Ever wondered what happened to City players of yore? Stephen Curnow has done some research on some familiar, and long-forgotten Canary faces for a new series. First up, perennial Soccer Saturday pundit Tony Cottee...
Tony Cottee played nine games for Norwich City during a brief spell in 2000, a small drop in the ocean of more than 700 games that he played in a creditable career which belies the banality of his contributions to Soccer Saturday in more recent times.
Cottee was the most expensive player in the country when he joined Everton for a then-whopping £2.2 million pounds in 1988. His time at Everton never quite hit the heights that it might have. Everton had arguably been the best team of the 80’s but had been deprived of the chance to add to their two domestic titles on the European stage on account of the exclusion precipitated by their neighbours’ behaviour at Heysel.
Cottee was signed as a belated replacement for Gary Lineker, but a hat-trick on his debut proved to be a false dawn as the highlight of his time at Goodison proved to be defeat in the FA Cup final of 1989. We all know who they beat in the semis, the bastards.
Cottee’s headed back to former club, West Ham before departing them for a second time, this time with somewhat less fanfare, bound for the traditional journeyman striker’s mandatory obscure spell in Malaysia.
He was rescued by a three-year stint at Martin O’Neil’s buoyant Leicester City, a spell which belatedly featured the first domestic honour of his career, the 2000 League Cup. By the time he arrived at Carrow Road, aged 35 in September 2000, he was seeking an Indian Summer at the end of a swansong, or the other way around if you prefer, the last of his seven England caps by then some seven years distant.
His spell with Norwich lasted 9 eventful games. Having been allocated the number eight shirt vacated by Craig Bellamy, he scored in his second game, a League Cup draw with Blackpool, a poor result against a team struggling in League One. Shortly after, he was joined by a fellow Leicester exitee Steve Walsh. Bryan Hamilton made the assertion that Cottee made us a “top eight side” and Walsh then “top six.” Sadly, that statement proved to be bizarre and inaccurate in equal measure.
Domestic League games weren’t much kinder. On his home debut he was largely consumed by the voracious Neil Ruddock as Crystal Palace held us to a scoreless draw. Next time we were on the road, we lost 4-0 at Wolves. The fact that Cottee and Walsh were hooked in favour of Gaetano Giallanza and Raymond de Waard is not a ringing endorsement of their respective performances.
Collective hopes were briefly raised by a performance against Sheffield United, when Cottee came off the bench to score the third as City came from two goals down to win in some style, even if the circumstances of Cottee’s arrival weren’t ideal, him replacing the stricken Giallanza who’s knee buckled to such an extent that he never played for us again.
Nevertheless, it was probably a convenient excuse for all parties, other than Barnet as it turned out, that Cottee was offered the Managerial position at Underhill in October 2000. His disappointing spell with Norwich brought to a palatable conclusion by a step into management nearer his London home. Cottee’s form on the field yielded a respectable nine goals from sixteen games, but Barnet only won five times under his tenure. He resigned in March 2001 with the Bees already doomed to non-league football the following season.
Cottee rounded off the season with a brief spell at Millwall, heading in the opposite direction into the Championship. This gave him the rare distinction of playing in all four divisions in the same season, the first player to have done so in 15 years and the first in the Premier League era. It was in truth the only distinction of his season. A somewhat disenchanting end for someone who had once been the most coveted player in the country.