Exclusive: Neil Warnock 'furious' over Nottingham Forest 'racism' accusations, saying claim stems from a 20-year-old grudge

The former Leeds United and QPR manager turned down the opportunity to manage Forest until the end of the season

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The Independent Football

Neil Warnock has angrily rejected John McGovern’s claim that the veteran manager made ‘racist’ comments about the Kuwaiti ownership of Nottingham Forest and suggested the club ambassador’s comments were motivated by a 20-year-old grudge.

Warnock recently turned down an offer to become Forest manager until the end of the season fearing owner Fawaz Al Hasawi would interfere in team selection. While negotiations were continuing Warnock said he wanted to sign Lee Peltier on loan from Leeds. Forest rushed through the signing believing Peltier needed to be recruited by Monday lunchtime to play in a Tuesday night fixture.

This turned out to be mistaken and when Warnock pulled out Peltier was left in limbo. Warnock subsequently said in his Independent column that “the situation with Lee’s transfer showed Forest need a chief executive type who knows the English game to run the club day to day”. He expressed similar sentiments on Nottingham local radio stating 'there was nobody at the club English-wise that knew about football'.

McGovern, who captained Forest to their European Cup-winning triumphs of 1979 and 1980, and recently returned to the club as an ‘ambassador’, said: "I was amazed by what Neil said. I thought it was racist actually, what he said about the club and the interference by the chairman. It annoyed me."

John McGovern


In his Independent column tomorrow Warnock says there is “a bit of history” between him and McGovern. He explains: “About 20 years ago I took over as manager at Plymouth Argyle after he had been working there with Peter Shilton. It seems he has never forgiven me as I’ve not been on his Christmas card list ever since and we’ve had a few run-ins. So while I was furious to read that he had accused me of racism I wasn’t entirely surprised.”


McGovern was Shilton’s assistant when the pair left Argyle with the club heading for relegation to the fourth tier. The following season Warnock won promotion back to the third tier. While Warnock went on to manage Sheffield United and QPR in the Premier League McGovern had two years at Rotherham followed by spells at non-League Woking and Ilkeston being sacked by the latter in 2001. He has subsequently covered Forest for local radio.

Warnock added: “After the fiasco that surrounded Forest’s signing of Lee Peltier I’d said that Forest needed someone with experience of the English game.

“According to McGovern this is racist. It is an awful thing to say. As well as insulting me, this also belittles the victims of genuine racism, which is still far too prevalent.

“I can only assume McGovern hopes his ambassadorial role will soon lead to a more substantial job at the club and is seeking to get some brownie points with his chairman.”