‘Stability is still the key word for Nottingham Forest’, says Reds legend John McGovern


While he may have returned to the City Ground to discuss memories of miracles, John McGovern says Nottingham Forest must start with modest goals, as Mark Warburton looks to revive the club’s fortunes.

These are frustrating times on the banks of the Trent, where five Championship defeats in six games have prompted a mood of disappointment, following a bright start to the campaign.

But, while a new era under Evangelos Marinakis has sparked a sense of optimism off the pitch, European Cup-winning captain John McGovern says patience is still required on it.

Sheffield United visit the City Ground this weekend, looking to maintain a flying start to the campaign that has seen them threaten to follow up one promotion with another.

But while a place in the Premier League remains the long-term goal at Forest too, McGovern says some patience is still required.

“I don’t think you can escape relegation by the skin of your teeth at the end of one season, sell your best goalscorer in the summer, then expect to be flying at the top of the league the next,” said McGovern.

Frank Clark, Garry Birtles, Kenny Burns, John McGovern and John Robertson are reunited at the City Ground, with the European Cup they won twice under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest – with John Robertson reproducing the famous Cloughie seal of approval from the bench

“That was never going to happen. That is a fairytale. Unless you are a team like Chelsea or Manchester City, who can spend millions upon millions of pounds to make dramatic changes.

“Go back to basics, get the basis of the side together, stay in the division this year, get some stability and look to improve next season.

“Maybe with a little bit of luck, depending on how much can be invested in quality players, next season could be much better.

“Stability is the key word this season, within the environment Forest are in, in this competitive division – look at the money being spent. Even Middlesbrough were able to spend £15m to sign Britt Assombalonga.

“We have not spent that kind of money on all the players we have brought into the club this summer. This remains a work in progress.”

If Chris Wilder’s Blades are proof of anything, it is that winning is a habit, however. Following their climb up from League One, they have taken many by surprise in the Championship this season – not least fierce rivals Sheffield Wednesday last weekend.

McGovern says Forest are more than capable of blunting the Blades – but hopes a united spirit of a different kind will prevail at the City Ground.

“Sheffield United are flying at the minute. To win their local derby and then another game as well, before they come to us, they will be flying,” said McGovern.

“There will be a really, really good crowd here and the atmosphere will be a positive one, at the start of the game. The players, with their effort and application, have to earn the respect of the supporters and keep their enthusiasm going.

“It is a joint thing. We need to show that resilience when we are up against it. Occasionally, we also need to show that we can retain the ball a little bit better than we have on certain occasions this season.

“There will be a fantastic atmosphere at the City Ground and we have to use that to fuel a bright start.”

Forest boss Mark Warburton

A solid – and, admittedly, painfully obvious – starting point for the Reds would be finding a way not to concede a goal early, after a familiar pattern in recent games.

Forest had been quick out of the blocks, making bright starts against Chelsea, Aston Villa and Fulham – only to fail to profit from those spells, before going behind.

“I watched the Champions League game as Chelsea played at Atletico Madrid. Chelsea bossed the start of the game, then found themselves behind,” said McGovern. “They showed their true quality in fighting back to win the game.

“When you are a quality player you know that you can go a goal down or even two goals down – and still win the game, as long as you keep doing the right things.

“As long as you are professional and have determination, you know you can come back.

“But on Saturday, let’s not give ourselves that problem. Let’s go for it, let’s close them down, play with enthusiasm and we might end up winning by the odd goal; we might get that bit of luck again.”

McGovern travels to every game as part of his role as club ambassador – and has been impressed by the level of support from Reds fans.

But he recognises that the players have a duty to give them something to cheer, when they head into what feels like a particularly significant game, prior to the international break.

“The supporters have shown how good they can be, vocally. Not just at home, but away from home as well,” said McGovern.

“I go to all the games and their support really is tremendous. Some people say to me that it does not influence the team – but trust me, it does.

“I will bet there will be two or three individuals in the team who will get an extra lift every time they hear the fans making some noise.

“It does help. People think it doesn’t, but I know it does. Cheering the team on and staying positive does help.”

Daryl Murphy has regularly been scoring goals for Forest

One source of hope for Forest is the form of Daryl Murphy, who has fired himself to the top of the Championship scoring charts with six goals in nine starts and one sub appearance, following his £2m move from Newcastle United.

And the Irish international is a player who prompts fond memories of the past for McGovern.

“Daryl Murphy has done a great job since he has come in. He shows what a target man should be,” said McGovern.

“In the days I played, we had players like him in the side at every club. John O’Hare was magnificent. Peter Withe was a great, great target man.

“As far as target men go now, they seem to be more mobile and since he has come into this side, he has shown that he can be mobile, while also still knowing how to use his grit.

“He makes good use of his physicality against the opposition, which you need to do. He has been a great success. Hopefully he will continue to get goals.”

Beyond the visit of Sheffield United and the international break, is the small matter of a trip to face another of Forest’s rivals, Derby County.

And McGovern is hopeful that will provide an opportunity to lift the spirits – and believes that, in Warburton, Forest have a manager who will at least understand the importance of the fixture.

“A local derby sometimes feels as though it is worth nine points. I know it is only three in reality, but it can seem like so much more,” said McGovern.

Former Nottingham Forest European Cup winning captain John McGovern
Former Nottingham Forest European Cup winning captain John McGovern

“Again, it is a match where we have to go there and players love playing in front of big crowds. It will be a full house there, just as it will be here.

“It is a massive game for the supporters. I remember one manager (Joe Kinnear) saying that it was ‘just another game’. I am not sure it went so well for him, after that.

“Against Derby, there is a little extra edge. A win there would be a timely boost, there is no question of that.”

As, indeed, would be seeing Forest secure three points against Sheffield United on Saturday, as Forest look to put a nightmare recent spell behind them and allow themselves to start dreaming of a more positive future.

The Theatre Royal Nottingham is hosting a ‘Return of the Legends’ evening on Sunday, October 29, where the 18 legendary players who put Nottingham Forest on the European map under Brian Clough, will reunite to remember their back-to-back European Cup wins.



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