Hello, everyone. To gabor ed. I'm delighted to be joined by a European Cup winner, a league champion, an Anglo Italian Cup winner, a man who should have been ewe for cup finalists. And only one of the players made more appearances for Nottingham Forest in the history of the club. Like to be joined? Ian Bowie this week. Ian, hello, how are you?
I'm fine, thank you, Matthew. How are?
Good, good. Thanks for joining me. When you hear that CV back all these years later, could you have imagined that as a little kid who dreamed of being a footballer or not?
Yes, I do, and I'm very happy with it, very proud of my achievements in football. And, yeah, I look back with it with a lot of happy moments. And you do remember the happier moments, more so than the downsides, but at the end of the day, you settle for what you've got. And I'm quite happy with how my football career went.
As a player, did you think you're always destined to be a footballer? I mean, you go back all the way to playing in school. Were you the best kid on the playground and all that stuff?
Initially I was at junior school and things like that, but then I start well, I used to play in my days, there was no such thing as academies, there was no such thing as the Sunday morning leagues that they have now. There was the school team. And if you're any good, you came out of the school team and you play for the district team of your age group. And my district was Elsmereport, which is now Elsmereport Cheshire. My address used to be I lived in a village called Little Sutton, and my address was Little Sutton Wirrell, Cheshire. And so Ellsmere Port was the nearest district. So I played to Ellsmereport for Ellsmereport, and I did play once for Cheshire Schoolboys at under 15 level, but we lost six one to Staffordshire, and they never chose me again. So there you go. That's my first heartbreak as a 15 year old.
What position did you play? Because you famously played every position for Forest.
Yeah, I kind of played left wing in those days and I could score a goal. I think if people score goals in the under eleven leagues and it goes right the way through to the rest of your career, I think where the goals are scored from, whether it's under 11th or whether it's the European Cup finals, then there's a tendency for the goals to be scored from the same position. So you instinctively know where the goals are going to come from and you get into those positions.
If you mean when did you settle on being a central midfielder, was that at Man City? Or forgive me for not knowing, but you.
Kind of at school I'd played a little in midfield and played once or twice in midfield during my brief time at Orient. But it wasn't until I was in the team at Forest playing as a striker and doing okay, scoring a few goals, but we signed John O'Hare and we also had Barry Butler at the time. Now, of the three, I was scoring more than John and Barry But. Brian Clough came to me one morning, he said, I have a problem. I want you, Barry Butlin and John O'Hare to be in my team. And of the three, one of you is going to have to play in midfield and you're better equipped to play in midfield than the other two. So that's where I became a midfield player. It took me a while to get to know, basically, positions, but one of the biggest bonuses of me dropping into midfield was that John Robertson moved from a midfield player to being our left winger. So I was very fortunate and John was delighted. It was the making of John.
Let me skirt back a little bit. How did you end up at Forest? Because you'd had early success in your career at Man City, as mentioned, and Forests weren't in a great state necessarily, when you arrived. So what was the journey to Nottingham?
Yeah, I was in the team. I was always a teenager when I played for Manchester City, inasmuch as they sold me when I was 19 years of age, which, rightly or wrongly, well, I think it's wrong no matter who it is, because at 19, it's like somebody being 19 and being expected to be a finished article. You can't be that at 19. Anyway, so I left and I went and signed for Orient in what was Division Two, or today's Championship, and I played there for two seasons. First season, I quite enjoyed it. I didn't take to London, though, and I wasn't particularly happy there. My second season didn't go so well for me personally. And when Dave Mackay was the manager of Forest and I got the opportunity to come out of London to join Nottingham Forest, I couldn't get there quickly if I jumped at it. So that's really how I got to Nottingham in the first place for October 1973. So it's nearly 50 years. Yeah.
So you had a spell. I know it was a very short spell under Dave McKay and then a longer spell under Alan Brown. What were your early days at the club like before we get to the Brian Clough years?
Well, the club before I got there had been relegated, so the club was kind of it was split in two between experienced players that had played in the old first division and been relegated, the likes of Neil Martin, John Winfield, Peter Hindley, Sammy Chapman, Paul Richardson, and a younger element, which was John Robertson. Martin O'Neill. Liam O'Cain. Yeah. He played in the first division as well. So you were in one of the camps, you were the experienced lads kind of moaning about the glory days that you'd just lost, or you were the young ones desperately fighting to get into the first team. So I was kind of in between the two. But talking to you, I'd like to say I was one of the younger ones.
What was it like, then, when Brian Clough came in? It must have been like a bit of a frenzy, I guess, because of what he'd done in the game, coming to Forest. What was it like inside the dressing room?
Well, you just knew that something was going to change. He'd had that kind of profile that we hadn't experienced before as players, and he didn't waste any time kind of putting in place the fact that he was the boss and you're going to do things my way or it's down the road time. He used to have this little I used to get a bit annoyed by it. I quite laugh about it now. But he used to have this trick when he first came in, and you'd see him in the morning in the corridor by the dressing room, and you'd say, Morning, gaffer, and you get no response. And then the next morning, you wouldn't say, Morning, gaffer, and he would say, Are you ignoring kind of you were always on your toes. You didn't know what he's going to do next. No, it was great times. We thought at the time that we were pretty serious about football, but he took us to a different level of the way you saw football and the way you went about. I'm sure we all became 10% more professional overnight.
I think I've asked a lot of the players from your team the same question, but I don't know if you do an impression. Do you recall your first meeting?
I remember my first meeting with Brian Clough because I very rarely got injured. And I was injured the day he came to the club, and I was in the treatment room lying on a medical bed, and he came in and said, right, is this where the sick, the lame and the lazy hangout? Is it? Because I have to say that there are an awful lot of players that are quite happy to be in the treatment room, especially that aren't playing particularly well. It can be the safety zone for players of low confidence, but I was surprised at how tall or how physical presence he had. Yeah. And he just grabbed you. He just got you from day one, wherever he said you listened to whether you agreed with it was something else. But eventually we got to the stage where everybody just agreed with what he said, because it was 100% correct.
Did you ever challenge him? I spoke to Martin O'Neill on this not long ago when he had his book out, and I think he had not a confrontational relationship with him, but he was willing to step up to him. Did you ever challenge the manager or not?
Well, I didn't have a choice. When he first came in January of 75, my contract finished in June of 75. Although they offered me a new contract, Forrest, actually, the terms of it, the collective value of my contract was less than the previous contract. Surprise, surprise. And so I wrote off to the PFA, which is our union, and said, I don't think this is correct, that they're trying to offer me a smaller salary than I had previous contract. So the PFA agreed with me, and via the Football league, I was actually granted a free transfer from Forest in 1975. And Forest I e. Brian Clough appealed against it. And we went down to a tribunal at Lancaster Gate and I was represented by a lad called Derek Dugan, who was a very, very famous player for Wolverhampton Northern Ireland International. And he was the chairman or the players representative of the PFA. So there we are. One afternoon in London. I go down on the train with the club secretary, Kenneth Smiles. Very polite with each other, we were, although when we get to the tribunal, we're on different sides, obviously. Brian turns up in the famous green shirt in the middle of London with all these taxi drivers shouting at Cloughy and to the effect of Cloughy, where's your Dugout?
Can't you find your dugout? So he wasn't really dressed for the occasion to be sat in with some of these dignitaries. So I did challenge him in a backward way with the assistance of the PFA, and we actually agreed a contract without well, we went into the tribunal, but when we went into the tribunal, all we did was tell the tribunal that we agreed a contract. But he used to remind me of it. He used to say, you took me to London on a tribunal. So I used to say, no, Brian. Not Brian. No, Gaffer. You took me because Forrest appealed against the decision. So I didn't take you, you took me. But he didn't forget it. He didn't forget the fact that I'd cost him an evening, an afternoon in London.
Did you have any other clubs lined up? I just wonder how different your career might have been. It sounds like a crossroads.
No. No, because I didn't really want to go anywhere. I was quite happy where I was. I was of the opinion that, rightly or wrongly, things would improve under Brian Clove. And the knowledge that I'd been given a free transfer wasn't common knowledge. So I don't think there were many people, if any, that knew that I could be available for nothing.
How did your relationship evolve over time with him? I mean, you worked with him two spells, but until 1987, was there a big evolution in the kind of bond you had with him, if you had a bond at all?
He didn't call any of the players. Rarely, by the Christian names. It was always your surname. Always your surname, which was some people kind know you've got a Christian name, some people would like to be called by the Christian name, but it never happened, except with Kenneth. Kenneth occasionally got called by his Christian name when he'd done well, but I was just the same as everybody else. We were very much players, he was very much the manager. There was no friendship, I don't see, with even the players he'd had before. John McGovern, John O'Hare. There may be a little bit more respect for them because he'd known them longer, but no, it was my relationship with him, I suppose. I left in 1982, no, left in 1981, came back in 92. So the fact that he brought me back, he must have thought, he must have had some kind of respect for me. And during the five years from 82 to 87, I was captain and he used to call me skipper or the captain. That's as close as he would call your pal every now and again, but not very sincerely.
So I spoke to some players like John McGovern and Gary and Kenny, and I got the impression that they respected the gaffer, and in a mean, Gary especially loved him. I don't know if players really liked him as a bloke or how did you view him in that way?
I always thought that as a bloke, he was the kind of bloke you could have been a friend of his, because he could be quite funny, generally at your expense. But no, certainly everybody respected him, and I believed that 99% of the players that played for him liked him and would play for him again. The 1% was Tony Woodcock. Tony Woodcock, when Brian Clough first came to the club, was the youngest lad in the squad, and as such got some of the rubbish jobs to do. And one of the rubbish jobs before Brian Klopp's, very first game away at Tottenham in the FA Cup, he asked Tony Woodcock to clean his shoes for him. Tony wasn't particularly happy that he had to clean Brian's shoes, but there you no, I honestly think that with the passing of time, you look back and you think, he was good company, he could be funny, but when it came to the actual business side of the job, the man was ruthless.
I just want to go back to 1977, 78. Obviously, you win the league, you sign the great players, like Shilton comes in and you have this incredible season. Did you personally feel ready to go back to the first division? Did you think you could perform as well as you did?
Well, I hadn't played, so it's 77. I hadn't played in the first division for six years. The last time I played in the first division, I was a teenager, so now I'm 25 years of age, certainly stronger, wiser, and if I wasn't going to be up to it now, then I don't think I would ever have been up for it. So I looked at it as being a brilliant opportunity to get myself back and playing at the highest level. So I think the feeling amongst the players was that lots of us had had a sniff of it, some more successfully than others, but we were united in as much that we were going to give it our best to see how good we were and, well, the rest is history, isn't it? We did okay, didn't we?
Certainly did. When did you start to believe when did you start to believe you were going to win the league? And when did you start to believe the following season you could win the European Cup?
Well, our first game was Everton away the year we won the league. And we won the game three one. And believe it or not, into our dressing room after this is gold us into our dressing room after the match came the great Bill Shankley.
Oh, wow. Yeah.
And he's having a word with Brian Clough, obviously. And I overheard him say to Brian, you can win it. If you're in it, you can win it. This is one game into the season.
But he's saying to Brian, if you're in it, you can win. Yeah. You kind of well, the great man thinks we've got a chance. But it wasn't really the game that strengthened everybody's resolve to think that we could win. It was we won four nil away at Old Trafford in December. December is 77. That was the one game that you thought, we must have a chance here. Everybody kept talking about the bubble, our bubble was going to burst, but it never did. And then you get to the stage where we were always four or five points ahead, bearing in mind it was two points for a win. In those days, we weren't losing me, so we always had, effectively, two games start on Liverpool. Everton did come into the picture for a while, but no, we managed to win it and win it comfortably in the end.
When did you start to believe you'd win the European Cup? Was it the Liverpool game? Was it that early?
They were the reigning champions, so as such, you think they're the best team in it. The moment we knock them out, does that make us the best team in it? We don't know, but it says you shouldn't be a million miles off. So we took a great deal of confidence from knocking Liverpool out, yet that really put it in our minds. Know we've got a big chance here.
I bet you haven't done an interview for years and years I've been asked about Cologne and those goals. Is that career highlight for you? Beyond actually winning the finals and lifting trophies, is that the best moment for you?
I think so. Simply of what the goal know everybody had near enough given up on us except for the people of Nottingham. So to score the goal that won the game, that took us to the first European Final. Of course, if you don't get to the first European Final, there would never have been a second European final. So it was what followed on that made the goal so very important. So that honor, certainly, as my time at Forest, that was the highlight. Thank goodness I didn't score an own goal in the game and had to live with that all the years. Can you imagine that the highlight of your career, scoring an own goal in the semifinal of the European oh, my God, that would be terrible. So, yeah, it was just happy times. Everybody about the city, people working in the big factories, the dejon players, the rally factories, the production was going up in these places, if you're happy and you're doing okay, then you're going to produce football or making cycles at rallies.
Was there an immediate appreciation for you as a 26 year old when you lifted that first European Cup? That it was a life changing moment?
It was. It was just that sense of fulfillment that you get from it that, okay, that's it. And that is as high as you can go in terms of club football. Okay, there's the World Cup and the rest of it for international players, but I was never in there, so I'd effectively achieved the highest level I could on willing the European Cup. So that gave me a lot of satisfaction and a lot of confidence going forward for the rest of my career. Knowing that you'd been successful at the.
Top table, you mentioned England there. Correct me for wrong, I don't think you played for England at any level. Gary got three caps. John McGovern never played for Scotland. Even John Robertson didn't get past 30 caps for Scotland. How come that team got so little international recognition? Does it grate on you as well?
No, it doesn't grate on me for 1 second. I never considered myself to be an international footballer. I just consider myself to be a hardworking, honest footballer with limited ability that I knew where I was and I knew exactly what I was. Certainly there were gary Bergles, to my mind, should have got more than three caps. John McGovern was unfortunate. He was competing with the likes of Soonness and our own Archie Gemmel, of course. So, yeah, international teams were difficult to get in, and with some international teams, once you're in the national team, it's actually harder to get out of it today.
So, no, I was quite happy with what I had on my plate at club level. I never give it a second thought, actually. International football the only time I was selected to play for England youth team, and it was a friendly game. We were going to play England. England youth team, which is under 18, were going to play Burnley under 20 ones at Turf Moor, so they picked the squad and I was in the squad and the game was called off with bad weather and I was never called up again, so it wasn't to be, but it never bothered me that much at all.
How come he left in 1981 for Sunderland? Was the manager wanting to freshen up the team and he thought you would want to move on, or was it a personal choice?
What happened was, 1980, we lost to Sophia in the European Cup, and the club, I think, was a little bit short on finance. And of the players that were able to get fees for, because some of the lads had got to an age where they wouldn't really command much cash. And Frank Clark had left and gone to Sunderland. Frank wanted me to go and join him at Sunderland and the club needed the, you know, the two was the was the driver of me going to Sunderland. Excuse me.
Do you have a second thought about coming back, then?
Not at all. Coming back. We had Frank and the manager, Ken Knighton. They got during my very brief, I played 13 games. Oh, there we go. The only injury I ever had was I ruptured a medial ligament in my right knee and I was out of playing for about six months. During that time, Frank and Ken Knighton were sacked and Alan Durbin became the manager. Alan Durbin had worked for Brian Clough at Derby and he came to Sunderland and I thought he was trying to be Brian Clough at times. So we didn't get on too well, Alan and myself, and I asked for a transfer and it was the time Brian had had a health problem. Peter Taylor rang me and told me that he'd like to sign us back at Forest, not to get excited because there wouldn't be any money in it for me, which was part of the course. So when I got the opportunity to come again, yeah, I couldn't get back quickly enough. In fact, I forfeited some signing on money that I was due when I left Forest to join Sunland. So, yeah, I paid to come back to Forest, if you like.
Yeah, I guess you weren't the only one who did that sort. I mean, Gary came back from United unless you were, like, spent big money on Trevor Francis. I'm sure Peter Shiltson was well, but does it make it all the more remarkable that you achieved so much because you didn't have huge amounts of money to bankroll it all, did you?
No. Certainly the likes of Larry Lloyd, Kenny Burns, they weren't big, big signings, they were just really good signings. I think Archie didn't cost a what I don't know what we paid for Peter, but it wasn't anything as much. The only one was Trevor, really, but no, we were just strong, we were united, we had a competitive edge to us, we had a competition in the dressing room. All the positions were up for selection. Yeah. It just worked on a complete basis of we get along, we're doing all competitive. We had we started to lose the senior players like Larry went to Wigan. Where did Martin go? I think he went to Norwich or Man City or one of those. Kenny went to Leeds. So when I went back almost overnight, the dressing room had changed from a very experienced dressing room to a young dressing room where the likes of Stuart Gray, Brynn Gunn, Gary Mills were trying to force their way into the team. So the young lads had had an opportunity, simply because of the finances of the club, had meant that they couldn't go out and get the players that they would have liked to have spell.
That's my second. Yeah, yeah.
You didn't have the same level of success, but you had lots of good players. Players like Hodge and Walker would come through and Pierce would join. Do you have that same sort of fondness, in a way, for your second spell as your first, even though there were differences?
Yeah, I got a great deal I got a great deal of satisfaction from watching so many of these young lads go from being young lads to being capable Division One players. And there were endless amounts. I mean, Liam McCain did a great job with the young lads. I could mean from goalkeepers, I could almost give you a team of them like the Stephen Suttons of this world. Chris Verclough, Peter Davenport, Stephen Wigley. You mentioned Des Walker, Nigel Clough. Okay. Stuart Pierce came, but was bought. But there was an awful lot of young blood that got in the team and became really good players. That spell, certainly myself. We brought Paul Hart in later on. We brought Kenny Swain in later and obviously hans Van, Brooklyn. We signed Hans Van Brooklyn. He was a really good signing and a great guy in the dressing room. So it was a very difficult job. I was there for three seasons. My last season, my very last game, actually, we won the FA Cup. Yes, that's the Welsh FA cup. Matthew.
And that was my last game. And then we had a difference of opinion with regards to my son Gary, and we departed. But I came away from Hereford thinking, well, that's OK. I've got three years under my belt. Now as a manager, I know more about the job, but I applied for different jobs. I never got the look in again.
I had a job interview.
I'm not the only person. I mean, there are lots of people that didn't get one opportunity, so I can't complain and say I didn't get a chance. I did get a chance, but perhaps I took the wrong option. But there you go. Such is life. We live and learn and we move on.
I had a job interview once in Hereford. I didn't realize how remote it was. It's almost impossible to get to. So yeah, I can see why you'd have struggled to get players. You mentioned Gary there. Did you play alongside him in a few games?
Two, I think.
The only two I remember, you have to remember I was picking the team, Matthew. Yeah, so we were short. We had lots of injuries towards the end of the April of 1990 and we had lots of injuries. And Gary Got, gary was a non contract player, which effectively means he's an amateur player at error and he made his debut against Scumthorpe, I think it was. And I was substituting the game and we were losing two nil. I made a great substitution, the manager made a great substitution and brought me on and Gary scored a goal to make it two one and we actually drew the game to each. So, yeah, we did play in the same team together, which was the first time since I think it was David Heard and his father. It's not been done since, and that was 1990. It's not a common thing. And the second occasion, I think was away at oldest shot, obviously the same season Gary started and I came on as a sub, so I think it was twice we played in the same team, but I was always better than him.
How did you end up back at Forest in 2002? Would it been with Paul Hart? How did that come about?
2001, summer of 2000? Yeah, July 2001, I think. Well, I'd been with Trevor Francis at Birmingham and we'd managed to get into the playoffs. Three years on the trot at Birmingham. So the summer, the May of 2001, 2019, 99, we'd been in three playoffs and we'd never got past the first stage of the playoffs. So we didn't even get to the playoff final. And I think the club at Birmingham had I just got the feeling that they wanted to change something around and it was easier to change the coaches. They were never going to get rid of Trevor because he is Mr. Birmingham City. So they swapped the coaches around. I kind of was asked to take the reserves, which I didn't particularly like, having been with the first team for the three years that made the playoffs. So when I got the opportunity, Paul Hart asked me to join him at Forest. I was only too happy to get back. Forest at that stage was a little bit similar to when I went as a player. We had players there that played in the old First Division I e. The Bart Williams, Ricky Schimicker, John Helder.
And then we had the young ones. Janice Dawson, Andy Reed. So it was a question of rebuilding and putting a team together, which after twelve months we managed to do. And then our second season we got to the playoffs against Sheffield United.
No, my lowest moment. As a fan, that second leg.
Yeah, not particularly nice. I was back there for three years. Three and a bit years, and then Joe Kinnear came in. I worked with Joe for probably twelve months or something of that nature. Anyway, then he brought in a couple of coaches of his own, and myself and Liam O'Kane were dismissed. That was my time at Done, but I enjoyed it, I'd had a great time. They had a really good run there. Yeah.
Did you look at that team?
Liam O'Kane. I mentioned Liam O'Kane. Liam O'Kane had been at the club from, I think, 1968 until 2004. Can you believe that? That is some Forest career as player, coach, cruffy's, assistant, you name it. What that lad did for Forest is incredible.
Probably the last question. Did you look at that team with Paul that you had that made the playoff semi finals and think that team could have gone on to do a lot better if they just got that break, got into the Premier League, could it have changed a lot for the club?
Well, I remember going into well, a discussion. It wasn't a board meeting as such, because coaching staff didn't go into board meetings. But we had a chat with Nigel Doughty and Mark Arthur, and we effectively said that with a couple of signings, we think we can be knocking on the door again to get back in the Premiership. Anyway, they didn't quite find the funds for what we wanted to do, and we actually lost both fullbacks Matthew Louis John We lost him. Jim Brennan went to Norwich, I think Ricky Schimicker left and Tottenham had already taken sorry, Newcastle had already taken Jermaine Jennis, so we weren't as strong and we needed to strengthen in some areas, but sadly we didn't really get the funds to do what we thought we needed to do.
Yeah, that was a shame.
Was it? Very sad.
True. Yeah. The players you bought in well, the players you're able to bring in weren't as good, but that's a shame. Last question, what's Forrest mean to you then, now, these years later, back home in Cheshire?
Well, it means I look up on Nottingham as being the place where I was happiest during my football career. I mean, my football career. I made my debut for Man City in 1968, and if I say that I did play a couple of substitute appearances for Hereford in 1990, that's four different decades. And of all those times, Nottingham was way ahead of the others in terms of success, happiness, satisfaction, you name it. I sit and know the games will come on and they'll play Muller pintar and the television and yeah, like everybody says, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. They're just fantastic, fantastic memories that will be with me for the rest of my days. I just wish it was starting again tomorrow.
Do you wish you played tomorrow with all the money in the game now.
Well, everything comes at a price. I always say that. We had a kind of profile that was a lot more private than they have today. Um, literally, if a football player does anything that he shouldn't do nowadays, everybody knows about it. Whereas in our days, you could be looked after a little bit, so everything comes at a price. But, yeah, I wouldn't mind a six month playing career now.
Six months would be I think, yeah.
One day in Saudi Arabia, you'd be set for life. Yeah, true. We'll leave it there. Thanks very much to everyone who's watched along. Hope you enjoyed that. As ever, do like and subscribe. Thank you for listening to Garabaldi Red, a Nottingham Forest podcast. If you enjoyed today's episode, then please let us know. We love hearing your feedback. We'll be back soon with another episode. Thanks for listening.