Alexander "Alex" Govan (born
16 June 1929) is a Scottish former
professional footballer who
played at outside left.
of his career was spent with Plymouth Argyle
(in two spells) and
with Birmingham City
their most successful period in the 1950s. He is credited with
being responsible for Birmingham's fans adopting Harry Lauder
's song "Keep right on to the end
of the road" as their anthem.
was born in Glasgow, Scotland.
schoolboy he played football for Bridgeton Boys Club, and was
level.He was spotted by Plymouth
manager Jack Tresadern
given a trial at the club, and eventually persuaded to make the
long trip south to sign as an apprentice
. Govan admits there was an
incentive apart from the football:
He also played one game for Scotland at youth level against
youth team in
1945.He scored 30 goals in 117 appearances for Plymouth, and was
part of the team that won the Third Division South
championship in the 1951–52
Birmingham City showed an
interest in signing Govan, he was reluctant to move away from the
Plymouth area, as his
wife was a local girl, but when manager Bob Brocklebank promised them a house, the
deal went ahead.
Govan signed for Birmingham in June 1953 for
a fee of £6,500.He scored on his debut and finished that season
with eight goals.With the addition of the prolific Eddy Brown
to regular top scorer Peter Murphy
, a former
league-winner with Tottenham
, combined with the creativity of Govan, fellow Plymouth
winger Gordon Astall
international Noel Kinsey
who had all
joined the club the previous year, the Birmingham forward line
outclassed any other in the Second Division
. All five
reached double figures as the club won the 1955
Though unable to score at such a rate in the top flight, the club
still achieved its highest ever league finish of sixth place.They
also reached the 1956 FA Cup
, and it was during that season's FA Cup campaign that
Govan was responsible for Harry
's song "Keep right on to the end of the road"being
adopted (and adapted)as the anthem of the Birmingham City fans.
There is no definitive explanation of how this happened. One
version has him heard singing it on the coach on the way to the
quarter-final against Arsenal
another has him revealing in a radio interview that it was his
Either way, by the time the football correspondent of The Times
came to write his Cup Final
preview, the song was well enough established for him to describe
Govan pictured in 2008, aged 79
The strengths of Govan's game were hard work, pace on the wing and
exceptional goalscoring ability. In April 1956, his ability was
recognised by the national selectors when he received his only
call-up to the full
for a match against Austria
. Unfortunately for
him the international match was due to be played only three days
before the Cup Final, so Birmingham refused to release him.The
following season he was Birmingham's leading scorer with 30 goals
in all competitions.This was a remarkable tally, especially for a
winger, and included no fewer than five hat-tricks
He also took a productive part in Birmingham's first foray into
European competition in the 1955–58 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup
, scoring both
goals to beat Inter Milan 2–1 and thereby top the qualifying
By 1958 his pace was beginning to flag.Winger Harry Hooper
for a £20,000 fee.In March 1958 Govan was transferred
but failed to settle;
six months later he returned to his first club Plymouth Argyle. He
contributed to the club winning the Third Division
that seasonbefore retiring the following year.
He settled in Plymouth, where he still lives.
- Matthews, Complete Record, p. 189.
- Matthews, Complete Record, p. 190.
- Matthews, Complete Record, p. 192.
- Matthews, Complete Record, p. 98.
- Profile at Post War English & Scottish
Football League A - Z Player's Database.