John McGovern (footballer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
John McGovern
John McGovern (footballer).jpg
Personal information
Full name John Prescott McGovern
Date of birth (1949-10-28) 28 October 1949 (age 68)
Place of birth Montrose, Scotland
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Playing position Midfielder
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1965–1968 Hartlepools United 72 (5)
1968–1974 Derby County 190 (16)
1974–1975 Leeds United 4 (0)
1975–1984 Nottingham Forest 253 (6)
1984–1987 Bolton Wanderers 16 (0)
Total 535 (27)
National team
1972–1973 Scotland U23 2 (0)
Teams managed
1984–1988 Bolton Wanderers
1990–1991 Chorley
1994–1996 Rotherham United
1997–1998 Woking
2000–2003 Ilkeston Town
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

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.

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 two League Cups among other trophies.

McGovern won two Scottish under-23 caps,[1] and played over 650 senior first team games during his career. He forged a long-lasting relationship with Clough and Taylor at Hartlepools, Derby, Leeds (Clough only) and Forest.

Early years

McGovern was born in Montrose, Angus, in north east Scotland. He lived in Montrose until he was seven years old before moving to Harlepool.[2][3] His father died when McGovern was aged 11.[4] 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.[5]. He shone at soccer and back in Hartlepool played for his first team when he was 15. Central Park FC then sent him for a trial with local senior club, Hartlepools United.[2]


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). 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.[6] Under the management of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor 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 6th September 1968 in a 2-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers.[6] After playing six games in that 1968/69 season he moved up a division by transferring to Derby County.[2]

Derby County

Clough and Taylor moved to Derby County in May 1967. They signed McGovern to Derby for a fee of £7,500 in September 1968. It was at Derby that Taylor 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.[7][8] Within an 18 month period and by the age of 19 he had played in all four divisions of the Football League.[9] In 1971–72 Derby won the First Division title, and McGovern played in virtually all of their matches.

Clough resigned in his on going 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.”[9]

His final match for Derby came in February 1974.[10] Mackay gave McGovern's regular starting place to Bruce Rioch.[9]

Leeds United

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 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. Clough's reign was only 12 weeks but even after his departure, McGovern, O’Hare and trainer Jimmy Gordon were tarred with being part of the Clough regime. Clough did not forget any of the three and soon returned to take all three in early 1975 to his new club, Nottingham Forest.[9]

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.[11] Clough brought Jimmy Gordon to be his club trainer as Gordon had been for him at Derby County and Leeds United.[12]

Ian Bowyer was already at Forest and had won domestic and European trophies with Manchester City. Clough signed McGovern and O'Hare in February. Clough then brought John Robertson and Martin O'Neill back into the fold after they had requested transfers under Brown.[13] Viv Anderson had previously debuted for the first team and became a regular under Clough.[14] The young Tony Woodcock was at Forest but was then unrated by Clough and was to be loaned to Lincoln City.[15] 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.[16] The season after Forest finished eighth in Clough's 1975-76 Football League first full season in charge.[11] 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.[17]

Peter Taylor on 16 July 1976 rejoined Clough becoming his Assistant Manager as he had been when winning the league at Derby.[11] 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".[18] 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.[19] Taylor turned Woodcock from a reserve midfielder into a 42 cap England striker.[20] In September 1976 he bought striker Peter Withe to Forest for £43,000, selling him to Newcastle United for £250,000 two years later.[21] 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.[22] 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.[11] 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."[23]

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.[24] 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.[25] On 14 May Kenny Hibbitt's goal from his rehearsed free kick routine with Willie Carr gave Wolves a 1–0 win at Bolton.[17][26] McGovern later said Bolton's defeat reached the Forest team mid-air en route to an end of season break in Mallorca.[17] 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[11][13] (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.[27][28] 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.[29] Peter Shilton then signed for a record fee for a goalkeeper of £325,000. Taylor reasoned: "Shilton wins you matches."[30] 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 join McGovern in midfield.[31] Gemmill was another Scottish former 1972 Derby title winner.[27][32]

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.[29] 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.[30] 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.[33] 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.[23][34]

Forest started season 1978–79 by beating Ipswich Town 5–0 for an FA Charity Shield record win.[11] 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.[35] McGovern opened the scoring in the second round 2-1 victory AEK Athens.[36] On 9 December 1978 Liverpool ended Forest's 42 match unbeaten league run dating back to the November the year before.[11] The unbeaten run was the equivalent of a whole season surpassing the previous record of 35 games held by Burnley in 1920/21.[37] The record stood until surpassed by Arsenal in August 2004 a month before Clough's death. Arsenal played 49 league games without defeat.[38]

In February 1979 Taylor authorised the English game's first £1 million transfer signing Trevor Francis from Birmingham City.[39] 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.[4] 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.[40]

Forest beat Southampton in the final 3–2 to retain the League Cup. Birtles scored twice as did Woodcock once. Forest finished second in the 1978-79 Football League eight points behind Liverpool.

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.[41] 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.[42] 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.[43] 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.[44] McGovern subsequently said the double defeat by CSKA affected the team's self-confidence in that they had lost out to modestly talented opponents.[17] 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.[45] 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.[46]

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.[12] 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,[47] "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.[12]

Bolton Wanderers

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.[2]


McGovern played twice for Scotland at under 23 level but never received a full 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."[5]

Later career

He moved to Horwich RMI.[48] He was later assistant manager of Chorley and Plymouth Argyle before being appointed joint manager of Rotherham United alongside Archie Gemmill in 1994. He left Rotherham two years later and 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.[49]

Style of play

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."[50]

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."[50]


McGovern was a 2017 inductee to the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.[51] 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."[3]

Career statistics

As a player

Club[52] Season League FA Cup League Cup Europe Other[A] Total
Division Apps[53] Goals[53] Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Hartlepools United[6] 1965–66 Fourth Division 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
1966–67 Fourth Division 33 1 1 0 0 0 34 1
1967–68 Fourth Division 33 4 1 0 1 0 35 4
1968–69 Third Division 18 0 0 0 1 2 6 2
Total 72 5 2 0 2 2 76 7
Derby County 1968–69 Second Division 18 0 1 0 0 0 19 0
1969–70 First Division 33 4 4 0 6 0 43 0
1970–71[54] First Division 34 6 3 0 2 1 3 1 42 8
1971–72 First Division 40 3 5 0 1 0 5 1 51 4
1972–73 First Division 39 1 5 0 3 1 8 1 0 0 55 3
1973–74 First Division 26 2 0 0 3 0 29 2
Total 190 16 18 0 15 2 8 1 8 2 239 21
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
1975–76 Second Division 41 0 2 0 4 1 47 1
1976–77 Second Division 39 0 3 0 2 0 7 0 51 0
1977–78 First Division 31 4 4 0 7 0 42 4
1978–79 First Division 36 0 3 1 7 2 8 1 1 0 55 4
1979–80 First Division 41 2 2 0 8 0 9 0 1 0 61 2
1980–81 First Division 27 0 3 0 2 0 2 0 2 0 36 0
1981–82 First Division 30 0 1 0 3 0 34 0
Total 253 6 18 1 33 3 19 1 11 0 334 11
Bolton Wanderers 1982–83 Second Division 14 0 0 0 4 1 18 1
1983–84 Third Division 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
Total 16[53] 0 0 0 4 1 0 0 20 1
Career total 535 27 38 1 54 8 27 2 19 2 674 40
A. ^ The "Other" column constitutes appearances and goals in the FA Charity Shield, Anglo-Scottish Cup, Football League Trophy, Watney Cup, Texaco Cup, European Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup.

As a manager

Team[52] From To Record
P W D L Win %
Bolton Wanderers 1 June 1982 7 January 1985 129 42 28 59 032.6
Rotherham United 14 September 1994 31 July 1996 94 36 31 27 038.3
Total 223 78 59 86 035.0


Derby County
Nottingham Forest


  1. ^ The others were Liverpool in 1906, Everton in 1932, Tottenham Hotspur in 1951 and Ipswich Town in 1962. Forest remain the only club to achieve this feat having not been promoted as champions.
  2. ^ The others are Tom Watson, Herbert Chapman and Kenny Dalglish.


  1. ^ "John McGovern". Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "McGovern: John Prescott (John)". Leeds United Player Profiles. Tony Hill. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "McGovern inducted into Hall of Fame" 16 October 2017
  4. ^ a b "My Forest story: John McGovern"
  5. ^ a b "John McGovern - Legends Special"
  6. ^ a b c "John McGovern". in the mad crowd. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ "McGovern Inducted Into Scottish Hall Of Fame" 18 October 2017
  9. ^ a b c d "Leeds United F.C. History". Leeds 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g "Brian Clough and the miracle of Nottingham Forest" 10 October 2015
  12. ^ a b c The Guardian, "The forgotten story of ... Brian Clough’s other right-hand man" 17 September 2014
  13. ^ a b "History of Nottingham Forest"
  14. ^ Viv Anderson, The Guardian, 5 March 2010
  15. ^ "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. 
  16. ^ "How Newcastle United legend Frank Clark celebrated his birthday – with a host of Geordie fans" 10 September 2016
  17. ^ a b c d Forest Player Presents "John McGovern: My Forest Story"
  18. ^ Taylor 1980, p. 87
  19. ^ Taylor 1980, p. 88
  20. ^ Taylor 1980, p. 90
  21. ^ Taylor 1980, p. 91
  22. ^ Taylor 1980, p. 104
  23. ^ a b "Old Big 'Ead ignites Forest fire" ESPN 22 March 2012
  24. ^ "GAME DETAILS – MILLWALL (H) – Sat May 07, 1977 (League Tier 2)"
  25. ^ "Nottingham Forest Results Fixtures 1976/1977"
  26. ^ "Bolton Wanderers Results Fixtures 1976/1977"
  27. ^ a b "Signing ‘a hooligan’ and a Shankly team talk: how Clough set up Forest for title" The Guardian 11 November 2015
  28. ^ Taylor 1980, p. 96
  29. ^ a b "NOTTINGHAM FOREST 1977/78 results"
  30. ^ a b Stevenson, Jonathan (21 September 2004). "Forest's unforgettable fairytale". BBC Sport. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  31. ^ "1977/1978 » 6. Round » Derby County – Leeds United 2:2"
  32. ^ "Archie Gemmill Nottingham Forest FC, Sporting Heroes
  33. ^ Taylor 1980, p. 113
  34. ^ "English League Cup 1977/78" Soccerbase
  35. ^ "First round, First leg – 13/09/1978 – 20:30CET (19:30 local time) – City Ground – Nottingham"
  36. ^ 1978-1979 European Cup: Nottingham Forest FC All Goals (Road to Victory)
  37. ^ Stevenson, Jonathan (23 August 2004). "Wenger repeats Clough feat". BBC News. Retrieved 11 July 2009. 
  38. ^ "49 Unbeaten" 1 July 2017
  39. ^ Taylor 1980, p. 124
  40. ^ "Willie McNaught (and Ken)" 26 April 2012
  41. ^ "1979: Burns' night for Forest"
  42. ^ ITV 1980 League Cup Final highlights
  43. ^ "Nottingham Forest 1979/80"
  44. ^ Nottingham Forest FC 1980/81
  45. ^ "1980: Valencia profit from Felman's fortune"
  46. ^ Gorgazzi, Osvaldo (13 Feb 2005). "Intercontinental Club Cup 1980". RSSSF. Retrieved 5 December 2017. 
  47. ^ "Peter Taylor Leaves Nottingham Forest 1982"
  48. ^ John McGovern at Post War English & Scottish Football League A–Z Player's Database
  49. ^ "Ilkeston Town FC managers". Retrieved 7 September 2012. 
  50. ^ a b "John McGOVERN - Derby County FC - Biography of his football career with The Rams."
  51. ^ "Lisbon Lions inducted into Scottish Football Hall of Fame" 16 October 2017
  52. ^ a b John McGovern profile at the English National Football Archive (subscription required)
  53. ^ a b c "John McGovern: Nottingham Forest FC". Sporting Heroes. Retrieved 23 December 2016. 
  54. ^ Tony Williams and Roy Peskett (compilers) (1971). Rothmans Football Yearbook 1971–72. Queen Anne Press. ISBN 0-362-00094-8. 
  55. ^ "Anglo-Scottish Cup: 1976/77". This is one of our Trophy cabinets. Forest forays. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  56. ^ "European Super Cup: 1979/80". Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
Retrieved from ""
This content was retrieved from Wikipedia :
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article "John McGovern (footballer)"; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA