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Tony Cottee exclusive interview

Tony Cottee played over 700 professional games, scoring 292 goals in a career spanning just under two decades.

Tony went on to become a West Ham legend, becoming the clubs 5th highest goal scorer of all time with 146 goals, whilst also having a prolific career at both Leicester City and Everton, playing a combined 269 matches and scoring an impressive 99 goals in his time at the two respected clubs.

Upon retiring in 2001, Tony has become a football commentator, working regularly on Sky Sports.

Tony Cottee | Sportingbet

WEST HAM

On West Ham signing Jack Wilshere…

“Jack Wilshere is the best signing West Ham have made since Payet. A lot of West Ham fans didn’t know what they were getting with Payet, but I’ve been a fan of Jack Wilshere for the last decade.

“Wilshere’s family are West Ham supports and I always think it’s great to sign someone who’s got a connection with a club. You need to have players like Wilshere and Noble, who know what it takes to play for the football club, as they’ve grown up around it.

“West Ham have made other signings, but this signing is at last a real signal of intent from the club to show where they are going. My only disappointment about the Wilshere move is that he didn’t come to West Ham two years ago when he went on loan to Bournemouth.”

On Jack Wilshere being guaranteed first team football…

“I think Wilshere will be a starter for West Ham. He would have told Pellegrini that he’s not leaving Arsenal to sit on the bench. I think Pellegrini will have told Wilshere that he’s going to build the team around him. You don’t sign a player like Wilshere unless you’re going to build a team around them.”

On Jack Wilshere not being selected for the World Cup squad…

“I don’t agree with the decision to leave Jack Wilshere out of the World Cup Squad, I was gutted he didn’t go and he will be as well. he’ll get back in the England squad now he’ll be playing regular football, no doubt about it.

“I won’t argue with Southgate’s selection. If England win the World Cup, he’ll quite rightly say he chose the right squad. But I do believe that once you’re playing at the highest level, you need players that can unlock defences and I think Wilshere has the ability to do that.

“I think that Wilshere not being in the World Cup squad has helped West Ham. If he played at the World Cup, he may not have left Arsenal and West Ham may have not got him. Jack Wilshere will want to come back next season and show everyone what a great player he can be.”

On West Ham signing Felipe Anderson…

“West Ham have been linked with various signings over the past four seasons, but they never seem to convert any. This year, they finally look like they are.

“West Ham often get linked with players, but they either haven’t got the money, clout, or the player doesn’t want to come to the club. It’s frustrating to hear about potential signings that never end up happening. However, this year looks like it’s going to be different. Exciting times are ahead for West Ham.”

On West Ham not selling their talent…

“I hope West Ham don’t undo the good work they’ve done so far. Since Gold and Sullivan have been in charge, it’s been two steps forward and one step back. There’s no point in West Ham buying good players then letting go of their best players, just because they’ve over spent and need to balance the books. I’ve got a horrible feeling that West Ham will lose one or two bigger players to balance the books by the end of the transfer window.

“I was hoping that the move to the London Stadium would stop this from happening, but West Ham can’t improve as a club if they keep selling their best players. West Ham made a massive profit last year, and I want to see the money going towards new players. I don’t want to see the books balanced by selling top talent like Arnautovic, Antonio or Lanzini.”

On rumours of Michael Antonio leaving…

“I’d be very disappointed if Antonio left West Ham, especially for only £15 million. On his day, he’s worth a lot more than that. I see a lot of average players being sold for £15/20 million and Antonio is worth more than that.

“If a player wants to leave, it’s a different story, but if they don’t want to leave, they shouldn’t sell them.”

Michail Antonio | Sportingbet

On Payet coming back to West Ham…

“I don’t see Payet coming back to West Ham as an option. Payet had his time at the club and I don’t think West Ham need to resign him. I would be astonished if the club resigned him.

“Unfortunately, the manner in which Payet left the club meant the fans were very unhappy with him. He was sensational when he played, right up until he left West Ham. He was fundamental in the transitional period between the club moving stadiums, but the West Ham fans have a long memory and he left on bad terms.

“I’m not sure there will be room for him to come back to West Ham, especially with the signing of Wilshere and the players the club are linked with, such as Anderson and Yarmolenko.”

On whether West Ham should be focusing on purchasing attacking players…

“I don’t think West Ham should be focusing on purchasing attacking players. The club has got some fantastic attacking players, who can create and score goals. Hernandez has just played at the World Cup and Carroll is a real handful, along with others.

“West Ham’s problems are in defence. They’ve started well with the signing of Diop, but I think they needed to sign two centre halves and a goalkeeper. West Ham have signed Fabianski, but I’m not sure that that’s looking long term.”

On locking down Declan Rice…

“I’m concerned about Declan Rice as he’s only go one year left on his contract. He’s on a very low wage and I think he’ll see out his contract, then move on to at top club who will offer him £50,000 a week.

“We can’t let Declan Rice leave the club and we should be building our whole defence around him. I hope that Pellegrini has got this in mind and that Rice is very much a part of his plans. If you talk to any West Ham fan, they’ll tell you Rice was the main highlight from last year alongside Arnautovic.”

On Joe Hart not staying…

“I don’t think that Hart hit the heights that fans were looking for. I’ve always been a fan of Hart and I’m disappointed that it hasn’t worked out for him.”

Joe Hart | Sportingbet

On West Ham’s starting goalkeeper…

“West Ham have not had a settled goalkeeper for the past few seasons. It was Randolph and Adrian, then Adrian and Hart, and this year it’s going to be Adrian and Fabianski. I don’t see any of West Ham’s goalkeepers standing out more than the other. All the top clubs have a standout first choice goalkeeper, but I don’t think Fabianski is much better than Adrian.

“West Ham don’t have a first-choice goalkeeper, they have two second choice goalkeepers. I don’t know if Adrian or Fabianski will start in goal and that’s a problem that needs to be addressed.”

On Hernandez future at West Ham…

“I think Hernandez is the best finisher at the club. As a player, you have to play regular football and you need to play at least six games in a row, just to get your fitness, sharpness and touch up to a good level. It also makes you feel as part of the team. For me, I don’t think Hernandez has been giving his chance to show his qualities.

“When you look at players that could move on, Hernandez is in that bracket. He’s on a lot of money and if he’s not playing then they will get a fresh player in who is likely to start. I’ve always liked Hernandez as a goal scorer, but if you’re not playing regularly then you need to move on to a team where you’re going to play regularly.”

On Pellegrini becoming manager…

“I was disappointed that David Moyes didn’t get the West Ham job. I feel he achieved everything he was asked to do. I can’t understand how Moyes wasn’t given the money to spend on bringing in players and now Pellegrini has been given a large amount of money to spend on improving the team.

“I hope things work out for Pellegrini because I want West Ham to be successful. In terms of what Pellegrini will bring to the club, I don’t think much will change. Only time will tell if he is the right man for the job. The one thing that puts pressure on him is the money he’s on. From what I’ve heard it’s a very high number and fans will expect him to deliver top quality if that is the case.”

On whether Moyes would have been able to bring in the players that Pellegrini is looking to bring in…

“I’m not sure Moyes would be able to attract the same players that Pellegrini has done. Wilshere has said that Pellegrini was a big part in signing for West Ham. Pellegrini has made some good signings so far and he looks like a good appointment.

“Players talk in football - there’s no secrets now. Players will know what managers are like to work with before meeting them because they ask fellow pros who’ve worked with them. I’m sure West Ham targets will chat to the likes of Joe Hart to find out what Pellegrini was like to work with. Now West Ham look like they’ll be signing big players from around Europe.”

On what a successful season for West Ham would be…

“West Ham should be looking to finish the season in the top half of the table and maybe sneak into 7th place to achieve the Europa League. With the money Pellegrini is earning, along with the signings they are making, West Ham have no excuse to finish outside the top 10.”

On West Ham building for the future…

“I want West Ham to maintain a steady progression, I don’t want to see the club return to being a yo-yo club who can finish 6th one season and then 15th the next. Now they have the new stadium, they need to be working towards stabilising the club and making progression every year.

“Just because West Ham moved to a new stadium didn’t mean that they were going to be competing for a Champions League place, which some fans seemed to think for some reason. It needs to be a slow build.

“The club need to follow the structure of Tottenham, who have built slowly and now compete in the league, whilst also heavily contributing to the England squad. This hasn’t happened over night, Tottenham had a structure in place for a number of years and they are now seeing the reward for it.”

LEICESTER

On Mahrez joining Man City…

“I think the move to Man City is good for Mahrez, although I think it should have happened in January. I don’t think Mahrez will get in the first team for Man City. He’s definitely good enough to be in the squad, but when you look at the likes of De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling and Sane, I don’t think he’ll replace them.”

Riyad Mahrez | Sportingbet

On Leicester spending the Mahrez money…

“Leicester usually spend their money well, bar a couple of bad signings. Leicester could look to replicate the success of signing Harry Maguire, a young player who is fulfilling his potential and is now worth more than they signed him for. I think Leicester will look to sign young English players who are not given a chance at their current club. There’s some great talent at Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United sitting on the bench that they could look to sign.”

On a successful season for Leicester…

“I think a successful season for Leicester would be finishing in the top half of the table, though European football might be a step too far.”

On Harry Maguire leaving Leicester…

“There’s always a chance Maguire could leave, as we all know money talks. Leicester need to secure Maguire, no matter the cost or how recently his last contract was signed. Leicester can’t afford to lose their best players, so they need to secure Maguire not matter the demands, as he should be rewarded for how well he’s played.

“If a stupid offer comes in for Maguire, around the £60 million mark, then the club may look to let him go, but I’d like to think Leicester will keep him.”

Harry Maguire | Sportingbet

On the signing of James Maddison…

“James Maddison is a very good signing for Leicester. He’s got great technical ability and contributes greatly at set pieces. The one thing I think Maddison is missing, which is unfortunately out of his control, is a real turn of blistering pace.

“I have no doubt that now Maddison has better players around him, he’ll be able to step up to Premier League football and I’m excited to see him play.”

On Patrick Roberts potentially joining Leicester…

“I think Roberts hasn’t been giving his opportunity for whatever reason, but it’s something we’re used to seeing. Solanke’s another talent that didn’t get his chance at Chelsea and is now sitting on the bench at Liverpool. These players should be given a chance and I’m happy to see Leicester being linked with young English players that are hungry to play and have a point to prove.”

On young English players not getting a chance…

“You only have to look as far as Kane at Tottenham. He was being loaned out constantly, when he has turned out to be better than any of the strikers they had in the first team at that time. Clubs need to start giving these young English players a chance.”

On Adrien Silva underperforming…

“I think Silva’s future depended a lot on what happened with Mahrez moving to City. Mahrez had been a key component for Leicester over the last 3 or 4 years, so I think Adrien Silva could become a key player now Mahrez has joined Manchester City.”

On Damarai Gray and Ndidi performing well next year…

“Both Gray and Ndidi need to be given their opportunity to play regularly if they are to fulfil their potential. Leicester have had a few unstable years and I think next year they will look to stabilise the club again and get back in to the top 10.”

On Claude Puel being manager…

“It’s very frustrating for managers not to be given the time they need to create their own team. There’s a lot of pressure from the off to perform and I think Puel needs to be given time.”

ENGLAND

On England reaching the final…

“I think England can reach the final. As weird as it sounds, I was delighted when they lost to Belgium. England have had a little bit of luck with the draw, but you need the players to take advantage of it and that’s exactly what the team are doing.

“England had an easier run to the final than most teams, and although England are playing against Croatia - who have some star names like Rakitic and Modric – I don’t think England will be scared of them. I think it’s a game that England can win and a game that England will win, whether that’s in 90 minutes or penalties.”

On a potential World Cup final…

“France have better players than England, but it’s cup football, so it’s so unpredictable. Although not the World Cup, Greece and Portugal are two teams that have proven that the favourites don’t always win the international tournaments. If you said that Greece would have won the 2004 Euros, you’d have been laughed out of town.

“I’m delighted for Gareth Southgate and the players. There was a lot more expectation on the team after the poor performance two years ago in the Euro’s. If England were to win the World Cup, I think we’d all be partying for the next year. There may as well be a bank holiday on the Monday, as I imagine a lot of people won’t be turning up to work.”

Gareth Southgate | Sportingbet

On Tottenham having their own version of West Ham’s 66 winning team…

“If Harry Kane scores a hat trick and Dele Alli gets a goal, then you can’t help but say Spurs won the World Cup. As long as England win, I don’t think anyone will mind hearing that because we all want to see England win the World Cup.”

On the England squad not having West Ham players…

“I was very disappointed that not a single player in the England squad had ever played a minute of football for West Ham. West Ham have always taken great pride in their academy and this is something that needs to be addressed.”

On English players securing domestic first team football…

“Every single player that is a part of the England squad will be demanding first team football next year, and I totally agree with that. A lot of the England players will sample the glory of this competition and they won’t want to go back and be a bit part player for their club by sitting on the bench.

“Jesse Lingard has been starting most games for England at the World Cup, playing well, whilst also scoring a great goal. He will definitely be thinking that when he’s back at Manchester United, he’ll want to play first team football.

“It hasn’t been until this World Cup that we’ve seen a true reflection of Jesse Lingard’s talent, and that’s because he’s getting game time. If he doesn’t get regular football time at Man U, I’m sure he’ll think about moving on to somewhere he can, as difficult as it may be.”

Jesse Lingard | Sportingbet

On England’s lack of vast international quality…

“Gareth Southgate needs to have more than 30% of players to choose from on a match day weekend. That has to increase. Other top nations like Germany, France and Spain have 60% of their league filled with home talent. Something has gone fundamentally wrong in English football for the nation not to be able to contribute a high level of home talent, and clubs need to start playing their home-grown talent.

“England have proven this year that we have got the talent. The national team is doing fantastic and we had a number of English players in the Champions League Final. A number of England’s squad players represent their country, proving that they’re good enough, but they’re still not getting regular first team football.”

On Kane leaving Tottenham…

“Every club in the World is going to be after Kane this summer. Harry Kane can achieve everything he wants at Spurs. However, sooner or later, Tottenham have to win a trophy. It’s not enough for Tottenham to just qualify for the Champions League, it doesn’t compare to winning it or winning the league. Until Spurs win a trophy, they will always risk losing Kane. He won’t go through his career without winning trophies. Tottenham could be in trouble in their star players get the taste of trophies by winning the World Cup. If Kane and Alli were to win the World Cup, they might want more at club level.

“If Kane does stay at Tottenham, whilst also avoiding injury, I think he will break Shearer’s Premier League goal record. That’s how good he is. Kane has been given £200,000 a week and I think he’s worth every penny of it.

“Tottenham need to bring in players to help make the dream a reality. They’ll wait until the last moment again to sign players, which is Tottenham’s downfall and a reason Kane could leave.”

On Marco Silva's appointment and Everton's eagerness to secure him…

"I don't understand Everton's obsession with Silva and I hope he proves me wrong. He was relegated with Hull and was sacked after a poor run of results with Watford. Other managers could have come in and done as good a job, so I think he needs to prove himself still.

"He's got a lot to prove to the fans. They will be looking for something different after what happened to Sam Allardyce as well with Koeman before him. They need a period of stability and I hope Silva does that, but overall, I don't see the big obsession with his appointment. He hasn’t won any major honours in the big leagues around Europe, so Everton has got someone with potential, rather than the finished product."

On Sigurdsson proving his hefty price tag…

"I think Sigurdsson needs to improve, but he needs to be playing every week and in his favoured position in order to do so.

"The transfer policy was dreadful at the start of last season. Everton signed three number 10 players, when there is only room for one. With Rooney moving on, I think Sigurdsson will now be given the chance to play regularly. He's a fantastic player and if he is given the chance to play every week in the position he's best in, then Everton will start to see the player that they paid all that money for."

On Keane being good enough after England World Cup snub…

"I think Keane is good enough for the Everton although he was snubbed by England. He did very well at Burnley and I think he's got the potential to replicate what Harry Maguire has done.

"I think Keane suffered from a lack of confidence during the season, being in and out of the first team, whilst Everton picked up some poor results. Towards the end of the season, he picked up some consistency, but like Sigurdsson, he has come in to Everton with a huge price tag and a lot to prove. He needs to have someone alongside him that will give him confidence, whether that's a player with experience, or just someone with a bit of pace."

"Everton should be looking to build the team around both Keane and Sigurdsson."

On Pickford's great World Cup and where he ranks compared to other goalkeepers…

"Pickford's definitely worth more than Everton paid for him now that he's had a great World Cup. There were eyebrows raised with the amount of money paid for him, being very young and not completely proven, but he had a fantastic World Cup, pulling off some great saves whilst remaining consistent.

"Pickford had a lot of doubters at the beginning of the World Cup, but I would have picked him as my number one going in to the tournament. Pickford, Keane and Sigurdsson are the spine of the team and I hope Pickford continues his World Cup form throughout the rest of the season for both club and country."

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