Former Robins boss giving back to the community and helping the homeless – Gloucestershire Live

Posted: August 25, 2020 at 8:51 pm


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Steve Cotterill has five promotions on his managerial CV, but there is still one he craves to complete the set.

Neil Warnock has eight and Id like to equal that, he says with unflinching self-belief.

He also has the one from the Championship that I havent yet.

Cotterills desire to reach the Premier League remains as strong as it was when he was transforming home club Cheltenham Town with three promotions in his early 30s.

He has subsequently taken charge of Stoke City, Burnley, Notts County, Portsmouth, Nottingham Forest, Bristol City and Birmingham City.

He has dedicated his time since leaving St Andrews preparing for his return to the dugout.

The focus has been self-improvement, learning and investing in himself, but also on giving something back to the community.

Chatting in the Clubroom at the David Lloyd Leisure Club in Long Ashton, Bristol, Cotterill is in relaxed mood after an intensive two-hour gym session.

I am here three times a week because I very much believe in healthy body, healthy mind, he says.

Cotterill is known for his high standards and meticulous attention to detail through more than 700 games on the touchline.

Beneath the tough and sometimes intimidating exterior there is a softer, compassionate side to his personality and this is clearly on show midway through the interview.

It becomes evident that he has used his motivational skills at the gym, where he is well known among members and 68-year-old Tony Green has been taken under Cotterills wing.

Green was on the books of Bristol City as a young left winger, playing with Ray Cashley, who went on to play in goal for the senior side throughout the 1970s.

We dont talk much about football because Im more interested in Steve Cotterill the man and we get on really well, Green says.

He is as hard as nails on the outside, but on the inside hes a softy and hes looked after me, big time.

Hes bought me trainers, T-shirts, even this Adidas hoodie I am wearing now.

He found out when my birthday is and there is always a present then and at Christmas.

I remember walking through town one day and I bumped into Steve and started chatting.

My trainers were ripped and he took me straight into a sports shop and bought me a new pair thats the kind of person that he is he cant do enough for people.

He even took the coat off his back on a cold day and gave it to a guy sleeping on the street in Bristol.

It transpires that Cotterill is on first name terms with several of central Bristols homeless population, regularly providing them with hot meals and drinks.

Green, who lives near the Downs in Bristol, is full of praise for Cotterills generous nature and has also greatly benefited from his encouragement in the gym.

We have some good banter and last week was my first day back since lockdown and it was like I hadnt been away, he says.

Hes so encouraging and will say things like come on, one more, one more and hes improved my fitness no end.

I never used to do any upper body work, but hes added different exercises into the circuit we do and he was on the phone telling me I needed to get myself back into the gym.

One day we were walking up and down the pool and being Steve he kept saying just 10 more and we got to 75 before he let me stop, but he does it in a kind way and doesnt get irate or try to humiliate you.

He gently pushes you, which you need with your training sometimes and I really enjoy training with him he even shares his shaving foam with me!

Cotterill and Green are regularly joined by Brislington-based City supporter Rich Gunningham, the newest member of their gang.

Ive been a City fan all my life so I knew of Steve and wed be in the gym at the same time so it started from there last October, the retired 58-year-old said.

We had some great times at Ashton Gate under his management so it was good to chat about those, but blimey he knows how to train!

There is no hiding place with Steve and the intensity is unbelievable. He has his Pro Licence coaching qualification and you can see why.

I was very heavy, but I started with him three times a week and it makes you discipline yourself.

Gunningham, who lives in Brislington, lost 12kg before lockdown.

Its been a life changer for me and I am the fittest Ive been since I was about 20, he says.

You know who is boss and he keeps you on your toes. If you are not doing something right, hell let you know, but he wont ask you to do anything he wouldnt do so hes fantastic.

We have a laugh as well, which definitely makes time at the gym more enjoyable.

When Steve returns to management, Tony and I will carry on doing the things hes taught us.

Hes shown me that if you do things properly you can do less, but achieve more so I really appreciate all hes done and weve got to know each other well along the way.

Even outside of his training group, Cotterill makes time to help out other gym goers.

Every other passer-by stops to say hello and ask how he is doing and one of them is Jo Bartlam, a great grandmother who has been a regular since David Lloyd opened 25 years ago.

She was persuaded by Cotterill not to cancel due to concerns over post-lockdown safety.

I first chatted to Steve about four years ago, she says.

I asked his opinion about a particular piece of machinery and he was happy to show me.

I also mentioned Id been getting cramps in my legs at night for years and he sorted that out, showing me the foam roller he uses.

You can tell how disciplined he is during his training, but he is always willing to help anyone who asks.

I came back to resign, but I saw Steve who took the time to walk me around the gym and go through any safety concerns I had I must admit I wondered if he had gone onto the payroll!

But hes just a good ambassador for the club and I am still a member here thanks to him.

Cotterills own regime was disrupted last year by a neck operation to repair a ruptured disc an old battle wound from his playing days with Wimbledon, Bournemouth and Brighton.

The surgery was a success and his recovery smooth, meaning he has long since regained fitness levels at 56 that would put many two decades younger to shame.

His eyes light up when the conversation moves to football, which is what he loves and what his world revolves around.

There wont be many teams I dont see live at least once throughout the season, he says.

I watch all levels from Premier League to League Two and take the opportunity to watch games abroad when I am not working because European football in particular interests me.

Cotterills first experience on the continent was with Irish club Sligo Rovers, who he led to the Uefa Intertoto Cup in 1995/96.

They claimed creditable draws at home to FC Nantes and SC Heerenveen, also making trips to Lillestrom in Norway and Lithuanian side Kaunas.

Those early European adventures lit a spark that remains 24 years on.

Some of their passing and movements were real eye openers, he recalls.

I regularly use the Eurotunnel, base myself in Lille and from there drive to watch games all over.

Football is not a job for me, its a career and a passion and by going abroad and watching games and training you definitely learn more because there are always modern and new ways of playing going on.

Cotterill was able to discuss tactics and formations with former France international Rene Girard, who led Montpellier to their first Ligue 1 title in 2011/12 and is now in charge of Paris FC.

Back home, name any player in any of the four professional divisions of the English game and Cotterill will be able to list their position, former clubs, strengths and weaknesses without hesitation.

Cotterill became one of the youngest holders of the Uefa Pro Licence in 2000/01.

He has also kept all his qualifications up to date through the League Managers Association.

But he has been happy to bide his time before accepting his next job.

One of the benefits of not being a first time manager is that when you are not working, you dont need to jump into anything.

Thats why when I am out, it can be for quite a while because I put a lot of thought into job vacancies.

I have to feel as though there is a connection and that I am going to be successful with that club.

Thats what I want to be: successful. Once youve had success and you know what it feels like, you want more of it. I have a great thirst for that and a great thirst for learning.

Cotterill was offered a top six League One job three weeks after leaving Birmingham.

Sometimes jumping back in that quickly if your last one has not gone as well as you anticipated or wanted, you need time to reflect and I wanted time to reflect so I turned the job down.

I needed more time and I wanted to think about what went on at Birmingham.

Early in the 2018/19 season, Cotterill was in dialogue with a club awaiting a takeover.

I wasted eight months with that one. I knew about the budgets and the players and thought it was going to materialise.

Other jobs came up during that period that I didnt apply for because I was waiting for another one and didnt want to pull the rug from under them, but in the end it didnt happen.

Since then Cotterill has been in the final two and the final three for two separate jobs in the Championship.

He was then forced to take some time out due to the neck injury, giving him a chance to take stock and plot his next move.

Thats all fine now and there have been two or three job offers, but not what Ive wanted.

I can take my time, but I want something to come up soon hopefully.

I want to get back on the grass and improve players and teams, which is what I believe Ive done at every job Ive been in and I am looking forward to the one and I am excited by it.

Cotterill has spent the majority of his managerial career in the Championship, firstly with Stoke City in 2002.

He was then offered a chance to join Howard Wilkinson at Sunderland in the top flight, with the plan for him to become manager the following year as Wilkinson moved upstairs to become director of football.

I wasnt fortunate enough to have Peter Coates as my chairman at Stoke, he says.

The Icelandic owners were a completely different kettle of fish to having Peter and if his takeover had been completed I was signing a new contract there.

I still speak to Peter, who is a gentleman and that was an extremely tough period for me in my life because during my time at Stoke my mother was dying. She eventually died when I was at Sunderland.

He regrouped and bounced back at Burnley, putting in place nine out of the 11 players that eventually secured a first promotion to the Premier League under Owen Coyle 18 months later.

He then dragged an underachieving Notts County side that were 14 points adrift of the top of the table to the League Two title in 2010, winning 14 out of 18 games in charge, with three draws and one defeat. They went on to win the league by 10 points.

Cotterill had three job offers that summer and chose Portsmouth in the Championship, but his reign there was littered with off-field instability.

The club were relegated three years out of four and the only year they didnt go down was my year there. I didnt realise that until a sports journalist in Pompey told me during lockdown, he recalls.

Its a great club with passionate fans, but we had three different owners and two lots of administration in under two years, so I am not sure what you can really build in that time.

Every time I plugged a hole in the boat, another one would appear.

He was offered the chance to take over from Steve McClaren at Nottingham Forest in October 2011.

I really thought that was going to be the break to get into the Premier League, he says ruefully.

To get them into just below mid-table from being at the bottom was a real hard graft because I didnt have Dexter Blackstock due to an ACL injury.

We also lost one of the best young strikers coming through in Patrick Bamford, who I watched playing for the youth team and gave him his first team debut before he moved on during the transfer window.

We had to sell Wes Morgan, who had been missing for the first time in his Forest career for about three months with knee and ankle injuries. For me he was the best defender in the Championship for a decade.

The sudden death of owner Nigel Doughty was a devastating blow for Forest and spelled the beginning of the end for Cotterills time at the City Ground.

There were two consortiums, one was Saudi Arabian and they wanted me to stay.

With the consortium that did take over - the Kuwaitis - I was the first of many managers they changed in their short time there.

It was an incredible club, walking past the bust of Brian Clough in reception. I remember watching him on TV as a kid and you could still feel his presence around the ground.

I have a great relationship with Nigel (Clough) and theres great respect there.

One of the highlights of Cotterills reign was a 7-3 victory at Leeds Uniteds Elland Road in March 2012, less than four months after losing 4-0 to them at home.

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Former Robins boss giving back to the community and helping the homeless - Gloucestershire Live

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August 25th, 2020 at 8:51 pm

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