aware of your reputation? You’re not known as ‘Psycho’ for nothing.
My reputation is only on the football pitch; I think his follows him around. But I know he’s mellowed a little bit with age.
Have you met John Lydon?
Yes, at the Sex Pistols’ Finsbury Park gig in ’96. I never caught the Pistols in their heyday. Lydon likes his football – he’s an Arsenal fan.
Not many footballers are into punk.
No. But I always enjoyed having a musical taste that was different. And from the late eighties, when teams started playing music in dressing rooms, I was the captain of Nottingham Forest, so I could influence what was played.
What do you sing at karaoke?
My favourite three – songs that encompass the whole punk ethos – are Anarchy In The UK by the Pistols, White Riot by The Clash and No More Heroes by The Stranglers. But I’m an absolutely crap singer.
What do you listen to in your mellower moments?
I can listen to Rod Stewart if I’m feeling a bit lovey.
So when you put a Rod album on at home, the missus knows where the evening is heading?
I see where you’re going with this one. Let’s say yes.
Now that you’re back in Nottingham as Forest’s new manager will you be out at some familiar venues?
Yeah, I’ll be back on the gig scene – back at Rock City in Nottingham, for sure. Music has played such a big part in my life, and it still does. It’s frightening.