After a fortnight
of speculation linking Leicester City striker Tony Cottee with a
move to Carrow Road to replace Craig Bellamy,
the free transfer was finally completed on Sunday 10th September
2000. Norwich allegedly fighting off competition from Charlton and
Millwall. The veteran England striker signed a 2 year contract,
with the understanding that he would help with the coaching of younger
players. Tony went straight into the Norwich side for the trip to
Stockport on 12th September which the Canaries won 3-1 : their first
league victory in 2000/01.
Tony had begun his career at West Ham, working his way through the
youth team before making his debut in September 1982. Over the next
6 years, he made 246(9) appearances for the Hammers, scoring 104
goals. This prompted Everton to fork out £2.3million for him in
August 2000 and he repaid the Goodison faithful with 81 goals in
195(33) appearances. He gained 7 England caps during this period
but failed to add an international goal to his tally. Tony returned
to Upton Park in September 1994 and made another 77(4) appearances
scoring 29 goals before transferring to Malaysian side Selangar
for £750,000 in October 1996.
He returned to England in August 1997 joining Leciester City for
£500,000. Although he went out on loan to Birmingham in November
1997, scoring once in five appearances, he added another 78(21)
top flight appearances to his career record. He was the Foxes' leading
scorer for the past two seasons but Peter Taylor's signing of Trevor
Benjamin and Ade Akinbiyi in the summer
of 2000 threatened his first team future. Hence he was willing to
drop down into Division One to join bottom placed Norwich who had
serious problems in front of goal following Bellamy's departure.
Tony was freed from his contract with Norwich on 31st October 2000
by mutual consent. The shock news was announced by Manager Bryan
Hamilton at a press conference. Hamilton said "Tony originally
joined us with a view to coaching as well as playing. Coaching involves
both afternoon and evening sessions on top of morning sessions as
a player. Initially Tony had decided to relocate to Norwich but
after careful consideration decided that he did not want to uproot
his young family. There is no way that Tony could travel, play and
coach. He has found the travel from London to Norwich each day a
major complication battling against the traffic for two and a half
hours each morning to arrive here at 9.00. He wanted to look at
things and another opportunity has now come along. He has made the
right decision for himself. The most important thing is that he
is happy in himself. We are very disappointed but hopeful for Tony
that he will make a success of management.
At the same time, he had been contacted by both Oxford and Barnet
about a managerial role at these clubs. He opted for the North London
option and on 1st November 2000, he joined Barnet as player-manager
with John Still moving upstairs to a position as Director of Football
and a place on the board. Despite a victorious 7-0 start to his
managerial career, a run of poor results left Barnet hovering precariously
above bottom spot in the league, and a potential return to non-league
football. On 16th March 2001, Cottee resigned stating that the club
and himself had agreed that a more experienced hand was needed to
steer the club away from relegation. That hand was to be Director
of Football, John Still. Barnet responded with a 2-1 victory over
Southend the following day but ultimately it was not enough and
Barnet returned to the Conference.
Cottee was quickly linked with moves to a whole range of clubs including
Millwall as a player (Sunday People 18th March 2001), Southend
Yeovil (where he had talks with Colin Addison according to the website
of the Non League Paper),
Sheffield Wednesday, Walsall and Leyton Orient (all in The Sun).
A move to Millwall materialised on Transfer Deadline Day (22/3/01)
and his subsequent debut earned Tony a unique record of being the
first player to play in all four English league divisions within
one season (Premiership with Leicester, Div 1 with Norwich, Div
2 with Millwall and Div 3 with Barnet). Millwall won promotion to
Division One on 28th April 2001.
Cottee was released by the Lions on May 3rd and was said to be considering
playing in the United States with the New England Revolution. On
27th May 2001, Tony was linked with a move to Cape Town Ajax by
the Sunday People. Rejecting this, he has since been mentioned
in connection with a player-coach role at Third Division Cheltenham.
He rejected this move as well citing the travel as a problem from
his Essex home. It has since been suggested that a coaching role
at West Ham is being prepared under the new Glenn Roeder regime.
Tony announced his retirement from playing in July 2001.
New Orient manager and former West Ham teammate Paul Brush offered
Tony a coaching role focussing on Orient's strikers in October 2001.
This was accepted.
In mid-March 2005, Tony announced that he was leading a consortium
to buy West Ham although three other bidders would compete for control.
Cottee, who faces the sack as ambassador for the club due to his
invovlement in the bid, would need to find £25m with his partners.
This resurfaced in January 2006 with reports in The People
Cottee had teamed with an Irish "Mr Fix-it" to put together
a £100million plus package to take control at Upton Park.
In the meantime, Tony is working as a football pundit.