A FORMER Hartlepool United ace who went on to lift the biggest prize in European football is set to make a return to the town where he made his name.
John McGovern was born in Montrose, in Scotland, but moved to Hartlepool as a youngster and developed his passion for the game kicking a ball around the Central Estate.
He was snapped up by legendary Pools boss Brian Clough in the 1960s, and made his debut for the club as a 16-year-old in a home game with Bradford City in 1965 while he was still a pupil at Henry Smith’s School.
John, who is now based in the East Midlands and spends his time on the after-dinner speaking circuit as well as covering one of his former clubs, Nottingham Forest for local radio, has penned an autobiography ‘Bo’ness to the Bernabeu’ and will be in Hartlepool next month to sign copies for fans.
John, 62, said: “Hartlepool plays a big part in my book. Obviously I started off my career there and would never have achieved what I did had it not been for the chance I had at the club.
“When I was at school, I played cricket and rugby, and quite fancied being a tennis player if I’m honest.
“I was 15 years old before I first pulled on a football shirt and that was for Central Park in the Chuch League second division.
“Around about the same time Pools had some trial games and Brian Clough and Peter Taylor said to the groundsman to make sure the gates were locked until I had signed for them.
“A year later, I made my debut for the first team. The day before, I was still at school!
“In the book, I talk about the early days growing up on the Central Estate and they are memories that still live with me now.
“I still keep an eye on the Pools results and I get back to the town as often as I can because I still have some good pals up there.”
John played 76 games for Pools, scoring seven times, before he left The Vic in 1968 when Clough took him to Derby.
The pair were reunited again at Leeds and then Nottingham Forest later in their careers, with the Scot captaining Forest to European Cup success in 1979 and 1980.
As well as his European medals, John also won a promotion with Pools as well as League titles with both Derby and Forest.
And he insists he wouldn’t swap his career for another chance in modern-day football – despite the riches on offer.
“People often ask me if I’d love to be starting all over again, but I have so many memories I wouldn’t change anything.
“Saying that, when I see Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, it’s interesting to see that he earns in a week more than I earned in 14 years.”
John will be at WH Smith, in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, on Thursday, October 18, between noon-2pm.