‘It was needed...’ - ex-Bristol City man’s gratitude to Robins legend Gary Johnson
Cotterill had a 13-year long career in the professional game and praised how Gary Johnson dealt with his younger self
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David Cotterill has put praise on ex-Bristol City manager Gary Johnson for how he treated him during the early stages of his playing career.
Johnson managed Cotterill during the early stages of his career after coming through the academy system at the Robins. The Wales international had been given his debut by Brian Tinnion but it was Johnson who had got to see him play at Ashton Gate more.
The 67-year-old replaced Tinnion in September 2005 and took a liking to Cotterill, who had just come off a debut season, playing 13 times across all competitions. Johnson was appointed and wanted to be the man to take the club to the Championship after Danny Wilson’s near misses.
Cotterill played regularly under Johnson and he scored seven goals in 47 appearances. He ended up winning the Young Player of the Year award and caught the eye of many.
“He was tough, a tough person to play under and he was on my s***, he was on all the youngsters s***,” said Cotterill on an UndrTheCosh podcast when asked about Johnson.
The Cardiff-born winger recalled a moment when there had been speculation about a move to the Premier League with Fulham reportedly interested at the time. Cotterill was in neighbouring city Cardiff across the Severn Bridge and remembers how Johnson reacted to the speculation.
Cotterill said: “I think it was needed because I remember I went shopping somewhere in Cardiff and I saw a football agent or a scout. They said I’m hearing Fulham are in for you and they were in the Premier League at the time.
“I was chatting about it and said I didn’t know too much about it, I saw it in the papers. I went into training on the Monday morning and Gary Johnson goes ‘you think you can get a f***ing move to Fulham, training like this’?”
The 34-year-old didn’t hold any animosity against Johnson for how he reacted despite being only a 17-year-old at the time. Cotterill had moved away from home and had wanted to succeed in the game.
He kept his head down and despite City not winning promotion, he would eventually get his move. Cotterill caught the eye of Championship side Norwich City and earlier revealed that a deal had been agreed but his agent had held off on it.
A man-of-the-match display against Northampton Town towards the end of the summer transfer window in August 2006. Cotterill earned a penalty for Phil Jevons to score and later scored one himself after being fouled.
Cotterill, 18-years-old at the time, earned a move to Premier League new boys Wigan Athletic. His move to the English top flight was a reward for his patience and the advice he had from Johnson to keep grounded.
“He was planting the seeds to say don’t think you’ve made it too much yet and keep working hard,” Cotterill admitted.
“He was always doing that with me. He played me, trusted me, and wanted the best for me and I needed that. I always needed a manager to give me the kick up the a**e. He was tough but he was trying to create that environment.
“We were at Bristol City and we were the biggest club in that league at that time, he wanted us to get promoted. He wanted to create that winning environment that we didn’t have.”
Cotterill ended up mainly having a career in the Championship, playing for clubs like Sheffield United, Swansea City, Portsmouth and Birmingham City, before returning to City for a second spell in 2017. He wound down his career by signing for Welsh clubs Barry Town United and Newtown and is now without a club.
As for Johnson, he led City to promotion as runners-up in League One in 2007 and later went on to manage Peterborough United, Northampton, Yeovil and Cheltenham Town. Johnson, who’s son Lee went on to play and manage the club also, is currently in charge of National League outfit Torquay United.