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In conversation with...John McGovern (III)

Miracle Man, club ambassador and living legend, John McGovern was kind enough to speak to us about a range of issues. Here's part III of an exclusive interview with In The Top One.

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In the final part of this exclusive interview for In The Top One, we turned our attentions to the present and the difficulties of management, especially for a manager operating under a transfer embargo.

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Finally, you tried your hand at management, perhaps most notably with Rotherham United in the 90s whom, alongside Archie Gemmill, you guided to a trophy at Wembley….

…AutoWindscreens Shield…

That’s right…

2-1, (Nigel) Jemson got both.

What are your memories of that day?

I didn’t appreciate that the feeling when you’ve won at Wembley is even greater than when you’re part of a management team than as a player. Although I’m only saying that because I had won there as a player, you win at Wembley, it’s fantastic but you win at Wembley as a manager, it’s your product that has gone out there in that sense.

You’ve told them the game plan…although having said that, I’m not into coaching, I’m a little bit like the Clough/Shankly idea where you pick a player to play in a position and you say, "go and play in that position and if you can’t, I’ll get somebody else who will."

So you have belief in the player you pick in the position in the team and all you do is ask him to commit himself 100% to try to do that job. Although I should never call it a job – football is a privilege – you do something that everyone else in the country would do for nothing. I’m very strong on that because sometimes people say there’s pressure on players or there’s pressure on Leicester city…no, there isn’t. If you’re playing to avoid relegation, there’s pressure there. Up there? Oh, come on. They’re top of the league and have been running away with it. They’ve beaten Manchester City and some say they are still not favourites. What? What do you mean they’re not favourites? They’re points clear for Christ’s sake! Of course, they’re favourites! It’s not like ten games into the season. It’s past Christmas – it’s like when we won it and everybody said, "Oh, the bubble will burst." Not necessarily – not when you’re enjoying it.

Were Leicester to go and win it, it gives clubs like Nottingham Forest hope that they too can go on to establish themselves back at the top of English football.

It would be brilliant if they did. It’s like Bournemouth playing the Premier League with an average gate of 11,000 or so. That’s a miracle.

Again hopefully they can stay up because the idea of going up there to the Premier League but just coming straight back down is a real fear. But Bournemouth and Leicester offer hope that were Forest to win promotion, they might be able to establish themselves up there again.

But it just proves that you can spend billions but you can’t necessarily win a trophy in football by spending billions. And you can perhaps win it spending very little if you’ve got the right management and the right players.

It’s important to spend it wisely too…

Yeah, I mean Clough: record fee for a goalkeeper – Shilton. First million pound player – Francis. When he was at Derby, record fee for a defender – Colin Todd. Record fee for a right back – David Nish. But when you win things, nobody questions the money. So Trevor Francis  - first game in the European tournament is the final and he scores the winning goal – worth twice as much. When you win, nobody can question you.

And recently Forest have been doing that: winning. The team at Middlesbrough seemed to play without an out and out striker. (Note - this interview was conducted prior to the home game against Huddersfield Town)

We played the best we’ve played all season at Middlesbrough. The problem is that we played at home to QPR on the Tuesday and looked like we’d never played together before – just three days later. And then we go to Leeds and if we’d had an inkling more craft and intelligence, we’d have won there four or five nil. So the manager here has done an incredible job, considering there’s an embargo and we can’t sign anybody, with a team of free transfers and the injury situation.

It looks like it’s going to be an interesting summer because as it stands, there are a lot of players here for the short term and it remains to be seen what will happen then.

I think most of the supporters are waiting to see what the reaction is from the owner of the club, more so than Dougie or anybody else involved with the football because he’s the one that rules in which direction that we’re going to go. But it all boils down to, ‘are we going to sign anyone of any real quality?’ Obviously, if Dougie’s done as good a job between now and the end of the season as he has when he first joined and now, then if he does ask the chairman to just spend some money on a player he thinks will vastly improve the squad that we’ve got then yes, it’ll happen, I would think.

As it stands, it looks like the club that the club will come out of embargo, look reasonably solid and finish mid–table with a very solid established squad. But there are a lot of players out of contract and a lot of players who are going to leave and go back to their parent clubs which could mean that the club will be starting all over again.

The biggest problem we’ve had is options of people to score goals: (Britt) Assombalonga would obviously solve that immediately and Matty Fryatt, if he recovers, would certainly help in that respect to offset obviously Michail Antonio who was sold on the last day of the transfer deadline.

A great piece of business?

For the amount of money, I think it was. The deal that took (Karl) Darlow and (Jamaal) Lascelles to Newcastle was also a great puce of business because we got them back for a whole season with their wages paid for, which I thought was amazing.

Dougie has signed some great players: great players in the sense that they’re prepared to go out there and die for the cause. He hasn’t signed anybody who is a brilliant player because they cost money and if they’re that brilliant, no one is going to even let you have them on loan if they’re one of their squad members. So Dougie’s made some very shrewd acquisitions from the point of view that, in the short term, whatever it is, he’s getting a good return from them.

Whoever he’s got scouting Europe deserves a shake of the hand.

Yes. Obviously just in case Cohen doesn’t fully recover, but having said that, he’s very careful with (Chris) Cohen and he left him out at Leeds when everybody thought, "He’s played a full game, he should be playing." But it was a very wise decision I think by Dougie and we won anyway so he’s ticked all the right boxes at the moment with the job that was required of him and a little bit more of him, I think.

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If you missed parts I and II, here they are:

Part I

Part II

A special thank you to John McGovern for being so generous with his time and for being a true gentleman.