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Wednesday spell ruined Lewis McGugan


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That’s what he says… Interesting chat.

https://www.nottinghampost.com/sport/football/football-news/lewis-mcgugan-explains-collapse-career-7313465

Lewis McGugan fought back a tear late into a trial match for Scunthorpe United in early 2019.

He had not played professionally in over a year, since a short stint at Northampton Town. Dragged down by constant futile attempts to get back into the game, this was his final push to make sure a 3-1 defeat to Portsmouth was not the last appearance of his career at the age of 29.
 

He felt he played well, but once again, it was a no. That was the final straw for the midfielder. Fans will be baffled how a career which was so bright had fallen so far. McGugan was a key player for Nottingham Forest, had success under Gianfranco Zola at Watford and initially flourished at Sheffield Wednesday. But after that game for Scunthorpe went nowhere, he knew it was over.

 

He told this week's Garibaldi Red podcast it was a relief to accept the end after a nightmare spell at Wednesday - where he was frozen out for a year - damaged his mental health and changed him as a person, as he tried to explain just what went wrong.

"There's so many elements to it. Is there stuff I could have done better? Could I have made different decisions? One hundred percent. There's also stuff I had to go through. My time at Sheffield Wednesday ruined my career," he said.

"I was in the wilderness. There was nothing I could do. That period changed my career. There was a gap where everyone was thinking what happened? Some of the stuff took it's toll on me. I went through such a bad period I didn't realise at the time what it was doing to me mentally. Growing up and being in football, it was different then. You show weakness and there's no place for it.

"You create a shield and it's sad for me. When I got away from the club (Wednesday) I wasn't the same person or player. When you go to the other clubs they all ask about that gap in playing for over a year. I understand that but people just make assumptions.

"I went into clubs and kept as fit as possible and I'd be as professional as possible. Clubs kept bringing up that I hadn't played. I can't change that. Are we going to look at that or the future and what I can change?

"I miss playing football but the other side of it, I can't stand it. There's so much politics and so many people looking after themselves. You become a pawn in the grand scheme. I was a dad coming back to my son and I regret that I was a world away. I needed to be a dad. I needed to be here in body and mind.

"I said I'll give it one last go at Scunthorpe. Perchy (former Reds defender James Perch) was there at the time. That had a team of good pros. It was the first time in ages I felt I could go again. I was affecting training every day. Players were saying I was flying, but it was never going to happen.

"I'd been there for three months not getting paid using my own money to travel. I said to my agent is something going to happen? He said they wanted to make sure I could play 90 minutes and there's a game coming up.

"I played in the game, scored and did well. I was in the game and with 15 minutes to go I nearly shed a tear because I was finally going to get a break and get back into an environment where I could resurrect everything.

"Afterwards they said there was no more budget to sign me. I drove home and said I had to look after myself, my headspace and be a dad. That was pretty much it really. I didn't want to be anywhere near football. I had nothing to do with it for two or three years."

McGugan spent three years at Wednesday and scored nine goals in 39 games having initially joined on loan under Stuart Gray, a man who he describes as the best manager for him to play under. However, he was frozen out by Gray's replacement Carlos Carvalhal before leaving Hillsborough in October 2017. He signed for Northampton later that month but left the following January.

It was an inauspicious ending to a career which still delivered so many memorable moments. He made more than 150 appearances for Forest and scored the goal which has been voted the greatest ever at the City Ground (more on that later). McGugan came through the ranks at Forest under Colin Calderwood, but he played in the reserves when Gary Megson was manager alongside senior exiles including Marlon King, Neil Harris and Gareth Taylor.

A promising talent from a young age, he played in Forest's Under-18s as a 15-year-old and says he effectively left full time education after year 10 to focus on full-time football. At a few points throughout the podcast, McGugan refers to luck and pivotal moments that changed his destiny but were out of his control. An injury to Sammy Clingan gave him a chance to play in the ill-fated League One campaign of 2006/07 before he helped Forest win promotion a year later.

McGugan enjoyed his best years in Forest's midfield under Billy Davies as Forest twice made the play-offs with McGugan scoring 13 goals in the 2010/11 season. It was a relationship where the former England youth international admits he was always trying to prove a point after Davies publicly said the player was not fit enough in March 2009.

"We had a relationship where I had to get used to his way of working. I should have done that quicker. We could have met in the middle more in the early stages," he said.

"He was critical of me in the paper. I was 19 or 20 at the time. I needed more help to understand my body a little more. I didn't think him saying that helped, but he had to do what he felt he needed to do.

"You learn from it, you grow up and understand your body. That's part of your career evolving. I had my best years under Billy. I always felt I had to prove him wrong. He was on at me like the rest of the squad. He was at full tilt all the time, but he created an environment I've not been in since, where we were so close. It was us against the world.

"If you see what we achieved in those times, it was a given to be in the play-offs. That was down to him and his man management."

McGugan was a scorer of great goals for Forest, but the most memorable will be his free-kick against Ipswich in October 2010, winner of said vote for the best ever goal at the City Ground. A dipping, swerving 35-yard rocket, it was perfectly witnessed by Reds great Chris Cohen.

He said: "It was me and Chrissy Cohen over the ball just before half-time. I could have played it short, but I thought get the ball on target and maybe we get a rebound. I told Chrissy I was going to hit it. He said if this goes in I'm going home!

"I knew when I hit it, it had that dip. There's an angle from behind where you can see the movement of the ball. It's a goal that will stay in people's mind."

For McGugan, the club began to change when Fawaz Al Hasawi took over and players began arriving on big money. Davies returned distracted from the task at hand but wanted him to stay, however, McGugan says a contract offer was never forthcoming and he left on a free transfer in 2013 in what he sees as bitterly disappointing circumstances.

"It was a mad time. That's where I thought maybe I needed a fresh start. I loved the club but it was going a funny direction. Forest had been known as a tight knit club where you had people who had been there for years and it was losing what it was about," he said.

"I didn't want to leave but at this point I was questioning if it's the Forest I knew and it wasn't. When Billy came back he told me I'd lost too much weight! He said I wasn't the same player and didn't have that power. I'm thinking you did what you did two or three years ago publicly and now I'm too light?

"I was older and understood my body more by that point. When he came back there was a few of us from his first spell and we said to the lads you'll love the environment. To us he was normal Billy, but to the outside world he had stuff that was dragging him from the main goal.

"When he came back the club was in a bad way but fans loved Billy. Fawaz gave him everything on a plate in terms of backing him. He couldn't concentrate on the team, I think he was thinking about stuff that had happened previously.

"My contract was up that summer. I wanted to stay and he wanted me to stay. There was so much going on in the background. I kept it quiet for a long time when a lot of fans thought I just left and blah, blah, blah. I had no choice in the end. I left the season with Billy saying we could do something.

I had offers but wanted to stay at Forest now I was a senior player. I was more mature and he saw me as a different person. I got a call from the club secretary when I was in New York on holiday with Chambo (Luke Chambers) saying Billy wanted to see me and my agent.

"We met with him and was told an offer would be made in the next 24 to 48 hours. I never heard from Nottingham Forest Football Club again. Now I'm out of contract. Where do I go? The way I left was nothing to do with me. I didn't want it to end like that. It was a sad way for it to end."

McGugan would sign for Watford and score 11 goals in his first season, flying under the guidance of Zola before his time at Vicarage Road soured following the Chelsea legend's exit. These days McGugan is rediscovering his love of the game in non league football working alongside head coach Brad Munn atLoughborough Dynamo in the Northern Premier League Midlands Division.

He aims to be a manager at the highest level in the long term. In the short term he is happy being back in a team environment, helping players improve, although he cannot bring himself to return to playing at the age of just 33.

"I can help people. Did I ever think it (his career) would end that way? No, but it had worn me down that much I had to get away. It was a relief not to get the phone calls off agents anymore. I didn't want to go through that cycle any more. Players are human beings. They have lives and families," he said.

"I've got that football environment back without the politics. You've got honest lads finding their way. It's been a breathe of the fresh air for me. It's exactly what I needed.

"I needed to be back in a changing room after being without it so long. So many people ask me why I don't play. I want to be a manager at the highest level but you can't play and be on the staff.

"If I was going to play I'd want to be 100 percent and I don't feel at this time, I can't play at 50 percent Lewis McGugan. I'd rather concentrate on the next stage of my career and life and that's coaching and management."

 

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Yes, a lot goes on that we never find out about. He's not the first player to rate Stuart Gray. At times his style of football made my eyes bleed, but he seems well respected in the game, certainly as a coach

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55 minutes ago, Tylluan said:

Didn't he arrive back late for pre season and/or around a stone overweight?

 

Thats how I remember it, Ty. I maybe wrong but he did seem to give up a little to easily to get a regular place in the starting line up 

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21 minutes ago, HoylandOwl said:

Carlos said he refused to play as ‘number 10’

Yes, remember something along the lines of "a players agent told me his client did not want to play a certain position,I told him I don't speak to agents about these things, I only speak with the player" having said that think mcguigan needs to look in the mirror.

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Just now, Billysboy said:

Yes, remember something along the lines of "a players agent told me his client did not want to play a certain position,I told him I don't speak to agents about these things, I only speak with the player" having said that think mcguigan needs to look in the mirror.

Mcgugan before anybody starts🙄

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Carlos gave him the number 10 shirt and started him ahead of Lee in the first game of the season at home to Bristol City (and probably the first few games, without checking) so it's not like he didn't give him an opportunity.

It'll have been down to McGugan's attitude and unwillingness to work hard or follow the game plan surely. Similarly, I'm not buying into other clubs wouldn't give him a chance, just sounds like excuses.

Edited by Kingys Ginger Mullet
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The bit about Scunthorpe not being able to afford him seems odd as well. He wasn't getting paid while he was training so why stick a demand in for a contract? 

Why not pay as you play on minimal money, to put yourself in the shop window, with an instant walk away clause if a club with a contract comes in. 

Instead, he says "oh no they couldn't afford me. I'll have to sit on my arse again and ponder what's next" He could have offered to play for academy money or even play for traveling expenses but he didn't. 

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1 hour ago, Tylluan said:

The bit about Scunthorpe not being able to afford him seems odd as well. He wasn't getting paid while he was training so why stick a demand in for a contract? 

Why not pay as you play on minimal money, to put yourself in the shop window, with an instant walk away clause if a club with a contract comes in. 

Instead, he says "oh no they couldn't afford me. I'll have to sit on my arse again and ponder what's next" He could have offered to play for academy money or even play for traveling expenses but he didn't. 

Not being funny Ty but I wouldn't go to work every day for travel expenses. Playing for lower wage and shop window at a reasonable age I'd agree with 

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51 minutes ago, holmesfield_owl said:

Not being funny Ty but I wouldn't go to work every day for travel expenses. Playing for lower wage and shop window at a reasonable age I'd agree with 

But, according to that interview, he'd been turning up to training for three months without any form of pay. In his words he says he was finally going to get back to an environment where he could resurrect everything. Yet, if his side of it is to be believed, they couldn't afford him. They had no budget. 

If it meant that much and you thought it was your last chance then you'd have found a way and money wouldn't have been an issue 

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1 hour ago, Tylluan said:

But, according to that interview, he'd been turning up to training for three months without any form of pay. In his words he says he was finally going to get back to an environment where he could resurrect everything. Yet, if his side of it is to be believed, they couldn't afford him. They had no budget. 

If it meant that much and you thought it was your last chance then you'd have found a way and money wouldn't have been an issue 

Think he thought I'll show willing, expecting a contract, didn't get one and gave up which sounds like his attitude to life

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Prutton v Rochdale(?) and McGugan v Preston. Two goals that are stuck in my mind. The first games at Hillsborough after being abroad. I just searched for him on YouTube and there's some cracking goals. I found the one against Preston and remembered Alex Lopez now I suddenly feel a bit sad. 

Edited by tomcore
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McFuckingGugan? Like playing with 10 men when the opposition had possession. When Fessi turned up it felt like we’d been liberated from hoping for the best from that kind of twat.

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He was a proper enigma, when we had him on loan under Gray, looked a good player. The issue I had with him, which I think Carlos saw straight away was that he wasn’t disciplined enough to play in the middle of a four. There were some games where I genuinely think that he didn’t even put a toe into a tackle even under Gray. But he has stacks of ability, good passer, mobile, had a trick.

When he ultimately got outed as someone who didn’t want to play as a 10, that was him done. He fancied himself as a central midfield player, but didn’t fancy some of the work needed to do it.

Ironically enough, with the adoption of new systems, he’d have been more suited to the systems that exist today than the ones prior. 3-4-1-2. 4-2-3-1. He’d have fit both of them.

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21 minutes ago, KrolMong said:

He was a proper enigma, when we had him on loan under Gray, looked a good player. The issue I had with him, which I think Carlos saw straight away was that he wasn’t disciplined enough to play in the middle of a four. There were some games where I genuinely think that he didn’t even put a toe into a tackle even under Gray. But he has stacks of ability, good passer, mobile, had a trick.

When he ultimately got outed as someone who didn’t want to play as a 10, that was him done. He fancied himself as a central midfield player, but didn’t fancy some of the work needed to do it.

Ironically enough, with the adoption of new systems, he’d have been more suited to the systems that exist today than the ones prior. 3-4-1-2. 4-2-3-1. He’d have fit both of them.

Can't agree more.

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