Tony Cottee – My Everton Years

Rob Sawyer in conversation with Tony Cottee

Rob Sawyer 06/03/2015 49comments  |  Jump to last

Rob Sawyer in conversation with Tony Cottee

The 1987-88 season had seen Everton, the reigning League Champions, give up their crown to their Mersey neighbours. Liverpool had countered the departure of Ian Rush by investing heavily in the acquisition of John Barnes, John Aldridge, Peter Beardsley and Ray Houghton. Conversely, Everton’s new manager, Colin Harvey, had kept faith in the tried and tested squad assembled by his predecessor, Howard Kendall. Come the following summer, Harvey, belatedly, decided that it was time to freshen up the squad. Neil McDonald replaced the Rangers-bound Gary Stevens, Pat Nevin came from Chelsea for a record-breaking tribunal-set fee, and Stuart McCall was drafted in to supplement the ageing Peter Reid and injury-plagued Paul Bracewell.

With Adrian Heath and Wayne Clarke notching 13 and 12 goals respectively in the previous season, the need for a new “Gary Lineker” to play off Graeme Sharp was uppermost in Harvey’s thoughts. Speculation linked Ian Rush, who had failed to settle in Turin, with a switch to his boyhood club. However, with the Welshman electing to return to Anfield, Harvey focussed his attentions on West Ham’s Tony Cottee. The diminutive striker had scored 167 goals since breaking through as a 17-year-old in January 1983. His fruitful partnership with Frank McAvennie had taken West Ham to within a whisker of the 1985-86 Division One title.

A record fee was required to secure Tony’s services and, after a dazzling start to his Everton career, he would taste highs and lows over a six-year period without ever getting his hands on the silverware that he and Colin Harvey craved.  His time on Merseyside has come to be defined by two matches: his debut hat-trick against Newcastle and his vital cameo in the 4-4 classic cup-tie against Liverpool. Some point out that nearly half of Tony’s 99 Everton goals would come in cup competitions – not only the FA Cup and League Cup but lesser competitions such as the Simod Cup and ZDS Cup. Nonetheless, he would score against all the top rivals and maintain a decent strike-rate in a period of slow, inexorable, decline for the club. Tony would finish his career with spells back at the Boleyn ground, in Malaysia, Leicester and at several of the London area's smaller clubs. Now a media pundit, Tony was happy to reflect on his Everton career with me:

I was with West Ham from the age of 12 and joined them as an apprentice on leaving school at 15. My family history was all West Ham so I was there as a fan and a player. I made my debut as a 17-year-old against Spurs on New Year’s Day in 1983 – I had made rapid progress and was grateful to John Lyall for giving me the opportunity. I scored after 25 minutes and we won 3-0 so it was a dream debut – although perhaps not as good as my Everton debut!

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Frank McAvennie and I were very different characters off the field but we gelled on it. It did take a little while to click – maybe 7 or 8 matches to get cracking that season. John Lyall had all the training sessions created so as to give us the chances to score goals – it was wonderful what John did and we ended up with 54 goals between us in the one season. In terms of partnerships I’ve played in, and I’ve played with some fantastic players, that was the best one. Our partnership was not dissimilar to what you get nowadays. I, obviously, wasn’t a traditional centre-forward like Graeme Sharp or Bob Latchford – I was a very mobile player and Frank was as well.

Cottee and McAvennie formed a lethal partnership at West Ham

Cottee and McAvennie formed a lethal partnership at West Ham

I’d like to think that I was an old-fashioned goalscorer and finisher with a good football brain in terms of movement and awareness. From a very early age, with my lack of height, I had to find other ways to get into positions and score goals. My philosophy was to be quicker-thinking in the box than defenders. I was never going to win in a physical battle so I made up for it with my pace to be in the right place at the right time. I am not putting myself in the category of Lineker, Allen, Owen, Fowler and Greaves, but they and I all had that awareness to score goals.

At West Ham, we wanted to get the ball down and play football – it was based around movement, the speed of the players, and the creative ability of Devonshire, Dickens and Mark Ward. I had the pleasure of playing with Wardy at West Ham and Everton; he was a brilliant player. His recent personal troubles are a great shame as he is a fantastic lad. As a footballer, he was a dream to play with. He was a very physical player despite making me look tall. He was only 5’-5” but what he lacked in height he made up for in the physical parts of his game. He loved the battle – against someone like Stuart Pearce, who I didn’t want to go near, Wardy would say, “Let me at him”. He was technically a very good player and created chances.

The “West Ham Way” goes back to Ted Fenton in the late 1950s and then Ron Greenwood before he passed the baton to John Lyall. I always describe Everton and West Ham as very similar, working-class background clubs with passionate supporters who know and understand their football. From Everton’s point of view, historically they always thought they could win honours. I don’t think West Ham ever thought they were going to win the league; they might win the odd cup, so there was an emphasis on good football. That football aspect was fundamental at West Ham in the 1980s. Everton, being that slightly bigger club had a different philosophy and the expectation to win honours was there.

We ended up coming third in the 1985-86 season, Everton were second and, unfortunately, Liverpool won it. The great “play-off” game between Everton and West Ham which would have been on the Monday night didn’t happen, unfortunately, as the Reds had won it on the Saturday. Looking back, it was a great season to be involved in at West Ham but, sadly, it was a one-off and the club didn’t build on it. This was probably the reason for me leaving.

I got into the England squad after the 1986 World Cup and I met players from Everton, Liverpool, and Manchester United who were talking about winning trophies. It was becoming a plod at West Ham and that talk was whetting my appetite. Also, having come through the ranks at West Ham I didn’t think as being fairly rewarded financially. I didn’t want to leave West Ham but I knew I had to, from a professional point of view, in order to win trophies and get justly rewarded.

Fiorentina, Glasgow Rangers and quite a few clubs had been linked with me but regularly it was Everton and Arsenal. I had to put in a transfer request and then had a call from John Lyall to tell me that it had been accepted but they wanted to get more than Gazza had gone for from Newcastle to Spurs. I thought “Jesus Christ!” A lot of figures have been quoted for what I was transferred for but it was Ł2,050,000 – that 50 grand made me worth more than Gazza, which is incredible. Half an hour later, the phone rang and it was Colin Harvey saying that he wanted to meet me – it was great to feel so wanted. Everton had not replaced Gary Lineker’s goals and were looking to do that. George Graham rang a couple of hours later. To be honest, there was initially a slight favouritism towards Arsenal as I was a London lad.

I knew that Everton were a great club but Arsenal had players that I had played with in the England Under-21 level like David Rocastle, Michael Thomas, Paul Merson and Tony Adams. I went to Goodison to see Colin, who made it clear how much Everton wanted me, and then I came down to meet Arsenal. George Graham was very laid back about everything and his financial offer was nowhere near what Everton had offered me. Also he was saying, “I know that you’d love to play for Arsenal and wear the club blazer” and I was thinking, “No, I’m a West Ham fan, I’m not interested in the club blazer. I want to go to play my football where I feel wanted.”

When I had a sleep on it I was now leaning towards Everton but, the next morning, I went back to Highbury with my agent and had a chat with George Graham. We said, “What’s your best offer?” and even that was nowhere near what Everton’s was, so I pretty much knew where I was going. Then Colin drove down the motorway to meet me at South Mimms Services. I sat with him and looked him in the eye and said, “Why do you want to sign me?” He replied, “All I want is someone who can score 25 goals a year for me and I believe that you could be that man.”

In the end, I thought that Everton wanted me more than Arsenal wanted me in every aspect, so it was a very simple decision. It was a big risk from a personal perspective, as I didn’t know Merseyside at all, but from a professional point of view it was the right decision. My girlfriend moved up with me (we got married later). The people there were fantastic and made us very welcome. Sometimes when you’ve visited your family you miss home and life in Essex but my professional life was on Merseyside and we got on with it. Looking back, we had six fantastic years there which I wouldn’t change for the world – my daughter was born in Southport in 1992 so I always tell her that she is a Sandgrounder!

Nowadays, I have a bit of banter with Gooners supporters and they ask if I regret not signing for Arsenal. I know they won trophies after I went to Everton but I could have gone there and broken my leg in training and never played again. I always say to them that if I had signed for Arsenal they wouldn’t have got Ian Wright, so that shuts them up! You can’t look back and say it was the wrong decision.

Cottee joined Everton in August 1988 for what was, briefly, a record fee paid between English clubs

One of the main reasons I wanted to play at Everton was Peter Reid. Reidy was a fantastic player; I’d watched him playing in the 1986 World Cup and played against him many times. When I’d spoken to him, he told me what a great club Everton was so I wanted to play with him. But he left six months after I joined... so I just missed his glory years. I had found Kevin Ratcliffe a hard opponent to play against so I was looking forward to having him on my side, whilst Neville Southall was a fantastic goalkeeper. I signed just after Stuart McCall, Neil McDonald and Pat Nevin so we all became good friends. I had the pleasure of rooming for four years with Paddy – he was far too intelligent to be a footballer! We had very different views about things off the field but we got on really well.

There was a bit of a split between the new and established players. It was a natural thing really as the players that were there had won the league in 1985 and 1987 and got to all those cup finals. They had really done fantastically well for the club whilst we were the new arrivals. Back then, before TalkSport, Sky Sports and social media, your main source of information was the newspapers and they were trying to predict how much I was on at Everton – what they were reporting was three times as much as I was earning. The other players would have read that I was earning this amount so they would have been thinking, “We’ve done all the hard work and this bloke’s coming in earning loads of money”. There was a little bit of resentment there I think – maybe rightly so – but some of them got pay rises off the back of new lads coming in so they shouldn’t moan about it too much!

Tony Cottee in action for Everton against Southampton

Cottee arrived with Stuart McCall, Neil McDonald and Pat Nevin in the summer of 1988

My partnership with Graeme Sharp did okay but I don’t think that we ever really gelled. There were isolated games where we clicked like against Southampton when Graeme was laying them into me. I did not really think about Everton’s style of play too much when I was at West Ham – I just saw Everton being successful and winning things. When I arrived, everything was geared to getting the ball into Sharpy as soon as possible whereas my partnership with Frank McAvennie was all about getting the ball into space or to feet. The ball was going out to Sheeds on the left and I was going to show for the ball into feet, or to spin into the channels, but the ball was going straight to Sharpy every single time and I was nowhere near him.

Sheeds and I had a chat about it over a few drinks and he said that he’d been playing with Sharpy for so many years that it was natural to get the ball and look for him. By the time I’d got my head around the change in style, I’d lost my place in the team. During the close season, Colin brought Mike Newell and then, in the next season, it was a case of three into two with me, Mike and Graeme. It was a difficult second season for me.

Colin Harvey was a very nice man but I am not sure how much he enjoyed being a manager. I think that he was more cut out to be a coach but had been promoted after Howard Kendall left. He really wanted me to play for him and desperately wanted me to score the goals for him. That debut against Newcastle was an incredible day and one that I will never forget. In a way it was the best thing I ever did and in a way it was the worst. There was so much pressure on me so after scoring that hat-trick – I thought I was going to score one every game and so did the fans. As the season progressed, it became very difficult for me – I had a couple of barren spells when Colin stuck by me. Then I scored a couple of goals in the Simod Cup Final against Forest which I thought was a nice warm up for the FA Cup Final but then we lost it to Liverpool and I had a really poor game.

I was disappointed when Colin left. I felt that I had let him down as he had paid a lot of money for me, and put faith in me, but I had not delivered for him consistently. I don’t think we were far off as a team but it was a case of trying gel the good talented young players that Colin had brought in with the established, experienced ones already there. We never quite got to the stage where we had a settled team that went on one of those glory runs that Everton had done in the past. When he did get sacked, it was not overly unexpected and, like any player, once the manager leaves a club, you worry about who is going to come in and replace him. Jimmy Gabriel took over as caretaker – I got the hump because he basically said that players had let Colin down – then he picked the team for the next match and I was the only one left out. It made it look like he was disappointed with me which, I thought, was a bit unfair and frustrating – although I hadn’t “done it” consistently, there were plenty of others that had under-performed at that time.

Tony Cottee in action for Everton against Southampton

Tony Cottee in action for Everton against Southampton

Then Howard Kendall got the job and things went downhill from there. It was difficult for me, and all the other players who had arrived under Colin, as Howard knew all the older players like Rats, Sharpy and Neville but not the younger players. I just felt that, to start with, he didn’t really give the ones that had arrived a fair crack of the whip. Howard and I didn’t see eye to eye at first and he famously dumped me in the reserves against Morecambe and I ended up playing against my window cleaner, which was the low point of my Everton career!

Nowadays I travel all around the world and I bump into Everton fans. One of the first questions they ask me is, “What was the best game you played in – it must be the 4-4 draw with Liverpool?” I come back with the fact that I didn’t play in the game – I was a sub, sat on the bench watching a fantastic game of football. It went 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 2-3 at which point Howard said “Go and get warmed up”. I was looking at the big scoreboard which said 84 minutes gone as Howard called me over and said, “Go on and score us a goal.” I thought, “What do you fucking think I’m going to do in six minutes?!” I stayed down the middle because, if I was going to get a chance to score, it would be in the penalty area. When the ball did come into the area, Mike Newell was in front of me – because I was fresher and had the goal-scoring instinct, I got in front of Newelly and slotted it with my left foot past Grobbelaar. It was one of my best feelings in an Everton shirt as it was a really important equaliser and it took it to extra time. Then, Barnesy scored a great goal to make it 4-3 and I got the fourth equaliser which was another great feeling. It was a great, great, game to be a part of. There was a good 3-3 draw at Goodison last season but I don’t think it was as quite good as the 4-4.

Howard and I eventually worked things out. We were all grown-up men in the dressing room and Howard used to say to me, “I’m not worried about your goal-scoring. I want you to work for the rest of the team.” My attitude as a goal-scorer was, “I don’t want to work for the rest of the team – I’m the one who will score you the goals.” So there was a bit of a clash from that point of view. Scoring goals was the easy part for me – the hard part was everything else that went with it. You look at Ian Rush, who was a fantastic goal-scorer, but he also closed everyone down. I wanted to do what Rushie was doing but didn’t feel capable of doing it – I just wanted to score goals. I had to take it on board and, looking back, I thank Howard for what he did as it made me a better all-round player who could contribute to the team. But I had to jump through all the hoops and hurdles that he put in the way and prove to him that I was worthy of my place.

Tony Cottee in action for Everton in 1990

Tony Cottee in action for Everton in 1990

Peter Beardsley was a fantastic player to play with. He was very unselfish and created loads of goals – always happy to lay goals on a plate for you to tap-in. Mo-Jo never really recaptured his Rangers and Celtic form; he was a big-money signing and, as hard as he tried, it never really worked out for him. Alongside Wardy and Preki, we had a talented forward line. In some ways it was 20 years ahead of its time as we didn’t have a big forward up front and we were very fluid with movement and creating space – we were all trying to move around and create goals for each other. I think that I eventually won Howard over in our second season – I became a regular at № 9 and was starting to score goals. Later, Howard brought Paul Rideout and I really enjoyed playing with him. He was an underrated player and I was pleased for him when he scored the Cup Final winner in 1995.

In December 1993, Howard resigned and I thought – “Oh for God’s sake”. When Howard left, I wanted Joe Royle to get the job as he had done a tremendous job at Oldham Athletic. Maybe they couldn’t get Joe out of there but Mike Walker was a poor choice. I thought that he wasn’t a particularly good manager – I didn’t find his managerial style to be inspirational. He brought a coach in called Dave Williams who was putting on practices that I’d done as a 12-year-old at West Ham, so I didn’t find training enjoyable. As the season went on, we got worse and worse. We only won two out of the last eleven games – a horrendous run of form. My goal at West Ham gave us a massive three points and that gave us a real chance of staying up. I ran to celebrate with the Everton fans – I enjoyed scoring against my former clubs as I liked to prove that I was still capable of scoring. I scored two goals for West Ham against Everton when I went back there, and I did it against West Ham when I ended up at Leicester.

I remember going into that last game against Wimbledon knowing that we had to win and rely on other results. The week before, we had lost 0-3 at Leeds and it had been awful – we never looked like scoring. I was thinking, “Wow, we could be in trouble here” – it was a really pressurised situation. I never thought that we wouldn’t win that final game but, when we went two down, I had reservations! I never enjoyed taking penalties – I didn’t get the same buzz from scoring from a dead ball. Also, I had missed one in the FA Cup at Chelsea in 1992. I was waiting for someone to take a penalty but everyone turned away so I took it, missed it and then it seen as was all my fault that we got knocked out. So, for the Wimbledon game, as far as I can remember, Graham Stuart was always going to be the one to take one.

There’s only so many times you can be knocked down and keep fighting your way back. I wasn’t particularly enjoying things under Mike Walker and he had made it pretty clear that he was looking to change things. So I just said to him, “Just let me go, and if I can get back to London then ‘happy days’.” I never thought that I would end up back at West Ham but David Burrows wanted to come back north and I wanted to head south. Three months after I left, Joe Royle and Big Duncan were in at Everton – if I had worked with them I could have seen myself being there for 10 years and scoring a lot more goals. You can sum up my Everton career as: Everton won the league in 1987, I joined in 1988, we won nothing for six years, I left in 1994 and they won the FA Cup in 1995! I was at the right club at the wrong time but you can’t turn the clock back.

Tony Cottee in action for Everton against Southampton

Tony Cottee in action for Everton against Southampton

I tried my best in every game for Everton but I didn’t always play well – it didn’t help that I was in and out of the team. When I had 10 or 12 games on the trot, my record shows that I was scoring goals. I understand why people say that I didn’t score in important games but I scored against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. In my six years at the club, there was so much going on with the upheaval of moving, getting used to a new style of play, having three managers, the turnover of players, the breakdown of a fantastic team, and the introduction of a new team. When I did have a regular place, I scored the goals – I was top scorer in five out of six seasons that I was there – I got 99 goals which averages at around 16 goals per season.

Now I do Sky Sports media work. I’m still a West Ham fan but I follow Everton as much as I can. The club are brilliant and I love coming up to Goodison. I was up for the FA Cup game at Goodison recently. I met Bill Kenwright beforehand and he gave me a hug. The fans are so good there – there was such a good reception and feeling of warmth from everyone. You don’t always get the chance to play for a great club like Everton so I feel privileged to have played for a fantastic club. I wish I’d have won a trophy there, scored a 100th goal and played in Europe – but it was fate really.

I have no regrets about playing for Everton in any shape or form. West Ham was my team as a boy and it is now, but Everton is my second team and it will always be in my heart.

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Reader Comments (49)

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Mike Hughes
1 Posted 06/03/2015 at 22:09:49
I thought he was a cracking player. Knew where the net was – and could we do with him right now.

I had the impression that he didnÂ’t always get on with his team mates. I could be wrong on this. DonÂ’t know where it came from but did he and Sharpy have an issue?

Bobby Thomas
2 Posted 06/03/2015 at 22:23:33
Box player. ThatÂ’s it.

Gazza and Beardsley cost the same and we got him.

And for such a supposedly great finisher he was abysmal one-on-one and an awful penalty taker as well. I couldnÂ’t stand him to be honest.

Andy Meighan
3 Posted 06/03/2015 at 22:18:10
Like he said, right club, wrong time. But it was no secret that he and Sharp never got on. When he and the Harvey signings came, Sharp played the playground bully.

Still, we finished 4th under Harvey. Imagine that now. He’d be lauded. Poor Colin was vilified. Yes, kids – for finishing 4th. Sad times.

Si Mar
4 Posted 06/03/2015 at 22:37:34
Overrated... although his debut hat-trick I enjoyed!

Never forgave him for his totally biased views and show of disappointment on Sky when we beat West Ham in the Carling Cup in 2007 and were due to play them on the Saturday and and said he Â’hopedÂ’ West Ham would win!!!

James Stewart
5 Posted 06/03/2015 at 22:29:20
Interesting section on Mike Walker era. Sounds like he could quite easily be talking about Martinez.

IÂ’m too young to remember Cottee but a fascinating read.

Ernie Baywood
6 Posted 06/03/2015 at 22:33:38
I was a Cottee fan but, regardless of what you thought of him, youÂ’d have to admit thatÂ’s a really interesting insight into his time with us. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Ernie Baywood
7 Posted 06/03/2015 at 22:48:18
Si #4. HeÂ’s a West Ham supporter. ThatÂ’s fair enough for me.
Lyndon Lloyd
8 Posted 06/03/2015 at 22:51:10
His penalty against Chelsea in the FA Cup aside (he admits he hated taking pens), I always liked him.

LukakuÂ’s situation is very reminiscent of CotteeÂ’s experience. Top goalscorer who scored a hatful before we signed him struggles in a worsening team and ends up being criticised for not being the complete all-round striker capable of creating his own goals.

Bill Gall
9 Posted 06/03/2015 at 22:38:39
On one of my trips back to Liverpool, I remember the game: 30 October 1988 against Man Utd and Cottee scored. I had a pass for the Players Lounge after the game and he came over and I had a talk with him.

I just looked through my memorabilia and I still have the pass, and ticket for the Lower Bullens stand. Strange, some of the stuff you hang on to...

Patrick Murphy
10 Posted 06/03/2015 at 22:53:22
There are a few similarities between CotteeÂ’s time at Goodison and the present day: a squad that has plenty of old heads who have tasted relative success and a few players who have only been in the team for a couple of seasons.

It would seem that the "we’re all in it together" spirit that typified David Moyes’s time has been removed and there appears to be a few camps within the whole squad, which is a great shame because that has been traditionally where the core strength of the team has come from. It’s a very difficult thing to build and a very easy thing to destroy – even if it’s not intentional.

Paul Hewitt
11 Posted 06/03/2015 at 22:54:53
Right player, wrong time.
Dave Abrahams
12 Posted 06/03/2015 at 22:54:45
I could take him or leave him. Interesting he mentions Pat Nevin. Now he got a really bad deal off Kendall, who never gave him a real chance. I remember watching him play for the reserves one Saturday afternoon versus Notts Forest and thought, "What the fuck have they got you doing running up and down the wing in a reserve match for?"

Pat just got on with it and did his level best. I think he went to Tranmere Rovers later on.

Si Mar
13 Posted 06/03/2015 at 23:13:38
True Ernie, just my opinion; it was more the disdain in his voice though, his beloved West Ham had just been beaten by a team you wouldÂ’ve thought he had no time at all for!

Pretty petty on my part, I admit!! But we beat West Ham on the Saturday too so fuck him!

Peter Bell
14 Posted 06/03/2015 at 23:18:24
Wrong player, wrong time. Never once proved to be a big game player. When did he ever score the winner in a big important game? As long as he scored, he had done his job.

Most of his goals were when he scored the only goal in a 3-1 defeat. Dont mention Â’sweatÂ’ and Â’CotteeÂ’ in the same sentence...

Patrick Murphy
15 Posted 06/03/2015 at 23:29:36
Peter, that goal he mentions at West Ham in 1994 was probably his most important Everton goal as that was only one of two wins during the last 10 games of the season; the other was obviously Wimbledon – eight points from 30 in those final matches... I hope we can do better than that this season!
Brian Denton
16 Posted 06/03/2015 at 23:30:23
Yes, Peter, I think youÂ’ve pretty much nailed it there.
Gavin McGarvey
17 Posted 06/03/2015 at 22:15:43
There seemed to have been a lot of factional infighting after HK Mark One. A real pity looking back that we couldnÂ’t build on the success of the 80s. Particularly sad was when Howard Kendall left the second time. WeÂ’d started the season well, and I just couldnÂ’t see why the board wouldnÂ’t back him.

I have fond memories of Cottee. Obviously he wasnÂ’t worth the money but then nobody is. When I saw him, he always seemed to do his job, hanging off the last defender and looking to score the goals. His comments regarding money are enlightening, especially given our recent financial straits. I know a lot of fans feel we should be able to succeed despite our finances but a bit of money wouldnÂ’t hurt.

I know the years he played with us can be looked upon as a disappointment, but I prefer to remember the good times. WhatÂ’s more the pity is that history seems to be repeating itself with us sliding back towards the bad old days rather than pushing on.

John Daley
18 Posted 06/03/2015 at 23:07:51
"...the ball was going straight to Sharpy every single time and I was nowhere near him..." — In proximity nor ability.

I never really took to Cottee during his time here. If I had to sum him up: Bit of a flat track bully who sported some of the worst Everton kits ever created and looked like a shaved Ewok. TC was always more Benny the Ball than Top Cat to me.

Still, this was a great piece though and youÂ’ve got to love the way Cottee canÂ’t help but contradict himself:

"My attitude as a goal- scorer was, "I donÂ’t want to work for the rest of the team"

Followed by....

"I tried my best in every game for Everton".

" I felt that I had let [Colin] down as he had paid a lot of money for me, and put faith in me, but I had not delivered for him..."

Followed by...

"I got the hump because [Jimmy Gabriel] basically said that the players had let Colin down – then he picked the team for the next match and I was the only one left out. It made it look like he was disappointed with me which, I thought, was a bit unfair."

No wonder he thought Pat Nevin existed on a different mental plane.

James Flynn
20 Posted 07/03/2015 at 00:21:19
"John Lyall had all the training sessions created so as to give us the chances to score goals – it was wonderful what John did and we ended up with 54 goals between us in the one season."

Hmmm, is Lyall still around? All these decades later, his training session ideas are probably considered antique, but worth a go, no?

"I got into the England squad after the 1986 World Cup and I met players from Everton, Liverpool, and Manchester United who were talking about winning trophies. It was becoming a plod at West Ham and that talk was whetting my appetite. Also, having come through the ranks at West Ham I didnÂ’t think as being fairly rewarded financially. I didnÂ’t want to leave West Ham but I knew I had to, from a professional point of view, in order to win trophies and get justly rewarded."

These me-first, disloyal, selfish pricks today; Fellaini, Lukaku, Mirallas. Rooney too. Why, back in my day...

Timothy Blanshard
21 Posted 06/03/2015 at 23:38:44
I remember TC catching one on the volley once in a match against Norwich I think, he really caught it well smashed into the back of the net and made a big echoey type sound all around Goodison. At the time, I thought Mike Newell had much better feet than him, but when I heard Newell loved the RS, oh did I go off him quick – and thankfully, not long after, he fucked off to Blackburn.

From all accounts, there were two cliques back then with mainly Rats and Sharpy leading the "WeÂ’ve won stuff, you havenÂ’t, so weÂ’re better" clan. It couldnÂ’t have helped the team at all with that kind of atmosphere. From what I know, Colin Harvey is a very nice bloke, maybe too nice to manage, but when asked to do it he said "To get a chance to follow the great man himself, how could I say no?" That’s from the History of Everton video, I havenÂ’t even got a VCR anymore but most of it is committed to memory.

I also remember TC in the local paper talking about Howard asking him to do more and, to be honest, I thought he could have too. ItÂ’s an old one, Tony son, but there is still no ’I’ in ’team’.

Gavin Johnson
22 Posted 07/03/2015 at 00:48:29
A good article, a bit of light reading from the last few days.

Cottee wasnÂ’t a bad signing, I think it was unfortunate for him the fee was more than GazzaÂ’s transfer. I know IÂ’ve thought we signed the wrong big summer signing over the years.

I found the stuff about there being different camps under Harvey and HK 2 interesting. I wonder if weÂ’ll be reading stories about cliques next season about our current set-up?

Mark Andersson
23 Posted 07/03/2015 at 00:57:11
Interesting read, it doesnÂ’t surprise me fans are split about Cottee.

The only thing I remember is the penalty miss against Chelsea, I knew he would miss because his body language was wrong.

Ernie Baywood
24 Posted 07/03/2015 at 01:52:21
Yes, I think inside opinions about what exactly went wrong between last season and this season will be very interesting.

Hope it doesnÂ’t take 20 years to find out...

Ian Black
25 Posted 07/03/2015 at 01:37:58
I was made up when Cottee signed. Sadly he never lived up to his billing.

The over-riding memory I have of him on a matchday though, is before a ball was ever kicked. As a teenager who would be standing in the Lower Gwladys, right in the middle, where a crush was on about an hour before kick-off, you would be jostling for position at the bar, for the best vantage point, whilst looking to evade the inevitable domino-ing that would bruise your ribs for weeks afterwards. There, you felt you were right at the heart, the blue core of things.

About an hour before kick-off, the players would appear from the BullensRoad / Park End corner, no doubt parking their top-of-the-range orange Ladas behind the Park End and trundling into the ground one-by-one to rapturous applause, diagonalling over the pitch to the dug-out in the Main Stand. I must admit I really enjoyed that; it had a gladiatorial feel about it, like the big guns had just arrived and this was going to get serious. We had big guns then, no mistake.

Sadly though, the last man in the ground was usually our record signing. The man who cost more than anyone else in the league. He would waltz in with boots over his shoulders in a smart suit, flash as you like, soaking up tentative applause and then scuttling down to the dressing rooms, fair play – applauding the applause, but was down the tunnel usually seconds before an already sweaty Neville Southall would be out and guarding his warm-up goal like his life depended on it.

I always liked Cottee, I thought he tried his best despite his late entrances, but he was never a ÂŁ2million striker. IÂ’d probably go as far as to say he was Colin HarveyÂ’s biggest gamble that never paid off. Hopefully in a few years he wonÂ’t be seen as comparable to Lukaku....

Timothy Blanshard
27 Posted 07/03/2015 at 04:37:10
I also remember of Tony Cottee: every single goal he scored went into a scrapbook with press cutting when available and his notes – when, where etc etc. Not Everton’s in general... just his.
Matt Traynor
28 Posted 07/03/2015 at 04:51:31
Ian #25, although a hero to many for some reason, Duncan Ferguson was usually the first down the tunnel at the final whistle, whilst the rest of the players would at least acknowledge the crowd, particularly away from home.

Cottee frustrated the shit out of me. It was around the time I’d started going to away games regularly. Other commenters are correct – one-on-ones he was terrible. His finishing when he didn’t have time to think about it was often sublime though. I remember all of the games referenced vividly.

At the time, I was made up he turned down Arsenal for us. Finding out two-and-a-half decades later that it was for the money is disappointing, as well as making me feel old.

DJ Staunton
29 Posted 07/03/2015 at 06:12:18
I was in the upper Bullens when TC did the biz against Geordies. WasnÂ’t convinced about the team. Crap theme, this.
Rob Dolby
30 Posted 07/03/2015 at 08:20:48
He was a decent enough player in the box but offered little outside of it.

Does anyone see a similarity here with our current star striker? We never played to Cottee’s strengths and tried to turn him into something that he wasn’t.

Lukaku will never be any good with his back to goal, no matter how young he is. We have to get him on the shoulder of the defender running at the goal.

Stephen Brown
31 Posted 07/03/2015 at 08:47:52
My first game at GP, that Newcastle match, so I will always have good memories of TC!

Interesting how he refers to days before Sky, Twitter etc — I think I’d like those days back?!

ÂŁ2.05M in 1988 must be about ÂŁ28M now... Imagine having ÂŁ28M to spend on a striker!! (Oh, hang on!!!!)

Gavin Ramejkis
32 Posted 07/03/2015 at 09:45:05
Two memories of Tony Cottee:

First one a bit hazy but I remember him as very hot and cold, heÂ’d be absolutely gash one week then the next bang in a hat-trick when it looked like he should be dropped.

My second one a lot clearer: I was shopping in Liverpool with my then girlfriend in Dorothy Perkins and ended up in a chap-to-chap chat with him about shopping as his Mrs was bringing back a few purchases to be exchanged. He was a nice guy who was bored rigid being dragged around the shops. I was amazed he was about the same size as me and IÂ’m no giant!

Karl Parsons
33 Posted 07/03/2015 at 10:09:14
Massive soft spot for TC.
Andrew James
34 Posted 07/03/2015 at 13:51:56
I always liked Cottee but he did play for us in a difficult era so he never really went from being a really good striker (which he had been at West Ham) to a great striker.

Of our front line, I always felt he was the one capable of getting 20 a season in the league but he was just never consistent enough.

He was a symbol of that period unfortunately. Personally, I think Kendall should have started building for the future in 1985-86; instead, we mostly brought in journeymen who patched the squad over for a year or two.

By 1988, Harvey had an ageing squad mostly lacking in quality with a small group of top players (Ratcliffe, Reid, Sharp, Southall) who were being divisive. If Kendall had brought some quality in earlier, then the transition would have been more gradual. Instead, by 1988, we had four new faces expected to come straight in and gel immediately.

Stephen Brown
35 Posted 07/03/2015 at 15:30:12
Andrew James – very true and with benefit of hindsight and more strategic planning we should/could have been more competitive for much longer. To think 7 years after winning the title we should/could have been relegated! Very poor management from the top down!
Patrick Murphy
36 Posted 07/03/2015 at 15:34:54
Kendall couldnÂ’t start building for the future as the European ban meant that our top players were beginning to eye pastures new and he himself said that he wanted to prove himself on the European stage. Winning the title in 1987 probably masked over the issues that needed fixing and the hierarchy at the club were once again short-sighted in promoting Colin Harvey... although I canÂ’t think of who the club could have brought in that would have been able to lift the club once the decline set in as Ferguson was already at Man Utd and Clough would never have been considered by our board.

Football was in dire straits as a business during that period of the late 80s and early 90s but we stood still while Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United looked forward and, as usual, we missed the boat when it pulled into port and we havenÂ’t really been able to catch it since.

Barry Stevens
37 Posted 07/03/2015 at 16:25:35
Blew both hot and cold, did TC. I wouldnÂ’t say he was a flop, though. I think how good his debut game was put expectations too high. He scored a cracker away at Sheffield Weds that I remember well, and had a good array of finishing from what I remember.

As for the rushing off the pitch, that was because most weeks he would be on the first train to Euston. Used to see him on there all the time.

Bobby Thomas
38 Posted 07/03/2015 at 18:56:18
On Cottee I felt that he was all about him and padded out his 99 goals with end of season hot streaks when the pressure was off and Simod Cup nonsense.

Basically he didn't do it when it mattered He wasn't the kind of player you could rely on really. He himself was reliant on service, and so as things unravelled around him he certainly wasn't the inspirational, inspiring figure we needed or that I felt we should have had for the money paid.

Don't get me wrong, he was good at what he did. But I just used to look at Peter Beardsley when he was playing for them and used to shake my head at the vast difference class. There are some parallels with Rom today. I'm not over-sold on him, although he is 15-20, and I believe he has more attributes and effectiveness that Cottee. Plus Rom is cool as ice one v one. But for the money you want a bit more, don't you?

Basically what fan would pay to watch a box player or a holding midfielder? Not many.

As for other issues, the injury to Ratcliffe was a crippler. Kendall, with an eye on the long term, did try to replace Reidy with Snodin, who fitted right in with the clique of senior pro's at the club after contributing minimally to the title win.

There is a disgraceful episode in Graham Sharps book where Snodin, giving it large in front of Sharp etc, digs Beagrie in a hotel room during a post or pre-season tour.

Cottee was there, apparently talk had turned to how the new players felt unwelcome!!!

I just thought Graham Sharp was an arsehole after that section of his book. The senior pro's that had won the medals got lazy, complacant and were on the ale too much. They were the ones who let Harvey down.

In Harveys last full season Graham Sharp got 5 goals.

Unfortunately injuries stacked up on the established pros and the England right side combo left. Colin Harveys signing record was, Keown and Hinchcliffe aside, woeful.

In fact looking at now shitting myself about the present!!!!

Dick Brady
39 Posted 07/03/2015 at 19:55:31
Tony Cottee scored 6 hat-tricks for Everton which was some achievement. Now you can argue Dixie Dean scored 37 hat-tricks but Cottee has the most hat-trick's for Everton in the modern era. Sharp only scored 4 hat-tricks, Latchford managed 5, Linekar, Ball and Royle got 3 each while Andy Gray, Duncan Ferguson and Peter Beardsley only hit one hat-trick for Everton. Lukaku is young and already has his first hat-trick for Everton but he'll need another 5 to catch up with Cottee.
David Harrison
40 Posted 07/03/2015 at 20:46:48
As 1 or 2 others have mentioned, he seemed to specialise in the consolation goal. Will never forget his 2 at Villa. Unfortunately, we were 6-0 down at the time!
Winston Williamson
41 Posted 07/03/2015 at 23:04:03
I was at the game at Morecambe he mentions. I was about 12 at the time. I sneaked out of the house and ran to the ground. I’d heard TC might be playing.

I paid the ÂŁ1.50 gate money, watched him score all five goals in a 5 nil win and ran home before my mum caught me!!

Conor Skelly
42 Posted 07/03/2015 at 23:08:50
Ferguson and Cottee. Now that would have been interesting.
Harvey Miller
43 Posted 07/03/2015 at 18:45:38
Now we would be more than happy to get him in his prime. He did score more than a hundred for us, I could not understand the hate he got from the stands, it was not all his fault.

In a way it is similar things are happening right now as they were in 1989. We had a good team but had also a manager who liked his players too much. A good person as Tony said but not a very good manager. Sorry Harvey!

Sean McCarthy
44 Posted 08/03/2015 at 02:00:13
Amazing what tricks the memory can play on you!!!!

Ian at #25 there were no crushes on the Lower Gwladys street an hour before kick off back in the late 80s. I recall the place being pretty deserted til about 2:45 then there'd be a late rush on the turnstiles followed by people jostling for position. Even at kick-off, the ground was half-empty despite our successes.

As for TC I remember being delighted when he chose us over arsenal as at the time he was one of the most prized and sought after names in English football and he chose us. Never really hit the heights as he came just as the decline set in from which we are still trying to recover some 20+ years later.

Ste Traverse
45 Posted 08/03/2015 at 04:39:05
Cottee being the long term replacement for Gary Lineker summed up our decline in the late-80s. Lineker should have never been sold.

Whereas TC got hat tricks against lower division sides in cup ties to boost his goals, Lineker banged them in against all comers.

Lineker got as many goals in derbys in one season as Cottee got in 6 seasons for starters.

Cottee's goal ratio may seem more than reasonable, but overall his Everton career has to be viewed as disappointment.

Eugene Ruane
46 Posted 08/03/2015 at 07:24:03
After Cottee's debut, many excited young blues were predicting we'd sweep all before us and we'd found the new Jimmy Greaves.

However those of us of slightly more advanced years kept our heads, as we could remember another scintillating debut 6 or 7 seasons earlier from a player who scored on his debut and in the following game.

'2 goals in 2 games - where would it end?' we thought.

Er..3 in 19 and fucked offski.

I give you Alan 'Spike' Biley - 'The new Dennis Law'

On reflection, maybe he was just too easily sidetracked

"There used to be a shop just over a bridge at the back of the ground. They bet me to go to the shop stark naked to buy a Mars bar. There was a lady that always served you. Well, they made you do it with a fiver which was a lot of money in those days. I had to wait for my change but had no where to put it" - Alan Biley.

Neil Quinn
47 Posted 08/03/2015 at 08:44:09
Conor # 42.....Ferguson & Cottee. I always thought that Cottee would have been the ideal strike partner for Duncan. He never had a decent target man to play alongside after Sharp & Duncan never had a decent goal poacher to play alongside.
Jason Lam
48 Posted 09/03/2015 at 02:12:31
I remember the day the quartet signed. The rs had signed 4 the previous season, so we followed up the same. I thought that's not very original, so all you had to do was splash on 4 new players to win the league! Cottee was arguably the best striker on the market at the time (I don't count Ian Rush for obvious reasons!) so I guess there is some truth in us not playing to his strengths. Don't make the same mistake twice with Rom!
Matt Traynor
49 Posted 09/03/2015 at 03:00:01
Jason #48. Rom wouldn't be the second time we'd have made that mistake!
Tony Onslow
51 Posted 11/03/2015 at 21:04:29

Just to let you know that today I received a copy of the marriage certificate for Sarah Unwin and Tom Evans that took place, 1 May 1877, at Clay Cross in Derbyshire. Tom Evans is, at the time, resident in Liverpool.

Terence Leong
52 Posted 28/03/2015 at 01:16:06
The cliques in the camp between those who won and the newbies were quite well-documented. Sharp, in his biography, talked about that as well, and how he felt that Cottee didn't work for the team.

The surprising thing was that Sharp also felt that Lineker was always looking for a chance to do less, but somehow Sharp didn't have the same sentiments about Cottee! Looks like it comes down a bit to chemistry etc.

For all his inconsistencies (tends to score his goals in bunches rather than consistently – and so does Rooney till today), he was still top scorer for those seasons, averaging 15 goals. How many players give us that nowadays?

It probably was too many managers for that period, and also we missed the boat big time (and the years just before that) during those years, when you think about the talent, especially when Liverpool started to blood in all those teenagers that grew up blue.

If we had been able to go upstream and deal with our academy those years while we were winning, we would have gotten ourselves on a roll.

Back to the player himself (Cottee). From his interviews, seems humble enough to learn; in a different era, he might have been a lot more successful.

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