John McGovern Hall of Fame

Former Nottingham Forest captain John McGovern has revealed he “detested” being ignored by Scotland when midfield contemporaries like Ray Wilkins were racking up the caps.

The Montrose-born midfielder skippered Forest to two European Cup final wins and won the English First Division title under Brian Clough with both Forest and Derby.

However, despite featuring for the Scotland under-23 side, he never was capped at senior level during a career which spanned the 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s.

McGovern, 67, was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame on Sunday but the omission from his trophy cabinet of a Scotland cap still rankles, especially when he reflects on rivals such as former Manchester United midfielder Wilkins, who became a mainstay with England.

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“It was something that bitterly disappointed me during my playing career when at times I was playing against and beating the best in Europe,” he said.

“I would have walked up the M74 with bare feet over broken glass to play for Scotland, I was that proud to be a Scotsman.

“I suppose that I had a slight deformity, a bent left shoulder, my style of running was poor and I was the slowest player I played with or against.

“But if someone calls Clough says I am in his side, it’s not luck or favouritism, it’s because I know how to play football.

“There were times when I was playing against some of the top players in Europe and they don’t know how to get round me and I could out-pass them.

“I looked at players like Ray Wilkins playing for England and thought, ‘He can’t out-run me, he is as slow as I am. And he can’t out-tackle me and can’t out-head me and he can’t out-pass me but he has 70 caps and more for England’.

“So there is something not quite right there, there is an inequality there that I definitely detested for a long time.

“I started at 15 at Hartlepool and played for Cloughie there as well and he taught me how to play the game.

“I thought somewhere along the line I would be given a chance to show what I could do.

“I gritted my teeth but I was bitterly disappointed.”

McGovern, an ambassador for Forest these days, was chuffed to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Hampden awards dinner.

He said: “I am bitterly disappointed that I didn’t play for my country and this bit of recognition gives me a bit of satisfaction.

“When I phoned my mum about the award she said, ‘Do you get any money?’. I said, ‘Mum, this is much bigger than that, this is phenomenal for me to win this’.

“I am so pleased for my mum because my dad died when I was 11 years old and he never saw me even play football.

“I don’t have any complaints. I am one of the guys who lived the dream.

“The award is the double cream on top of the cake, on top of another one.”

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