Football on TV: Tony Cottee

Date published: Friday 6th November 2015 9:20

Fashion police
Looks very much wedded to the idea that Burtons is the place to get all of your emotionally repressed expressions of masculinity. Suits are dark and rather than being softly tailored, often seem as heavy and dense as a stab vest. His ties are fastened in the big knot style that kids used at school as a petty act of rebellion. Shirt collars are stiff and sometimes seem a little tight, making his head appear like a loaf of bread rising out of a small tin. Never wears patterns. Occasionally likes a three-piece-suit with open-neck shirt. Basically, seems to have taken the bar manager of a rough pub in Upminster as a style icon.


Lingo bingo
Innate geezerishness is never far from the surface. One of the pundits most likely to lapse into cockney and give it a big ‘your ‘avin a larf, intcha?’ Loves to put a name at the end of sentence, Jeff. Specializes is grimacing and being a little suspicious of ‘the foreign lads.’ I always remember him expressing his unhappiness with Fabio Capello as England manager by trying to make out he was no good. When it was pointed out to him that Fabio had, at the time, only lost only one competitive game and had the best win ratio of any manager to that date, TC scrunched up his face, sneered and said ‘naah, I’m not ‘avin, Capello, Jeff,’ as though this was a comprehensive argument against both the statistics and the truth.


Hits and misses
Worth remembering that he was once Britain’s most expensive footballer at 2.2 million quid and was, by any standards, a great club goalscorer. Now 50, he’s been a Sky headphone-wearer for what seems like years. Others have come and gone but TC remains, so he must be thought highly of. Like Alan McInally, is one of those few pundits who is allowed to report on games live, as well as do the in-studio work too. And yet he is very much on the second-rank, popping up on weeknights to do League Cup work, or depping for a regular on Soccer Saturday. Has a cold and oddly lonely air about him when reporting live from the terraces. Always seems to be trying hard to be good, but his eyes betray a worry that he’s not. Not the most articulate pundit on TV but never reaches Merse’s stream of consciousness incomprehensible surrealism. Doesn’t seem to be especially hot on tactics, relies more on having been a player to try and understand what is going on.


Big club bias
Has been sent out to enough cold and windswept football grounds to report on games to know that football exists outside the red carpet of Premier League privilege.


Loved or loathed
Does anyone feel strongly about Tony? He’s just there, isn’t he? An unobtrusive and yet constant part of life, like socks or belly button fluff.


Proper Football Man
Oh yes. TC is on the PFM advisory board, possibly in charge of making toast (because the wife’s gone shopping, ain’t she?) and topping up mugs of tea with a splash of brandy. A working class lad who done good back in the glory days when you had to be a man reeking of cheap aftershave and sweat to play the game, and not a lavender-scented male model. Has just the right amount of suspicion that the foreign lads go down too easy, would certainly like to see a good young English manager given a chance at a top, top club. Likes to see the game played the right way. Knows it’s a man’s game and likes it when a player is a man’s man. Is also worried about the lack of good young British lads coming through. Surely must be mates with ‘Arry, given West Ham connections. Always reluctant to be overly critical of any British player, Jeff, but far less so when it comes to people with difficult to pronounce names from somewhere that is not here. All of this is primo PFMing of the first water. Must surely also love a joke about being short, which, as every PFM knows, is absolutely hilarious. Also never scored a goal from outside the box, about which much banter can be had, even though it’s always the same joke.

He apparently own greyhounds with his dad and every true PFM loves a dog. He sees all dogs as male, in the same way that red wine is male, and all cats as female, like white wine. Combining dogs, racing and gambling is about as brilliantly alpha male as is possible for any PFM to imagine. Also loves a charity golf day and the chance to spend time with ex-West Ham footballers. More top, top, top marks for TC.

And he’s called TC (a classic nickname, even just saying “TC” gives every PFM that warm glow of being amongst their own kin) He is a fairly small fella and thus would not be able to hold his own when out of the town with the Reidy and the boys, drinking pints of Reidy’s new super glue and creosote best bitter. He’d have a go, though. And would gain respect for that. Easily picked up and carried home by one of the bigger boys, and any gang of PFMs loves to have at least one of their number comatose and slung over someone’s shoulder, like a floppy garden gnome. So he’d always be welcome on a PFM night out. Would also fit very nicely into a shopping trolley, preferably one abandoned in a canal, which is never not fun to any PFM. And is about the right size to drop straight into a wheelie bin of kitchen waste from a third floor hotel window. Top bantz, that. Not a natural when it comes to being papped at 3am emerging from a Canning Town nightclub called Clitz with Miss Industrial Waste (chemicals and solvents) Bikini Body of 1982 on his arm, but one can imagine him following, red-eyed, in the wake of a more roguish PFM as he did so.


Beyond the lighted stage
I imagine TC would “love my sports, Jeff” and much less so “my feminist politics and abstract impressionist art, Germaine.” When not on the telly, seems almost permanently to be playing in a charity golf tournament in Ilford with Tony Gale, or in a local newspaper at a charity lunch (or a ‘Gala Dinner’ to give it it’s proper PFM title) possibly with Geoff Hurst or Ron Harris. There’s a good chance he does not actually exist outside of this context.

John Nicholson

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