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He Wore The Wyvern: Andy Cottam

cottsAndrew Colin Cottam was born into a cricketing family in Northampton on 14th July 1973. His father Bob was a tall fast-medium bowler who played for Hampshire in the sixties, Northants in the seventies and in four Test matches for England between 1969 and 1972. After his first class career ended Bob accepted a job at Allhallows School near Lyme Regis and the Cottam family relocated to Seaton in Devon when Andy was just three.

The youngest of three boys Andy’s eldest brother Mike played at various levels for Devon and other brother Dave was a keen player for Seaton Cricket Club who also played for Devon at youth level, but he excelled more in Football. Mother Jackie was the one who ferried her cricket loving sons to net sessions and matches.

Andy’s career would see him wear the Wyvern in about a dozen games for the cider county in two spells, but his undoubted ability as a right-handed batsman and, in particular, as a left-arm slow bowler should have seen him play many more games for Somerset and enjoy a longer term as a professional cricketer.

Was it always obvious that the youngest Cottam would grow to love and play cricket?

“I was just born into it with my family. I never had a choice really and have never known anything different. When I learnt to walk I had a cricket bat in my hand, it was just all cricket. I used to watch Dad and my brother’s play and wanted to join in.

“Peter Willey is my godfather and he was often around as were many of Dad’s mates. Mike’s godfather is Barry Richards and Dave’s Peter Sainsbury.”

The young Andy played youth cricket for Seaton. In 1989 the 14 year-old Cottam started the season in the club’s 2nd XI but a few games in and he was called into the 1st XI, who played in the Devon Premier League, and Andy became a regular playing against the best players in the county (and the odd professional too!) at a very tender age. It was all progressing very quickly and in 1990 Andy was selected for Devon and played his first games for Somerset 2nd XI.

“I made my debut for Devon aged 15. I remember it well because Nick Folland was captain and he was only young too, maybe 22 or 23 years old? And I did reasonably well.

“I had only been bowling spin for about twelve months prior to that. I used to bowl left arm over, off the wrong foot, all over the place. The first game I bowled spin was a colts match, Seaton v Sidmouth, when I was told to bowl left arm spin. I took 7 wickets for 1 run and that was a nick through the slips!“

fab-4-editedWith the young Cottam creating waves in the best division in the county it was only a matter of time before Somerset were taking a look at the spinner:

“At 16 I joined the county as YTS employee. This role was helping out on the ground with Phil Frost and training with the players. I played my first 2nd XI game against Hampshire about 3 weeks later and, at the end of that winter, I signed as a full-time professional.”

One of the key reasons for the rapid rise was that Somerset’s Chief Executive, Peter ‘Panda’ Anderson, was – and still is – a member of Seaton CC and his influence cannot be underestimated:

“Definitely, he opened the door for me. He didn’t bat or bowl for me but he was the main man at Somerset and a member of Seaton Cricket Club so that’s the sort of opportunity you need in life. He was a huge influence. ”

ac-kerrAndy’s first mates at Somerset were Keith & Kevin Parsons who joined the Somerset at the same time:

“I have known Kev and Keith since I was 13 when I played for Devon Schoolboys against Somerset. The first guy I got to know really well was Andre Van Troost who joined a year or so earlier.  Same with Jason Kerr. A year later Tres, Kerr and Turner all joined up too.”

The 1992 season offered Andy his first class debut against Sussex with the highlight for Andy playing against Gloucestershire:

“I was thinking I was going there as 12th man but (Chris) Tavare told me I was playing. By the 2nd session on the first day I was batting with Neil Mallender with the score 80 for 8. I walked out to bat and my first ball was facing up to the great man Courtney Walsh. I remember looking behind me and Jack Russell was about 30 metres back and I thought this guy must be quick!

“Neil and I put on 50 and I ended up scoring 31 with most of these runs coming off Walsh and he was the number one bowler in the world at that time. He’s not the fastest I ever faced but he bowled a hard ball from a great height that thudded into the bat.

“Somerset went on to win the match and I felt proud that I had contributed to secure the win.”

Mallender is the player that Cottam describes as the biggest character he has shared a changing room with and he had a lasting effect on the young charge:

“Neil Mallender was great to me. He took me under his wing a bit and looked after me. After the first day of my debut, where I got my first catch and first wicket, he took me out and I ended up drinking about ten pints because that is what you did back then. You wouldn’t get away with it now.

“Neil made sure it was a good one and one I didn’t forget!”

In all Andy would play six matches in 1992 taking as many wickets.

“Another great experience and a memory I will always keep was playing at Bath against the Brown Caps of Surrey. The game was heading for a draw and they had a partnership that lasted 2 sessions when Tavare threw me the ball and, in my 3rd over, I got the wicket that broke that partnership and Caddick cleaned up the tail.”

Andy also played two Test Match for England U-19’s against Sri Lanka. In the first innings in the first of those games at Headingley in August Andy took a credible 4 for 69 in a drawn game.

http://cricketarchive.com/Archive/Scorecards/56/56323.html

By this time Bob Cottam had joined the county as Director of Cricket. So was having your father as boss a help or hindrance to Andy? His answer is emphatic:

“A hindrance. His first signing was Mushtaq Ahmed so definitely a bloody hindrance. Thanks Dad!”

In these years Andy shared a house in the Galmington area of Taunton with Van Troost, aka the Flying Dutchman such was his pace, and Mark Lathwell, who would later play two ill-fated Test Matches for England against the Aussies in 1993 before turning his back on the game prematurely with two years left on his Somerset contract. What memories does Andy hold of knowing Mark?

“He did his own thing and was pretty quiet, he was a very humble guy was Lathers. But he could be quite entertaining as well. He was a good lad but he didn’t really open up properly like I did or Van Troost, we were a bit louder and a bit more forward, but he was a quiet achiever.

“At the end of the day he had all the ability in the world but just didn’t want it badly enough. He didn’t enjoy the dressing room banter. He was happy just going to the pub and playing Darts.

“Looking back on it we weren’t treated as individuals it was more about group training and mentoring and I think Lathers probably needed mentoring in a different way.

“I loved the guy – he was a great guy, a Devon boy – but at the end of the day it just didn’t work for him. It’s a shame, he was an amazing talent.”

Looking back 1992 was indeed a successful one for Andy:

“I had the best season I could have asked for. I made my first class debut against Sussex, played for Young England and won the Young Player of the Year award for Somerset. I thought I had made it, how wrong I was! The following year Somerset signed Mushtaq Ahmed and I was advised my opportunity would be limited for the next 3 years.”

But 1993 was not one where his career would develop as he failed to make the Somerset 1st XI, apart from a one-day match against Kent. With Ahmed standing firmly in his way he decided to move on.

In 1994 Andy made very much a homecoming when he decided the next phase of his career should be in his birthplace of Northampton having opted to join Northants. It was not a successful move:

“I was allowed to speak to other counties to see if anyone would be interested in me. I had five counties that had enquired and I knew it was time to move.

“Instead of signing for Essex, where I would have been working alongside John Childs, I opted for Northants who had Tim Walton, Mal Loye and Jeremy Snape and I knew these players from the England Under-19 days so I took the safe option. But signing for Northants was the biggest mistake of my life.

“I started off well in preseason. I had overtaken Nick Cook and was playing in the first team in those preseason matches. But after a few weeks I knew I had made the wrong move. When I played at Essex for Northants I knew I would have been happier there.

“After a couple of months in Northampton I was informed the club were signing Anil Kumble and I thought ‘here we go again’ and the club agreed to let me go.”

Andy headed to Derbyshire but his time in Derby was short, lasting just one season:

“I went to Australia to play and coach and had a great time and did well. I thought my county cricket days were over when out of the blue Derbyshire offered me a last chance. I accepted the role and enjoyed my time there when I suffered a knee injury and my form and confidence dropped dramatically.

“It was at the end of that season that the club and myself agreed that I should leave because, after all, I was only bowling when Phil Defreitas, Devon Malcolm and Dominic Cork needed a rest. I was devastated my career was over as a player.”

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Cottam was still only 22 years young when he left Derbyshire. He headed back to Seaton and started work in the building trade. But before the 1996 season had ended Andy had an unexpected call from Peter Anderson and he managed two games late in the season at Uxbridge and Hove. He recalls:

“It was halfway through the summer and I was working with Neil Miller (late member of Seaton CC and local builder) in France when Panda called me and said to pop into the County Ground when I was next home. So I did. I didn’t get a contract I just turned up and played.”

It was during this second spell at Somerset during a 2nd XI game against Warwickshire at the County Ground that an incident happened which Marcus Trescothick recalled in his best-selling book, “Coming Back To Me.” This particular story starts on page 49 and it is a recital that annoyed Andy when he was first made aware of it:

“One thing I would like to clear up is in Banger’s autobiography where he said I was pie-eyed during a game, I only had one pint the cheeky p***k! What happened was in the first innings I got hit on the hand and it broke, I just as well hadn’t bothered wearing gloves. And the physio at the time put my hand in ice and sent me to Musgrove Hospital where they confirmed it was broken.

“So I went back to the ground and they told me to go home and come back in on Monday. So stupidly I didn’t even think about the rest of the game, I just did what the physio told me to do and got in my car and went back to Seaton.

“A couple of days later on Friday lunchtime I was walking along the beach (at Seaton) and popped into the Volt Bar and I sat down to have a pint as I had nothing to do until Monday when I was expected to report in.

“Then a taxi driver called ‘Sticky’ came in and told me I had to get to Taunton. When I asked him what was going on he told me Somerset were chasing 500-odd with Trescothick 250 not out but they were six wickets down. So I said ‘yes’ and he drove me to the ground where my kit was.

“When we got there we were now eight wickets down so I got changed straight away. By the time I had got my pads and helmet on the ninth wicket had fallen and we needed about ten to win so I went out to bat. I couldn’t have faced any balls. I vaguely remember Trescothick hitting one to the boundary and trying to run two but he got run out, so we lost by about seven runs chasing 580.

“My mate told me about the story in the book and the first time I read it I was pretty pissed off. It was one of the best-selling books of the year and the thought of me being pissed up in the middle of a game and arriving at the ground drunk costing the team the game was not right.

“Of course I see the funny side of it now but at the time I was disappointed. I hope it sold him another million books!”

Those two games for Somerset in 1996 were an unexpected bonus for Andy, who may have secretly hoped they would provide a second opportunity at Taunton. This was not to be as Dermot Reeve had joined the club with his own ideas so Andy’s career as a first class cricketer was over.

So if he could go back in time was there anything he would do differently?

“I would do everything differently. I trained hard but would have taken training more seriously for starters. I couldn’t do much about the Mushtaq signing but my decision to go to Northants was a stupid one.

“And I was a bit of a party animal. I loved my cricket, loved my team-mates but there was always a beer or two in the changing rooms – I would never deny that – but I probably carried it on a bit more than I should have. I just loved being one of the lads.”

Andy spent 1997 in the 2nd XI and played for Devon until 1999.

Looking back at the highlights of his short career who were the outstanding opponents he can recall?

“The best Player I bowled at was De Silva and best bowler I faced was Courtney Walsh.”

And the best players played with at Somerset, both batsman and bowler?

“Jimmy Cook. You needn’t look much further than him as he is one of the best players I have ever seen in my life. I know it was only county level not international level but he was phenomenal and just peeled off hundred after hundred. Outstanding player.

“As for the best bowler then you couldn’t get much better than Andrew Caddick. He had so much bite and fight so you had one guy that was always scoring hundred’s and another that was always taking wickets so that was pretty enjoyable!”

And how did he get on with Caddick?

“He was not a lad’s lad but you can’t take away his cricketing ability. He was a fantastic cricketer and a great guy but not one that I would catch up with over a beer outside of cricket. I would with Tres, despite the stuff in his book!”

warneySo who does Andy think is the player he played with that promised much but whose career did not deliver the full potential? The answer is emphatic:

“Andre Van Troost, definitely. He was rapid and he had that X factor that no-one else had. I’d never seen anything like it when I first saw him bowl. He was lightning quick. We trained in that indoor school on a concrete floor with no matting – it was like being shot at. He was the fastest thing I had ever seen and he was well up there with Allan Donald as the fastest in the world. He had that raw pace like Brett Lee and there aren’t many like that in the world.

“In the end he had confidence issues and a back problem but if a proper bowling coach had got hold of him like they do with youngsters today, with that pace and that height his career would have been so different.

“I feel a bit sorry for him. It didn’t happen regularly enough for him to become a first class player. I was surprised when it all finished for him. ”

Andy spent a few seasons playing for Devon under Peter Roebuck and they enjoyed a couple of days out at Lords. Roebuck is another character who’s name prompts debate so what did Andy think of his captain?

“I didn’t mind him to start off with. In the early days of Somerset he took me under his wing and looked after me and I look back now and wonder what his motivation to do that was. He got harder to like though. He was just a completely different type of character. Almost too intellectual for cricket as a player as his communication wasn’t at a cricketer’s level, it was far too high. He was talking to people like me, Pughy (Andy Pugh) and Gareth Townsend – simple Devon boys – and towards the end it got a bit draining.

“I remember one game he got hit for four with his first delivery and he changed everyone fielding on the leg side with those fielding on the off side. He did that about three times in a game against Cornwall. It was embarrassing!

“But I enjoyed playing for Devon and we were a successful side and had those two Lords wins.”

Andy’s life then took him to Australia where he has worked successfully as a coach at the WACA, among other places. His coaching has seen him work at the National Spin Clinic with Shane Warne, a man who impressed Andy:

“He is just a normal bloke. Typical Aussie lad who was a very good player and who has made a lot of money out of the game. Some people call him thick, just like they do with Beckham, but how can he be when he has made a million bucks?”

These days Andy lives in Australia, with his wife and two children. He works as a Consultant having previously been employed as a Regional Manager for the KI Group also doing some part-time coaching too. But he does miss dear old blighty:

“Friends and family are everything. There are things more important in life than just earning money.”

ac-pop-artHe doesn’t rule out the possibility of working in county cricket one day:

“If the right job came along I would definitely be interested. Andy McDonald will be the new coach at Leicestershire and I did my level 3 coaching course with him. I actually put myself forward for a job at Somerset when Hurry left and I spoke to Guy Lavender who invited me to go through the recruitment process but it didn’t happen.

“I have worked really hard in the past few years on my coaching and did a Sports Psychology course to really understand where it all went wrong for me.

“It would be difficult to get a job out here as there are only six States but I really love the brand of cricket the Aussies play. I love the attacking, the risk taking – that’s more me than the safe cricket I see in England. Even their one day cricket is not that exciting.

“I would love to go somewhere in England and just give that confidence to my teams, tell them to go out to the middle and just enjoy themselves. That’s the Darren Lehmann focus of playing the game and enjoying the occasion not being intimidated by having 10,000 people watching you play.

I love that psychology.”

Andy Cottam reflects fondly of his time at Somerset and he still follows the fortunes of the club from afar in Australia:

“My time as a young cricketer at Somerset CCC was one of the best of my life. I have no regrets looking back as I am now living in Australia and if it wasn’t for cricket I wouldn’t be here now.

“My heart is still with Somerset and I follow them avidly. When I do get back to Taunton to watch a game I just think it is the best place in the world. I love the County Ground more than Lords, more than the WACA, more than anywhere else. There is something about that ground that has a massive ‘wow’ factor.”
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