John Spencer (Scottish footballer)

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John Spencer
John Spencer.jpg
Personal information
Full name John Spencer[1]
Date of birth (1970-09-11) 11 September 1970 (age 47)
Place of birth Glasgow, Scotland
Height 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m)
Playing position Forward
Youth career
Rangers SABC[2]
1982–1988 Rangers
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1988–1992 Rangers 13 (2)
1988–1989Morton (loan) 4 (1)
1989–1990Lai Sun (loan) 24 (20)
1992–1997 Chelsea 103 (36)
1996–1997Queens Park Rangers (loan) 25 (17)
1997–1998 Queens Park Rangers 23 (5)
1998–1999Everton (loan) 6 (0)
1998–1999 Everton 3 (0)
1998–1999Motherwell (loan) 21 (7)
1999–2000 Motherwell 33 (11)
2001–2004 Colorado Rapids 88 (37)
Total 343 (136)
National team
1994–1997 Scotland 14 (0)
Teams managed
2006–2010 Houston Dynamo (assistant)
2011–2012 Portland Timbers
2016 Colorado Rapids (assistant)
2017 San Jose Earthquakes (assistant)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

John Spencer (born 11 September 1970) is a Scottish former professional footballer and coach.

As a player, he was a forward from 1988 until 2004, notably in the Premier League for Chelsea and Everton and the Scottish Premier League for Rangers and Motherwell. He also played in his native country for Morton, in Hong Kong for Lai Sun and back in England in the Football League with Queens Park Rangers. He finished his career in the United States with a three-year spell with the Colorado Rapids. He also earned 14 caps for Scotland. Since retiring in 2004, Spencer has remained in America, and was assistant coach of Houston Dynamo before becoming head coach of the Portland Timbers in 2011 until being relieved of his coaching position on 9 July 2012. Spencer returned to the Colorado Rapids as an assistant coach in 2016, before joining the San Jose Earthquakes in a similar role for the 2017 season, until both Spencer and head coach Dominic Kinnear were let go on 25 June 2017.

Club career[edit]


Spencer started his career at Rangers, signing with the club as a schoolboy in 1982 and as a professional in 1985. Future Scotland colleague Eoin Jess was a teammate at youth level.[3] His signing, even as a 12-year-old schoolboy who had yet to play a competitive senior match proved problematic; Spencer was Catholic and the club had a strong Protestant culture. His decision to sign for Rangers meant that he was regularly threatened and challenged to fights at the Catholic school he attended, St Ninian's High School in Giffnock, while Celtic-supporting members of his family would walk by him in the street, and have never spoken to him since.[4] He also encountered sectarianism within Rangers, as one player remarked to him that "you'll be fucking happy now that we've signed one of your kind" when it became known that Mo Johnston would sign for the club.[4]

Spencer made his debut for Rangers in 1987, appearing 13 times and scoring twice. In 1988, he was loaned by then manager Graeme Souness to Morton, where he made four appearances (scoring once) before returning to Ibrox. Spencer remained a fringe player at Ibrox and after a further loan spell with Lai Sun[5] of Hong Kong was sold in 1992 to Chelsea for a fee of £450,000.


At Chelsea, Spencer enjoyed a consistent period of playing in his career. Between 1992 and 1996, he made 103 appearances and scored 36 goals.[citation needed] Spencer was featured in the Chelsea team which lost 4–0 to Manchester United in the 1994 FA Cup Final.

Queens Park Rangers[edit]

In November 1996, recently appointed Chelsea manager Ruud Gullit sold Spencer for £2.5 million to Queens Park Rangers, then in the second tier of English football, the First Division. Spencer appeared 56 times and scored 25 goals, but QPR failed to gain promotion to the Premier League after Spencer's initial season, and in his second flirted with relegation.


In 1998, he moved to Everton, initially on loan, but subsequently for a fee of £1.5 million. Reunited with Walter Smith, his former manager at Rangers, Spencer's career at Everton quickly stalled, as he struggled to make the grade as a Premiership player. After only eight months and nine games he was loaned to Motherwell.


In 1999, Spencer's move to Motherwell was made permanent, for a club-record fee of £500,000. Spencer's signing was seen as evidence of a raised level ambition at Fir Park. Scoring 21 times in 81 appearances spread over three seasons, Spencer's time at Motherwell was tempered by a series of injuries. His final season, 2000–01, saw three goals. As Motherwell sought to cut costs, Spencer was sold to Colorado Rapids on 21 February 2001.

Colorado Rapids[edit]

Spencer made an impressive MLS debut with the Rapids.[6] In his first year, he started 22 games, and finished the year with 14 goals and seven assists, and was subsequently named to the MLS Best XI. Spencer's second year was once more hampered by injuries, but he still finished with five goals and four assists in 13 games. He returned to form in 2003, leading the team in scoring again with 14 goals and five assists, winning a place in the MLS Best XI, as well as ranking as a finalist for the MLS MVP Award.

In 2004, as injuries kept him out of several games, he finished the season with four goals and one assist in 19 starts. He retired after the season. On 30 August 2009, Spencer was inducted into the Rapids Gallery of Honor at halftime of the Dynamo's 1–0 loss to the Rapids

International career[edit]

Spencer's prominence at Chelsea saw him gain the first of 14 caps for the Scotland national team, appearing as a substitute in a 1–1 draw with Russia at Hampden Park in Scotland's successful campaign to qualify for the 1996 European Championship.

Coaching career[edit]

Houston Dynamo[edit]

Upon retiring from his playing career, Spencer joined Houston Dynamo as an assistant coach on Dominic Kinnear's staff. With Spencer on staff, the Dynamo won back-to-back MLS Cup championships in 2006 and 2007. Spencer also served as the head coach for the Dynamo Reserves and led that squad to the 2008 MLS Reserve Division Championship.[7]

Portland Timbers[edit]

Appointed the first head coach in the Timbers' MLS history on 10 Aug. 2010,[8] Spencer led the Timbers to a successful season in 2011, finishing on the brink of a coveted MLS Cup playoff berth in what was his first season as a head coach and the club's inaugural MLS season.[9]

Under Spencer's guidance in 2011, the Timbers opened their MLS era with a historic start, winning their first five MLS matches on their home field at Jeld-Wen Field. Portland became the first MLS expansion side to win the first five home matches of its inaugural season.[10] The Timbers' momentum at home continued throughout the season as the club finished among MLS leaders in goals scored at home (30) and home wins (9).[11] The Timbers' success at home combined with energy of their passionate supporters group, the Timbers Army, gave Jeld-Wen Field the reputation of being one of the most intimidating venues for visiting teams in MLS. The club's 11 wins in 2011 ranks tied for fourth with the 2006 Houston Dynamo among wins for MLS "expansion" franchises (that Houston franchise being a relocated San Jose Earthquakes franchise).[12]

Known as a "players coach", Spencer installed an attacking style of play and a blue-collar, hard-working mentality to the Timbers in his first season at the helm.[13] Following a slow start for the Timbers in their second season, Spencer was relieved of his coaching duties for the Portland Timbers in July 2012.[14]

Personal life[edit]

John Spencer is brother-in-law to Scottish football manager Billy Davies, who has managed Motherwell, Preston North End, Derby County and Nottingham Forest.[15]

Managerial record[edit]

As of 21 May 2012
Team From To Record1
G W D L Win %
Portland Timbers 10 August 20102 9 July 2012 45 14 12 19 031.11
Total 45 14 12 19 031.11
  • 1.^ Includes league, playoffs, cup and CONCACAF Champions League.
  • 2.^ Spencer was hired as the first coach of the Major League Soccer franchise; not as the club's USSF Division 2 Professional League coach.


  1. ^ "John Spencer". Barry Hugman's Footballers. Retrieved 16 April 2017. 
  2. ^ "SABC continue to create stars for the future". Youth Football Scotland. 6 November 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2017. 
  3. ^ "Don't come home too soon, warns Jess". The Scotsman. 22 January 2005. Retrieved 21 May 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "John Spencer doubts Rangers' prospective new owner will be able to tackle the club's sectarian rump". The Scotsman. 9 April 2011. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "Pat Nevin: Attempts To Have It All". Chelsea Football Club. Archived from the original on 2008-06-02. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  6. ^ Whitehead, Johnnie (2001-06-04). "Spencer stands out for MLS' foundering Rapids". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  7. ^ "Head Coach – John Spencer". Portland Timbers. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  8. ^ "Timbers introduce John Spencer as first MLS head coach". Portland Timbers. 11 August 2010. Archived from the original on 27 November 2010. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  9. ^ "Portland Timbers find success despite missing playoffs in first MLS season | | The Bulletin". 2011-10-25. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  10. ^ "Most Popular E-mail Newsletter". USA Today. 22 May 2011. 
  11. ^ "Standings". Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  12. ^ "Quotes & Notes: Timbers @ Real Salt Lake, Oct. 22, 2011". Portland Timbers. 21 October 2011. Archived from the original on 30 October 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  13. ^ "John Spencer's scrappy style inspires expansion Timbers side – MLS – soccer – ESPN". 2011-10-19. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  14. ^ "PTimbers coach John Spencer relieved of duties with club". 9 July 2012. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  15. ^ "News | npower Championship | npower Championship news | Davies leaves Forest". The Football League. 2009-01-01. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 

External links[edit]