John McGovern still feels Brian Clough’s influence as he pockets Lifetime Achievement honour


“I didn’t have my hands in my pockets just in case the ghost of Brian Clough was watching and said ‘young man, get your hands out of your pockets’,” smiled John McGovern.

Even now, McGovern feels Brian Clough’s influence. So much so, as he stood on stage at the Nottingham Post Sports Awards 2017, his achievements of a lifetime being recognised with a Lifetime Achievement prize, his hands never strayed into his pockets. Clough didn’t like his players doing that.

Later, still stood tall and proud, backstage, his hands firmly fixed on his award, Clough’s captain at Nottingham Forest relived the greatest glories of his career at the City Ground; the two European Cup triumphs, of course, winning the old First Division title and being part of something “special” under Clough and Peter Taylor.

Then there were the League Cup triumphs, the Super Cup.

“I can’t go into them all,” laughed McGovern, 67. “We’ll throw in Barcelona though, they’re a well-known side. We beat them in the Super Cup.”

That, they did. Kenny Burns scored the winner for the Reds in the Nou Camp, and he was one of several of McGovern’s former Forest team-mates at the East Midlands Conference Centre to see him receive the prestigious Lifetime Achievement honour.

John McGovern wins the Lifetime Achievement award at the Nottingham Post Sports Awards 2017.

So too, was the current Forest chairman Nicholas Randall, with Reds manager Mark Warburton also a special guest on a special night.

Having been the first one to get his hands on the European Cup twice, in 1979 and 1980, McGovern follows in the footsteps of two more of Clough’s greats, John Robertson and Martin O’Neill, in lifting the Post’s Lifetime Achievement honour, sponsored by Nottingham Express Transit (NET).

“It’s a reflection on the great side that I played in that I have managed to receive this award,” he said.

“It could have been any one of the 11, we were that good.

“To win two European Cups consecutively, you’ve got to be that good.

“I’m just delighted. I was the captain, so I fortunately got my hands on the trophy first, but we were all equal parts in a well-oiled machine, well governed by Clough and Taylor.

“It was just an absolute dream and privilege, and a pleasure, to be part of such a talented outfit.”

Nottingham Forest captain John McGovern holds the European Cup

McGovern’s success as a footballer extended beyond the City Ground, of course.

Having made his playing debut for Hartlepool United in 1965, under a certain Clough and Taylor, he won promotion with them from the Fourth Division into the Third Division in 1968, before following Clough and Taylor to Derby County later that year.

He won the First Division title with the Rams in 1972.

Despite his success at club level, he unbelievably never played once for Scotland, though he was recently inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.

“You don’t expect it. Really, it was a real pleasure for me to get up and receive the award,” added McGovern, now an ambassador for Forest.

“I like to think that all the effort I put in I was a little bit like the golfer Gary Player, who said ‘the harder I try, the luckier I get’.

“That’s very much me and my career, the harder I tried the luckier I got.

“It happened 40 years ago so it’s a long time, but those memories will never ever die because people do remember winners.

Former Forest captain and club ambassador John McGovern

“Clough and Taylor were winners as a management duo and the players that I played with at Nottingham Forest were all winners.

“When we got together we were capable of achieving great things, and we did. To be part of that side was just tremendous.

“I was part of something that was special at Nottingham Forest.

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“You win promotion and, following promotion, win the First Division championship at the first attempt, win the European Cup at the first attempt, and then retain it… it was all quite exceptional.

“But if you’ve got exceptional management and you’ve got talented, hungry players with good discipline, then you are going to be successful.

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“We were exceptional players in an exceptional period for English football.

“If you think back to the late 70s and early 80s that big, shiny European Cup was in this country for six consecutive years courtesy of Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa.

“If anybody tells me now that the English Premier League is the best in the world they better look at those records because they’ve got it wrong. They are not as good now, and the records prove it.”



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