John Robertson (footballer, born 1953)

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John Robertson
John Robertson (1980).jpg
Robertson in 1980
Personal information
Full nameJohn Neilson Robertson [1]
Date of birth (1953-01-20) 20 January 1953 (age 68) [1]
Place of birth Viewpark, [2] Lanarkshire, Scotland
Position(s) Left winger
Senior career*
1970–1983 Nottingham Forest 386 (61)
1983–1985 Derby County 72 (3)
1985–1986 Nottingham Forest 11 (1)
National team
1978–1983 Scotland 28 (8)
Teams managed
1990–1995 Wycombe Wanderers (assistant)
1995 Norwich City (assistant)
1995–2000 Leicester City (assistant)
2000–2005 Celtic (assistant)
2006–2010 Aston Villa (assistant)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

John Neilson Robertson (born 20 January 1953) is a Scottish former professional footballer. He provided the assisting cross for Trevor Francis to score the only goal when Nottingham Forest won the 1979 European Cup Final. A year later he scored when Forest retained the trophy 1-0 this time against Hamburger SV. At Forest he also won promotion from the 1976-77 Football League Second Division, the 1977-78 Football League First Division, the UEFA Super Cup, two Football League Cups, the 1978 FA Charity Shield and the Anglo-Scottish Cup.


He also played for the full Scotland national football team, scoring the winning goal against England in 1981 and against New Zealand in the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

He has since moved into coaching, acting as assistant to his former Nottingham Forest teammate Martin O'Neill. Robertson's last role was assistant manager at Aston Villa between 2006 and 2010.

Playing career

Nottingham Forest (first spell)

Robertson had played for Scotland at Schoolboy and Youth levels and for Drumchapel Amateurs before joining Forest in May 1970, making his debut for the team in October 1970. Although he was an infrequent member of the first team as a midfielder up to 1975, and was on the transfer list when Clough became manager, Robertson became a key player as a left winger under Clough and appeared in 243 consecutive games between December 1976 and December 1980. He scored the winning goal, a penalty, for Forest in the 1978 Football League Cup Final replay against Liverpool. He also scored the winner in the 1980 European Cup Final against Hamburg and provided the cross for the winning goal in the 1979 European Cup Final, scored by Trevor Francis, against Malmö FF.

Brian Clough, Robertson's manager at Nottingham Forest, was quoted as saying "John Robertson was a very unattractive young man. If one day, I felt a bit off colour, I would sit next to him. I was bloody Errol Flynn in comparison. But give him a ball and a yard of grass, and he was an artist, the Picasso of our game." [3] In his autobiography Clough noted that "Rarely could there have been a more unlikely looking professional athlete... [He was a] scruffy, unfit, uninterested waste of time...but something told me he was worth persevering with." but that "[He] became one of the finest deliverers of a football I have ever seen – in Britain or anywhere else in the world – as fine as the Brazilians or the supremely gifted Italians." [4] Robertson's captain at Forest, John McGovern, later said that "John Robertson was like Ryan Giggs but with two good feet, not one. He had more ability than Ryan Giggs, his ratio of creating goals was better and overall he was the superior footballer", whilst Forest coach Jimmy Gordon rated Robertson as a better player than Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews, saying that he "had something extra on top". [5]

Later playing career

Robertson was sold to Derby County in June 1983 on a contested transfer (the fee was set by a tribunal) that soured the relationship between Clough and his former assistant Peter Taylor, but was injured soon after joining the team and failed to reproduce the form he had shown when he played for Forest. Although he rejoined Forest on a free transfer in August 1985, he remained well below his former best and moved to non-league Corby Town at the end of the 1985/86 season. He also had stints with Stamford and Grantham Town.

Coaching career

After retiring from playing, Robertson has been variously chief scout and assistant manager to former Nottingham Forest teammate Martin O'Neill at Wycombe Wanderers, Norwich City, Leicester City, Celtic and Aston Villa.


Robertson was voted into first place in a 2015 poll by the Nottingham Post of favourite all-time Nottingham Forest players. [6]

Personal life

Robertson's daughter, Jessica, was born in 1983 with cerebral palsy, which left her quadriplegic and unable to speak or control her movements. She had a short life expectancy. In 1994, Robertson and his former wife Sally challenged the hospital where Jessica was born for damages, claiming that they had caused her brain damage by a 12-hour delay to carry out a Caesarean section. However, they lost their High Court case.[ citation needed ]

Robertson's fellow daughter Liz appeared on the first ever episode of BBC's quiz show TNL: Who Dares Wins in 2007.

Robertson released his autobiography Supertramp in September 2012. He supported Rangers as a boy, but describes his time at Celtic as assistant to Martin O'Neill as the best years of his life in football. [7]

Robertson suffered a suspected heart attack while playing tennis with former Forest teammate Liam O'Kane on 23 August 2013. Fans of Celtic, Derby County, Leicester City and Nottingham Forest took to social network sites to wish him well. [8]

Career statistics


Club [9] SeasonLeagueFA CupLeague CupEuropeOther [A] Total
Nottingham Forest 1970–71 First Division 20000020
1971–72 First Division1300000130
1972–73 Second Division 3243000354
1973–74 Second Division50200050
1974–75 Second Division2004110251
1975–76 Second Division3952040455
1976–77 Second Division4165320925711
1977–78 First Division421263835618
1978–79 First Division429308492116316
1979–80 First Division42112110493206519
1980–81 First Division38662412020529
1981–82 First Division3621051423
1982–83 First Division3461053409
Derby County 1983–84 Second Division3124020372
1984–85 Third Division 411104120482
Nottingham Forest 1985–86 First Division1101000120
Career total469644110531720516359999
A.  ^ The "Other" column constitutes appearances and goals in the FA Charity Shield, Anglo-Scottish Cup, Football League Trophy, European Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup.


Scotland national team [10]

International goals

Scores and results list Scotland's goal tally first
1.7 June 1979 Ullevaal Stadion, OsloFlag of Norway.svg  Norway 3–04–0 ECQG2
2.19 December 1979 Hampden Park, GlasgowFlag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 1–31–3 ECQG2
3.28 April 1981 Hampden Park, GlasgowFlag of Israel.svg  Israel 1–03–1 WCQG6
5.23 May 1981 Wembley Stadium, LondonFlag of England.svg  England 1–01–0 BHC
6.9 September 1981 Hampden Park, GlasgowFlag of Sweden.svg  Sweden 2–02–0 WCQG6
7.15 June 1982 Estadio La Rosaleda, Málaga Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 4–25–2 WCG6
8.21 September 1983 Hampden Park, GlasgowFlag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay 1–02–0 Friendly


Nottingham Forest [11]

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  1. 1 2 "John Robertson". Barry Hugman's Footballers. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  2. Robertson, John (2011). John Robertson: Supertramp - My Autobiography. Mainstream Publishing Company (EDINBURGH) LTD. ISBN   9781780572345.
  3. "They said it: Brian Clough". FIFA. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2009. John Robertson was a very unattractive young man. If one day I was feeling a bit off colour, I would sit next to him. I was bloody Errol Flynn compared to him. But give him a yard of grass and he was an artist. The Picasso of our game.
  4. pp, 152, 155, Clough, Brian (1994), Clough: The Autobiography, Partridge Press
  5. McRae, Donald (19 October 2015). "John Robertson: 'It took Clough and Taylor for me to realise my talent'". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  6. "Nottingham Forest top 5 players of all-time: John Robertson simply the best". Nottinghamshire Post. Local World. 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  7. Mark Guidi (11 November 2011). "John Robertson: If Martin O'Neill calls up I'll be back in football in a minute". Daily Record. Media Scotland. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  8. This is Derbyshire
  9. John Robertson at the English National Football Archive (subscription required)
  10. John Robertson profile National Football Teams
  11. "Honours". Nottingham Forest FC. Archived from the original on 22 September 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2013.