Book Review - Tony Coton - There To Be Shot At
For goalkeeping legend, Tony Coton life is about the three F’s; Friends, Family and Football. In his absorbing autobiography ‘there to be shot at’, he takes us on this life journey.
And what a journey it is!
Coton personifies everything that a fan expects of a player. His dedication, commitment and loyalty to his team endeared him to supporters of every club he played for. As did the many off-field rucks. For every punch up (and there were many) so his iconic status grew. For fans of Birmingham, Watford and Manchester City, Coton was simply ‘one of us’.
It wasn’t just his beer related antics that fans loved. Coton was also an exceptionally talented player. As numerous player of the season awards will testify he was a top quality keeper. Only a combination of loyalty to his teams and FA politics prevented him from winning the medals and England caps that his talent deserved.
But as he says himself ‘memories over medals’ and it is these memories that have helped make his autobiography such an enjoyable read.
Stories involving Scottish hard-case and future player of the year Kenny Burns, European Cup winner Archie Gemmell and ‘the spider tale’ (to be fair the list is endless) all providing the laugh out loud moments that supplement the more serious issues that the book explores.
As you read ‘there to be shot at’, you will feel the emotions that Coton experiences. You will sense the tangible bond and passion in the Birmingham dressing room and cringe at their escapades on the nights out. You will share his joy and pain as he makes the transition from playing with mates to 1st division football. You will laugh at the many tales from the dressing room and feel his sorrow when let down by those he trusted in the boardrooms.
Coton’s career has taken many twists and turns. Thrust into the limelight with a famous debut penalty save with his first touch in professional football, he has experienced survival escapes and suffered relegation. He has gone from facing a prison sentence to part of Sir Elton John’s inner circle. From the comforts of Watford to the madhouse that was 1990’s Manchester City.
Coton has played under some of the games must illustrious managers but none bigger than when he became part of Sir Alex Fergusons coaching team. The dominant force in English football they had one major weakness; the number 1 position. As goalkeeping coach, Coton lifts the lid on United’s high profile failure to replace Peter Schmeichel talking openly about the candidates and why they failed.
He is equally honest in giving his opinion on the big name fall-outs as Beckham, Keane, Van Nistelrooy all departed Old Trafford. He provides a unique insight into Ferguson's managerial style and debates the big events at the club, particularly the controversial trip to Rio and the signing of an unknown youngster of the name Cristiano Ronaldo.
For a man that has seen it and done it. A career and life full of highs and lows. His best memory? Saving a penalty for Gilmour boys winning their respect and admiration. Magical days for a likeable Tamworth lad.