John McGovern (footballer)
John Prescott McGovern (born 28 October 1949 in Montrose) is a Scottish former association football midfielder and manager. McGovern is most famous for captaining the Nottingham Forest side that won the European Cup twice under the management of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor.
|Full name||John Prescott McGovern|
|Date of birth||28 October 1949|
|Place of birth||Montrose, Scotland|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
At the age of 19 he became the youngest player to play in all four divisions of the Football League. During his playing career he won promotion with Hartlepools United, Derby County and Nottingham Forest. He won titles as English League champions with both Derby and Forest. At Forest he also won the UEFA Super Cup, two Football League Cups, the FA Charity Shield and the Anglo-Scottish Cup. He was Forest's club captain throughout this period of success.
A hard working central midfield team-player, McGovern passed the ball comfortably with either foot. John Robertson said, "As far as I'm concerned John McGovern is what epitomises what every good side needs." McGovern played over 650 senior first team games during his playing career spanning 19 seasons.
McGovern won two Scottish under-23 caps. He is one of only two Scots players to win UEFA's premier club trophy to never win a full international cap. He was a 2017 Scottish Football Hall of Fame inductee.
McGovern has player-managed Bolton Wanderers and joint-managed Rotherham United with Archie Gemmill, with whom he won the Football League Trophy. He has served as assistant manager for Plymouth Argyle and Hull City. He has also worked in media punditry.
McGovern was born in Montrose, Angus, in north east Scotland. He lived in Montrose until he was seven years old before moving to Hartlepool. His father died when McGovern was aged 11. The young McGovern attended Henry Smith's Grammar School, a rugby-playing school. However, during school holidays his mother sent him to stay with his grandmother in Boness. It was in Boness that McGovern started to play football with a band of friends he made there. Despite being captain of the school teams at rugby and cricket, football became his preferred sport. Back in Hartlepool played for his first team when he was 15. His football heroes were both strikers, Denis Law and Jimmy Greaves, and as a boy McGovern also wanted to become a striker. Central Park FC then sent him for a trial with local senior club, Hartlepools United.
The young McGovern initially wanted to play as a striker for the glory that came with scoring goals but was unsuited to that role. He then played as a winger. He began his senior career in English football's fourth tier with local club Hartlepools United (as the club were still named at that time). 'Pools were under the management of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor. It was Taylor who advocated they get McGovern on the books. His senior debut was aged 16 on 21 May 1966 in a 1-1 draw v Bradford City in Pools' last home league game of the season. He became a first team regular the season after. On 3 September 1966 he signed a pro contract on apprentice terms. In 1967/68 Hartlepool finished third earning promotion to the Third Division. His last game for Pools was on 6 September 1968 in a 2-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers. After playing six games in that 1968/69 season he moved up a division by transferring to Derby County.
Clough and Taylor moved to Derby County in May 1967. They signed 18 year old McGovern to Derby for a fee of £7,500 in September 1968. His mother and brother relocated with him to Derby (his sister had already moved to California). Shortly after arriving at Derby, on 2 October 1968 while in the reserves he watched the first team 3-1 replay win v Chelsea in the 1968–69 Football League Cup. On seeing Dave Mackay play, McGovern realised the level he had been playing at was a long way short of what was needed to be a footballer. He responded with dedication and hard work. His first team debut arrived in a game for which there was an opening to play on the right side of midfield. It was at Derby that Taylor then moved McGovern to central midfield to capitalise on McGovern's playing strengths of vision and being able to pass and control the ball with both feet. He allied this by learning how to tackle. By January 1969 he had established himself in the Derby side that won promotion to the First Division at the end of his first season there. Within an 18-month period and by the age of 19 he had played in all four divisions of the Football League.
Liverpool contesting a 1971-72 four-way league title fight lost 1-0 in their penultimate game to McGovern's 62nd-minute goal at Derby County. Derby had now completed their fixtures with that win. On Monday 8 May 1972, Leeds' 2-1 loss at Wolverhampton Wanderers gave Liverpool their bite at the title. Needing to win the same evening if Leeds lost, Liverpool drew 0-0 at Arsenal with Shankly furious an 88th minute Toshack goal was disallowed. Derby stayed top. to win that 1971–72 First Division title. McGovern played in 40 matches in that league winning campaign scoring 3 goals. He was 22 when they lifted the title. In the 1972-73 European Cup McGovern scored in a 3-0 home win against Benfica. Derby were eliminated in the semi-finals in controversial circumstances to Juventus.
Clough resigned on 15 October 1973 in his ongoing dispute with Derby Chairman Sam Longson leading to uproar among Derby fans. Longson appointed another crowd favourite as manager, Dave Mackay. The saga continued so MacKay decided to bring matters to a head. Mackay gave the players a piece of paper stating those who wanted to play for him should sign it. McGovern was first to sign and when challenged by other players he said "I want to play football. I'm not interested in politics." Calm was restored and Derby finished third in the league behind Liverpool and Leeds.
His final Derby first team game was at Manchester City on 6 February 1974. In all competitions he played in 227 first team games (including four as a substitute), scoring 20 goals. Mackay gave McGovern's regular starting place to the more attack minded Bruce Rioch.
Clough had tried to sign McGovern for Brighton and Hove Albion but McGovern found the prospect of Third Division football unpalatable. Clough replaced Don Revie as Leeds manager in August 1974 and again made an approach for McGovern. Leeds paid £125,000 for the double transfer of McGovern (now aged 24) and John O'Hare. McGovern was not selected to play when Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles were available. McGovern made four first team appearances all when Bremner was suspended after his sending off for fighting in the 1974 FA Charity Shield with Kevin Keegan. Leeds won one, drew two and lost one of McGovern's four games in August and September 1974. He otherwise played no higher than the reserves in his seven months at Elland Road. He later said of his time at Leeds:
"When I arrived at Elland Road after leaving Derby County, I found out I was unwanted by anybody at the club, and it was a very difficult time for me. And I spent about six months at Leeds not being involved in the squad, and even in those days they used to have the players names on the back of the squad tracksuits. Well I was there six months and I never got a track suit with my name on the back of it. I think that was a big hint from the club that I didn't really belong there."
Clough's reign was only 44 days but even after his departure, McGovern, O'Hare and trainer Jimmy Gordon were tarred with being part of the Clough regime. McGovern declined offers Leeds accepted for him to join Carlisle United and Norwich City. Clough did not forget any of the three men and soon returned to take all three in early 1975 to his new club, Nottingham Forest.
Brian Clough became manager of Nottingham Forest on 6 January 1975 twelve weeks after the end of his 44-day tenure as manager of Leeds United. Clough brought Jimmy Gordon to be his club trainer as Gordon had been for him at Derby County and Leeds United. McGovern was aged 25 at the time.
Ian Bowyer was already at Forest and had won domestic and European trophies with Manchester City. Clough brought John Robertson and Martin O'Neill back into the fold after they had requested transfers under previous manager, Allan Brown. Viv Anderson had previously debuted for the first team and became a regular under Clough. Clough signed McGovern and O'Hare in February with McGovern debuting on 22 February 1975 in a 0-0 home league draw v Cardiff City. The young Tony Woodcock was at Forest but was then unrated by Clough and was to be loaned to Lincoln City. Forest were 13th in English football's second tier when Clough joined. They finished that season 16th. Forest signed Frank Clark in July of that close season on a free transfer. The season after Forest finished eighth in Clough's 1975-76 Football League first full season in charge. It was in this season McGovern became long standing club captain taking over from a game in which Bob 'Sammy' Chapman and Liam O'Kane were both injured.
Peter Taylor on 16 July 1976 rejoined Clough becoming his Assistant Manager as he had been when winning the league at Derby. Taylor included being the club's talent spotter in his role. After assessing the players Taylor told Clough "that was a feat by you to finish eighth in the Second Division because some of them are only Third Division players". Taylor berated John Robertson for allowing himself to become overweight and disillusioned. He got Robertson on a diet and training regime that would help him become a European Cup winner. Taylor turned Woodcock from a reserve midfielder into a 42 cap England striker. In September 1976 he bought striker Peter Withe to Forest for £43,000, selling him to Newcastle United for £250,000 two years later. Withe was replaced in the starting team by Garry Birtles who Taylor had scouted playing for non-league Long Eaton United. Birtles also went on to represent England. In October 1976 Brian Clough acting on Peter Taylor's advice signed Larry Lloyd for £60,000 after an initial loan period.
Together Clough and Taylor took Forest to new heights with McGovern the club captain throughout the success the two brought to Forest. Their first trophy at Forest was the 1976–77 Anglo-Scottish Cup. Forest beat Orient 5–1 on aggregate in the two-legged final played in December 1976. Clough valued winning a derided trophy as the club's first silverware since 1959. He said, "Those who said it was a nothing trophy were absolutely crackers. We'd won something, and it made all the difference."
On 7 May Alan Moore's own goal meant Forest in their last league game of the season beat Millwall 1–0 at the City Ground. This kept Forest in the third promotion spot in the league table and dependent on Bolton Wanderers dropping points in three games in hand in the fight for third place. On 14 May Kenny Hibbitt's goal from his rehearsed free kick routine with Willie Carr gave Wolves a 1–0 win at Bolton. McGovern later said Bolton's defeat reached the Forest team mid-air en route to an end of season break in Mallorca. Forest's third place promotion from the 1976-77 Football League Second Division was the fifth-lowest points tally of any promoted team in history, 52 (two points for a win in England until 1981).
Taylor secretly followed Kenny Burns concluding Burns's reputation as a hard drinker and gambler was exaggerated. Taylor sanctioned his £150,000 July signing. Burns become FWA Footballer of the Year in 1977–78 after being moved from centre-forward to centre-back. Forest started their return to the top league campaign with a 3–1 win at Everton. Three further wins in league and cup followed without conceding a goal. Then came five early September goals conceded in losing 3–0 at Arsenal and beating Wolves 3–2 at home. Peter Shilton then signed for a record fee for a goalkeeper of £325,000. Taylor reasoned: "Shilton wins you matches." 20 year old John Middleton was first team goalkeeper pre-Shilton. Middleton later in the month went in part exchange with £25,000 to Derby County for Archie Gemmill transferring to Forest to rejoin McGovern in midfield. Gemmill was another Scottish former 1972 Derby title winner bringing something to central midfield in which McGovern was deficient; pace.
Forest lost only three of their first 16 league games the last of which was at Leeds United on 19 November 1977. They lost only one further game all season, the 11 March FA Cup sixth round defeat at West Bromwich Albion. Forest won the 1977-78 Football League seven-points ahead of runners-up Liverpool. Forest became one of the few teams (and the most recent team to date) to win the First Division title the season after winning promotion from the Second Division.[nb 1] This made Clough the third of four managers to win the English league championship with two different clubs.[nb 2] Forest conceded just 24 goals in 42 league games. They beat Liverpool 1–0 in the 1978 Football League Cup Final replay despite cup-tied Shilton, Gemmill and December signing David Needham missing out. Chris Woods chalked up two clean sheets in the final covering Shilton's league cup absence. McGovern missed the replay through injury meaning Burns lifted the trophy as deputising captain. Robertson's penalty was the only goal of the game.
Forest started season 1978–79 by beating Ipswich Town 5–0 for an FA Charity Shield record win. In the 1978-79 European Cup they were drawn to play the trophy winners of the two previous seasons, Liverpool. Home goals by Birtles and Colin Barrett put Forest through 2–0 on aggregate. McGovern opened the scoring in the second round 2-1 victory at AEK Athens. On 9 December 1978 Liverpool ended Forest's 42 match unbeaten league run dating back to the November the year before. The unbeaten run was the equivalent of a whole season surpassing the previous record of 35 games held by Burnley in 1920/21. The record stood until surpassed by Arsenal in August 2004 a month before Clough's death. Arsenal played 49 league games without defeat.
In February 1979 Taylor authorised the English game's first £1 million transfer signing Trevor Francis from Birmingham City. In the April European Cup semi final home first leg against 1. FC Köln Forest were two goals behind after 20 minutes. Forest scored three to edge ahead before Köln equalised to start the German second leg ahead on the away goals rule. Ian Bowyer's goal in Germany put Forest through. Günter Netzer asked afterwards, "Who is this McGovern? I have never heard of him, yet he ran the game." Forest beat Malmö 1–0 in Munich's Olympiastadion in the 1979 European Cup Final. Francis on his European debut scored with a back post header from Robertson's cross. When later interviewed for "My Forest Story" McGovern said when he lifted the European Cup the first time he was thinking of his father.
Forest declined to play in the home and away 1979 Intercontinental Cup against Paraguay's Club Olimpia. Forest beat F.C. Barcelona 2–1 on aggregate in the 1979 European Super Cup in January & February 1980. Charlie George scored the only goal in the home first leg. Burns scored an equaliser in the return in Spain. In the 1979-80 Football League Cup Forest reached a third successive final. A defensive mix up between Needham and Shilton let Wolves' Andy Gray tap in to an empty net. Forest passed up numerous chances losing 1–0. In the 1979-80 European Cup quarter final Forest won 3–1 at Dinamo Berlin to overturn a 1–0 home defeat. In the semi final they beat AFC Ajax 2–1 on aggregate. They beat Hamburg 1–0 in the 1980 European Cup Final at Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu Stadium to retain the trophy. Robertson scored after exchanging passes with Birtles. Forest finished fifth in the 1979-80 Football League.
In the 1980–81 European Cup first round Forest lost 2–0 on aggregate to 1–0 home and away defeats by CSKA Sofia. McGovern subsequently said the double defeat by CSKA affected the team's self-confidence in that they had lost out to modestly talented opponents. Forest lost the 1980 European Super Cup on away goals after a 2–2 aggregate draw against Valencia C.F. Bowyer scored both Forest goals in the home first leg. On 11 February 1981 Forest lost 1–0 in the 1980 Intercontinental Cup against Uruguayan side, Club Nacional de Football. The match was played for the first time at the neutral venue National Stadium in Tokyo before 62,000 fans.
The league and European Cup winning squad was broken up to capitalise on player sale value. Clough and Taylor both later said this was a mistake. The rebuilt side comprising youngsters and signings such as Ian Wallace, Raimondo Ponte and Justin Fashanu did not challenge for trophies. Taylor said in 1982, "For many weeks now I don't believe I've been doing justice to the partnership and I certainly haven't been doing justice to Nottingham Forest the way I felt. And consequently after a great deal of thought, there was no option. I wanted to take an early retirement. That's exactly what I've done." Jimmy Gordon retired and McGovern transferred in the same close season.
McGovern started 329 competitive games for Forest that combined with substitute appearances gave him 334 competitive first team appearances for Forest. 77 appearances in non-competitive first games gave him a total of 411 Nottingham Forest first team games.
McGovern played twice for Scotland at under 23 level, both against Wales while at Derby County. The first was on 26 January 1972 in a 2-0 win at Pittodrie. He was substituted by Denis McQuade of Partick Thistle, who direct from a corner scored the second goal. McGovern's second and final international game was on 14 March 1973 at the Vetch Field in Swansea. He was again substituted this time by Pat McCluskey of Celtic as Scotland won 2-1.
McGovern and Ken McNaught are the only two Scottish players to win Europe's premier club trophy to never have gained a full international cap. He later said, "I would have walked up the M74 over broken glass to get one cap for Scotland. I just wish I'd have got one cap because that would have been the proudest moment of my life."
McGovern joined Bolton Wanderers as player-manager in July 1982. He initially made a total of 16 League appearances for Bolton before retiring as a player to focus on the demands of management. He remained there until January 1985 when he lost his job after a new chairman wanted to bring in his own manager.
He ended his playing days with non-league Horwich RMI. He was later assistant manager of Chorley and Plymouth Argyle before being appointed joint manager of Rotherham United for two years alongside Archie Gemmill in 1994. They beat Shrewsbury Town 2-1 in the 1996 Football League Trophy final. Another ex-Forest player, Nigel Jemson, scored both their goals.
McGovern was subsequently hired as manager of Woking and had a spell as assistant at Hull City before joining Ilkeston Town to replace Keith Alexander as manager in November 2000. He was sacked by the club in March of the following year after an eight-game winless run.
He has since worked as a club ambassador for Forest, as a pundit on Radio Nottingham and as an after dinner speaker.
Style of playEdit
Brian Clough said of him, "He never stopped going, never stopped running, and he was a reasonably intelligent young man." John Robertson said of McGovern, "As far as I'm concerned John McGovern is what epitomises what every good side needs."
A profile of the young McGovern on Sporting Heroes states, "John's ability to do the simple things well, allied to his work ethic and willingness to act as a man marker saw him return a series of solid displays; often against much older and experienced opponents."
The same article closes by stating of his time at Derby, "He scored twenty goals and at his best demonstrated ball control and passing skills of the highest level, a talent that frequently allowed others to shine."
McGovern was a 2017 inductee to the Scottish Football Hall of Fame. He said, "It is a fantastic feeling that I have to be inducted into the Scottish Hall of Fame. Although I may not sound Scottish having left there when I was seven-years-old, I am a proud Scotsman having been born and bred in Montrose and any honour that you get in football is very well received."
As a playerEdit
|Club||Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Europe||Other[A]||Total|
|Hartlepools United||1965–66||Fourth Division||1||0||0||0||0||0||–||–||1||0|
|Derby County||1968–69||Second Division||18||0||1||0||0||0||—||—||19||0|
|Leeds United||1974–75||First Division||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||4||0|
|Nottingham Forest||1974–75||Second Division||8||0||0||0||0||0||—||—||8||0|
|Bolton Wanderers||1982–83||Second Division||14||0||0||0||4||1||—||—||18||1|
As a managerEdit
|Bolton Wanderers||1 June 1982||7 January 1985||129||42||28||59||32.6|
|Rotherham United||14 September 1994||31 July 1996||94||36||31||27||38.3|
- Hartlepools United
- 1967-68 Football League Fourth Division Promotion
- Derby County
- Nottingham Forest
- Anglo-Scottish Cup: 1976-77 
- 1976-77 Football League Second Division Promotion
- 1977-78 Football League First Division
- Football League Cup: 1977–78, 1978–79
- 1978 FA Charity Shield
- European Cup: 1978–79, 1979–80
- European Super Cup: 1979
- Rotherham United
- (Joint Manager)
- 1995-96 Football League Trophy
- John McGovern at Post War English & Scottish Football League A–Z Player's Database
- "John McGovern". www.fitbastats.com. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
- "McGovern: John Prescott (John)". Leeds United Player Profiles. Tony Hill. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- "McGovern inducted into Hall of Fame" www.nottinghamforest.co.uk 16 October 2017
- "My Forest story: John McGovern"
- "John McGovern - Legends Special"
- "John McGovern". in the mad crowd. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
- Mike Cockayne. "John McGOVERN – Derby County FC – (Part 1) 1968–71". John McGovern: Derby County FC. Sporting Heroes. Archived from the original on 22 February 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
- "McGovern Inducted Into Scottish Hall Of Fame" dcfc.co.uk 18 October 2017
- "Leeds United F.C. History". Leeds United.com.
- "Matchdetails from Derby County - Liverpool played on Monday 1 May 1972". lfchistory.net. Retrieved 19 May 2019.
- Kelly 1988, p. 100.
- "8 May 1972 - Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Leeds United 1" mightyleeds.co.uk
- Mike Cockayne. "John McGOVERN – Derby County FC – (Part 2) 1971–74". John McGovern: Derby County FC. Sporting Heroes. Archived from the original on 22 February 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
- "JOHN McGOVERN TALKS TO YTFCOFFICIAL" 28 October 2013
- "Brian Clough and the miracle of Nottingham Forest" theguardian.com 10 October 2015
- The Guardian, "The forgotten story of ... Brian Clough's other right-hand man" 17 September 2014
- "History of Nottingham Forest" nottinghamforest.co.uk
- Viv Anderson, The Guardian, 5 March 2010
- THE CITY GROUND, John McGovern
- "LINCOLN SPELL TURNED ME AROUND... says Woodcock". New Sunday Times. Kuala Lumpur: New Straits Times Press. 19 February 1984. p. 16. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
- "How Newcastle United legend Frank Clark celebrated his birthday – with a host of Geordie fans" chroniclelive.co.uk 10 September 2016
- Forest Player Presents "John McGovern: My Forest Story"
- Taylor 1980, p. 87
- Taylor 1980, p. 88
- Taylor 1980, p. 90
- Taylor 1980, p. 91
- Taylor 1980, p. 104
- "Old Big 'Ead ignites Forest fire" ESPN 22 March 2012
- "GAME DETAILS – MILLWALL (H) – Sat May 07, 1977 (League Tier 2)" thecityground.com
- "Nottingham Forest Results Fixtures 1976/1977" stats.football.co.uk
- "Bolton Wanderers Results Fixtures 1976/1977"
- "Signing 'a hooligan' and a Shankly team talk: how Clough set up Forest for title" The Guardian 11 November 2015
- Taylor 1980, p. 96
- "NOTTINGHAM FOREST 1977/78 results" fotballsite.co.uk
- Stevenson, Jonathan (21 September 2004). "Forest's unforgettable fairytale". BBC Sport. Retrieved 18 May 2009.
- "1977/1978 » 6. Round » Derby County – Leeds United 2:2" worldfootball.net
- "Archie Gemmill Nottingham Forest FC, Sporting Heroes
- Taylor 1980, p. 113
- "English League Cup 1977/78" Soccerbase
- "First round, First leg – 13/09/1978 – 20:30CET (19:30 local time) – City Ground – Nottingham" uefa.com
- 1978-1979 European Cup: Nottingham Forest FC All Goals (Road to Victory)
- Stevenson, Jonathan (23 August 2004). "Wenger repeats Clough feat". BBC News. Retrieved 11 July 2009.
- "49 Unbeaten" arsenal.com 1 July 2017
- Taylor 1980, p. 124
- "1979: Burns' night for Forest" uefa.com
- ITV 1980 League Cup Final highlights
- "Nottingham Forest 1979/80" uefa.com
- Nottingham Forest FC 1980/81 uefa.com
- "1980: Valencia profit from Felman's fortune" uefa.com
- Gorgazzi, Osvaldo (13 February 2005). "Intercontinental Club Cup 1980". RSSSF. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
- "Peter Taylor Leaves Nottingham Forest 1982"
- "Willie McNaught (and Ken)" www.qosfc.com 26 April 2012
- "Ilkeston Town FC managers". ilsonfootball.co.uk. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
- John McGovern Video
- "John McGOVERN - Derby County FC - Biography of his football career with The Rams."
- "Lisbon Lions inducted into Scottish Football Hall of Fame" scottishfa.co.uk 16 October 2017
- John McGovern at the English National Football Archive (subscription required)
- "John McGovern: Nottingham Forest FC". Sporting Heroes. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
- Tony Williams and Roy Peskett (compilers) (1971). Rothmans Football Yearbook 1971–72. Queen Anne Press. ISBN 0-362-00094-8.
- "Anglo-Scottish Cup: 1976/77". This is one of our Trophy cabinets. Forest forays. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- "European Super Cup: 1979/80". Footballsite.co.uk. Retrieved 17 November 2011.