Brian, Peter and me – the blue-eyed boy
I'M sure the fact that having my dad die when I was 11 played a significant part in my development in those early Hartlepools days.
Brian Clough probably represented that senior dominant male figure I never had at home and I listened intently to this fascinating man who had suddenly come into my life.
It was obvious from a very early stage that Brian relied heavily on Peter Taylor when it came to making the right choice about which players would be right for the team. Clough would tell Taylor he needed a left-back or a striker and Peter would get them.
One thing is certain, they were better together than they were when they were apart, as experiences in later years would go to prove.
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Peter was a calming influence on Brian. He also had a dry sense of humour.
One day he said to me: "John, do you realise that you have got an advantage over other professionals in the game of football? When professionals reach the age of 30 they all lose a yard of pace, but you'll never have that problem."
Thankfully, my lack of pace never stopped me having a pretty decent career.
Peter could also be quite ruthless. I badly twisted my ankle after five minutes of a game with Halifax. Limping badly, I played on until half time.
Peter told the trainer to strap up my ankle, insisting I would be fine. An X-ray later showed I had played for 40 minutes with a broken ankle.
At the end of my first full season, Clough and Taylor left Hartlepools to take charge of Derby County. Before they left they made it clear that I would be going with them.
Despite Clough's promise, come the start of the 1967-68 season I was still a Hartlepools United player.
The incoming boss was Angus McLean and, as a friendly gesture I went to the ground during the summer break to introduce myself. His opening line was incredible.
"So you're Cloughie's blue-eyed boy are you? Well I'm going to change all that."
The animosity was instant. From the first day in charge all he did was criticise me. I was left out of the team whenever McLean needed a scapegoat.
It was only after about six or seven games that Derby eventually came in with an offer of £7,500 for me. Brian just put a contract down in front of me and I signed it. I trusted him and didn't even ask what was in it.
So, on September 12, 1968, I became a Derby County player earning £25 a week, which was the same wage I had been on at Hartlepools.
The first time I watched them they beat Chelsea 3-1 in a League Cup replay before a full house at the Baseball Ground. Dave Mackay scored from 30 yards, with Alan Durban and Kevin Hector getting the other two.
Mackay was the ultimate competitor who was an inspiration to every player in the club. And I realised just how far I was from being as good a player as him.
I knew the only way I was going to make progress was to make sure I played out of my skin for the reserves.
But the reserve-team trainer was another major stumbling block to my progress. His name was Jack Burkitt, who had captained Nottingham Forest to FA Cup success in 1959. He took one look at me, my puny body and awkward running style, and dismissed me as having no potential whatsoever.
McGovern will be signing copies of his book tomorrow at Waterstones, Nottingham (2.30pm); Saturday, October 20 at the Forest Club Shop (11am) and WH Smith, Victoria Centre, on Friday, October 26 (11.30am).
John McGovern – from Bo'ness to the Bernabeu Published by Vision Sports Publishing, price £18.99.