Filed: Thursday, 2nd November 2000
Earlier this week it was announced that Tony Cottee had been appointed as player/manager of third division Barnet.
Tony Fowles of the Ironworks Gazette went down to Underhill to meet the former Hammers idol for this exclusive interview.
Tony Cottee is looking forward to his new role with great anticipation. The striker who has graced the game with clubs West Ham, Everton, Leicester, Everton, Norwich City and now Barnet is relishing his new role, and can't wait to get started.
"Iím absolutely delighted that Barnet have given me this opportunity to further my career," a relaxed Cottee told us. "Iíve never made any secret of the fact that I want to go into management, and it's just great for me that Iím going to combine the two.
"Iíve just met the players at the training ground and introduced myself, and Iím really looking forward to it."
Tony, 35, who made his professional debut back in 1982 with West Ham at just 17, still feels he has a while left yet in those old legs.
"Iíve always looked after myself and Iíd like to think that I am still fit," he said. "Iíd like to play to the end of my contract, which is the rest of this season plus two.
"When I get to that stage Iíll be thirty seven, and weíll have to look at things thereafter," he adds. "But I want to play for as long as I can.
"Everyone says to me play as long as you can; I want to do that but it is just as important that the playing doesnít get in the way of me learning the management, and that the management doesnít get in the way of the playing as well, so I have got to reach a compromise there. But weíll look at it as we go along, and Iíll just have to play it by ear.Ē
TC, as he is still better known at Upton Park, has also managed to collar his old favourite number nine shirt at Barnet ("it was just coincidence, one of the lads left and that was the only one that was available - thatís my story and Iím sticking to it," he says), which he intends to wear for a while yet. But he confesses that management will be his main role - and he cites several great leaders he has played under as inspiration.
"ďIíll be taking a bit from all the managers [I've worked for], but I think those that deserve special mention are: John Lyall, my old manager at West Ham; Harry Redknapp, my other manager at West Ham; Bobby Robson, my England manager; Howard Kendall, a great manager at Everton and Martin OíNeill at Leicester. Peter Taylor at Leicester; Bryan Hamilton at Norwich - itís a fantastic CV of managers and I will take a little bit of all of them.
"Of course I will take my own ideas and that will be Tony Cottee the manager," he says. "But if I can't learn from those then there is no point me sitting here. I have worked under some very good managers and I must have learned something from them."
He is keen to retain his links with West Ham (he already has Omar Riza on his playing staff), and would certainly be interested in giving some of the fringe players at Upton Park an opportunity to experience league football.
"I will be speaking with Harry soon, and if I can help him by giving some of his youngsters league experience - and providing that they can do a job for Barnet, then I would be only too pleased to do that, and work with Harry," he says.
Cottee, who spent nearly 8 years at West Ham in two spells, is still loved by the fans there. Every year, whatever the colour of the shirt he is wearing, he receives a fantastic response from the crowd - despite managing to score against us nearly every time he visits.
So the inevitable question arises of whether he sees himself as a future boss at his beloved Upton Park?
"Iíve never really made any secret of the fact that I grew up as a West Ham fan and played for the club," he said. "So that would be nice if that were to be the case.Ē
So despite the inevitable doubts that Cottee must have about stepping into his first management role ("It is a journey into the unknown for myself" he freely admits), we think he'll do okay. We certainly wish him every success in his new venture, and who knows - one day we could all be singing 'Tony Cottee's Claret and Blue army ...'