The modest journeyman
Tony Cottey was known as the small Welshman with the big heart who played football and cricket professionally and was sometimes mistaken for the more eminent footballer, Tony Cottee. This entertaining and occasionally thoughtful story of his career shows that Cottey sees himself above all as a "journeyman".
This view chimes with the self-effacing nature of a book that exposes a cricketer riddled with self-doubt but who can also lay claim to some notable achievements. Cottey helped deliver Glamorgan their first title for 24 years in 1993. Chants of "there are only two Tony Cotteys" were ringing round Canterbury the day Cottey struck the winning runs against Kent to take Glamorgan to the Sunday League title. He was also part of the side that won the County Championship four years later, a feat he repeated with Sussex in 2003.
Cottey was rarely mentioned when it came to handing out international honours. But for five seasons between 1992 and 1996 he had a better first-class county batting average than Mike Atherton, Alec Stewart and Nasser Hussain. "Please don't think that I'm claiming that I was a better player than any of the players listed above," he pleads.
Cottey's career, spanning 1986-2004 and worth nearly 15,000 first-class runs, took off after he was given the sack at Swansea City football club in 1985. He was on the scrap heap. However, Alan Jones, then the Glamorgan coach, gave Cottey a chance and he took it. Having been exposed to the hard-nosed world of football apprenticeship, county cricket seemed a breeze.
In between a raft of entertaining stories, including one about Alan Butcher's fear of hitting motorway cones, there are some solemn reflections. A chapter is dedicated to the death of Umer Rashid, who drowned on a Sussex pre-season tour to Grenada in 2002. Cottey was his room-mate on that trip.
There is the heartache of having to leave Glamorgan after contract negotiations stalled in 1998. But the move to Sussex was, in hindsight, perfect for Cottey as he became one of a rare breed of cricketers to win Championship titles with different counties.
The book itself belongs to a rare breed - an autobiography written post-retirement, and as such in welcome contrast to those from top-flight sportsmen who pen their life story at 24.
There's Only 2 Tony Cotteys
by Tony Cottey and David Brayley
Gomer Press £14.99
This article was first published in the October 2008 issue of the Wisden Cricketer. Subscribe here