‘The best place...’ - Ex-Bristol City star reveals rejected Man United move

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Not many footballers can say that they've rejected 20-time league winners Man United

Ex-Wales international David Cotterill has revealed he turned down a move to Manchester United when he was coming through at Bristol City.

Cotterill, who made 24 appearances for his country and had a career that took him from League One to the Premier League and later a stint in India and Wales, began his career at Ashton Gate. Scouts had crossed the Severn Bridge and watched Cotterill, a striker at the time, and opted to sign him, despite being in a Cardiff heartlands, the city that he was born and raised in.

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Signed as a ten-year-old, Cotterill remained in the West Country for six years and showed early promise that was picked out by City’s management team. At 15-years-old, the Welshman was training with the first-team and later made his debut at an early age.

Things could have been much different however as Premier League giants Man United had shown an interest in Cotterill and had been keen to take him to Old Trafford. Cotterill assessed the situation and decided that staying put at City would be the best career option.

“When I was fourteen, Manchester United wanted to sign me and I thought it weren’t the right thing to do,” he admitted on the Undr the Cosh podcast.

“It’s a massive club and they have loads of players coming through and not many of them make it. I thought the best football experience for me was to stay at Bristol City to try and get into the first team as soon as possible.

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“It worked for me and the club backed me. Brian Tinnion gave me my debut when I was sixteen, he was always watching the academies. He always had one eye on that which is good, he was an experienced player going to watch the younger players develop and that was good timing for me.

"I’m the second youngest to play for Bristol City, Marvin Brown was the first one and he was sixteen and I was not too long after him. When I look at my son now and he’s fifteen that a year above him I made my debut against fully grown men and played for Wales at seventeen is quite mad.

“When I was at Bristol I knew I was going to play all the time because I’ve gotten into the team and the team was doing really well.

“Scott Murray was moved from the right wing to the left wing and he was doing great there. It was great to be around the place and I was on the right wing for Bristol and we were playing all the time.”

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Club legend Brian Tinnion, who replaced Danny Wilson, handed him his debut in October 2004 in a League One match against Colchester United. He replaced Michael Bell and came on as a 16-year-old, becoming one of the youngest players to wear the shirt. Cotterill was at the club at the same time as Marvin Brown, who is the youngest player to represent City.

As a player trying to make the grade in the senior game, Cotterill had to learn the hard way of playing against and with players, whose careers were on the line. City were in the third tier at the time and were chasing promotion to the Championship after many near misses.

Tommy Doherty is a player that has been credited with helping shape the career of Cotterill. The Bristol-born midfielder is nine years older than him and like him began his career at City and had success winning the EFL Trophy. He demanded the highest standards from his teammates and didn't give Cotterill a free pass despite his young age and that he had only just began his footballing career.

He said: "I remember some of the players, Tommy Doherty was a really good player for Bristol and he was a great lad as well but if I didn’t pass the ball in front of his feet, ‘What the f*** is this’, he would stick it on you straight away.

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"I had Bradley Orr behind me and he was a younger guy as well, he was a Scouse guy and a tough guy. He helped me develop my game and if I cheek back he would soon tell me about myself. I think it just helps you develop. Certain details about the ball has to be played in front of you at the right tempo and if it’s not done you get told about yourself."

Cotterill's early promise didn't go amiss and he was named the Young Player of the Year for the 2005/2006 season. He scored seven goals in 57 appearances for City as they finished ninth in the standings.

He emerged into the first-team at the same time as long-serving midfielder Cole Skuse, whilst Scott Golbourne was also on the books. A personal accolade to celebrate an impressive individual achievement would be satisfactory for most, but Cotterill was disappointed he didn't win the Player of the Year award.

"I knew there were a few teams sniffing around me," he admitted. "I always wanted to kick on and I wanted to play in the Premier League, I think that’s most footballers' ambition. When I started off there, part of me thought I should have been Player of the Year for the whole thing.

"We had a few good youngsters at the time, Cole Skuse who went on to have a great career. Scott Golbourne as well we had a few good youngsters so to get that accolade was really good."

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