John Robertson (footballer, born 1953)

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John Robertson
Personal information
Full name John Neilson Robertson
Date of birth (1953-01-20) 20 January 1953 (age 62)
Place of birth Uddingston, Scotland
Height 1.74 m (5 ft 8 12 in)
Playing position Left winger
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1970–1983 Nottingham Forest 385 (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.
† Appearances (Goals).

John Neilson Robertson (born 20 January 1953 in Uddingston) is a former Scottish footballer. He played for Nottingham Forest when they were at the peak of their success under manager Brian Clough, notably scoring the only goal in a 1–0 victory in the 1980 European Cup Final against Hamburger SV. 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.

Nottingham Forest (first spell)[edit]

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 Malmo 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."[1] 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."[2]

Later playing career[edit]

Robertson was sold to Derby County F.C. 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 F.C. at the end of the 1985/86 season. He also had stints with Stamford F.C. and Grantham Town F.C..

In 1997, FourFourTwo magazine declared that John Robertson was 63rd in the 100 greatest footballers of all time. He was also voted No 1 Nottingham Forest player of all time, forcing Stuart Pearce into second place, in a 2005 poll run by fans.[citation needed]

Non playing career[edit]

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

Personal life[edit]

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 had 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.[3]

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.[4]

Robertson suffered a suspected heart attack while playing tennis with former Forest team-mate 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.[5]


Nottingham Forest

Career statistics[edit]

Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
England League FA Cup League Cup Europe Total
1970–71 Nottingham Forest First Division 2 0
1971–72 13 0
1972–73 Second Division 32 4
1973–74 5 0
1974–75 20 0
1975–76 39 5
1976–77 41 6
1977–78 First Division 42 12
1978–79 42 9
1979–80 42 11
1980–81 38 6
1981–82 36 2
1982–83 34 6
1983–84 Derby County Second Division 31 1
1984–85 Third Division 41 1
1985–86 Nottingham Forest First Division 11 0
Total England 469 63
Career total 469 63

International goals[edit]

Scores and results list Scotland's goal tally first.
# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 7 June 1979 Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo  Norway 3–0 4–0 ECQG2
2 19 December 1979 Hampden Park, Glasgow  Belgium 1–3 1–3 ECQG2
3 28 April 1981 Hampden Park, Glasgow  Israel 1–0 3–1 WCQG8
4 28 April 1981 Hampden Park, Glasgow  Israel 2–0 3–1 WCQG8
5 23 May 1981 Wembley Stadium, London  England 1–0 1–0 BHC
6 9 September 1981 Hampden Park, Glasgow  Sweden 2–0 2–0 WCQG8
7 15 June 1982 Estadio La Rosaleda, Málaga  New Zealand 4–2 5–2 WCG6
8 21 September 1983 Hampden Park, Glasgow  Uruguay 1–0 2–0 Friendly


  1. ^ "The things they say: Brian Clough". FIFA. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 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. 
  2. ^ pp, 152, 155, Clough, Brian (1994), Clough: The Autobiography, Partridge Press
  3. ^
  4. ^ Daily Record (11 November 2011). "John Robertson: If Martin O'Neill calls up I'll be back in football in a minute". Retrieved 7 November 2013. 
  5. ^

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