Monday, 27 September 2021

Day I played Jimmy Greaves

ONE person who was especially sad to learn that former England forward Jimmy Greaves had suffered

ONE person who was especially sad to learn that former England forward Jimmy Greaves had suffered a stroke is Derek Cottrell.

He has been the first team football coach at Blue Coat School in Sonning for the last 40 years but will be retiring in the summer.

Back in the 1977/78 season, he was playing for Woking FC when he came up against Greaves playing for Barnet in an FA Cup match.

The former Spurs, West Ham and Chelsea star was then in the twilight of his career and in fact he retired a couple of years later.

Derek, a Spurs fan, recalls that the game finished 3-3 — and rather ignominiously for Greaves, his hero.

“He berated the ref over a bad call and ended up being sent off,” he says.

Now, while the man who scored 44 times in 57 games for England fights to recover his health, Derek can look back at the highlights of his own football career.

He was a midfielder who played for Wycombe Wanderers, Woking and then Wokingham and twice played in an FA Trophy semi-final. Derek recalls: “Wokingham paid £1,500 for me which, at the time, was the club’s most expensive signing.”

He played for the club for 10 years until 1990 when retired and took over as coach and manager.

He left five years later and joined the staff at Blue Coat full-time, remaining there ever since.

During his time in charge of the school’s first team, it has enjoyed considerable success.

In the 2012-13 season, the side won every single game and collected the R J Gibbs Cup for schools in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire and the U18 Walsh County Cup.

Derek says: “There were lots of years when we won leagues but that season was the high point.

“We had some outstanding individuals in that team — Rob Tarry was a strong goalie, although he was in the lower sixth, and Ben Campbell was at his peak, scoring 20 goals in  10 games.

“Year 11 player Ed Jabbari was brilliant and had an outstanding season, Doug Scholes was extremely competent in midfield and James Halson was a thinking athlete, who slotted into a role upfront, having been out of football for two years because he was playing county cricket.”

Ben, who captained the school side the following year, says: “I believe I speak for all the players when I say that Mr Cottrell was not only an excellent coach, spearheading our success with his expertise, but he was also a very inspiring man and a very reliable figure in all aspects of school life.”

Deputy head Phil Wise agrees, saying: “Derek has never settled for anything less than the very best in terms of looking after the students at Blue Coat.

“He does an incredibly thorough job and I am sure that it would have been just the same back in the Seventies, whether on the football field or in the classroom.

“Derek is naturally modest and self-effacing but richly deserves all the accolades from the countless people he has helped over the years.

“In life, you usually get back what you put in and Derek has certainly put in more than most. Everyone will be incredibly sad to see him retire.”

Derek, who plans to play more golf in his retirement, says: “I’ve really enjoyed the company and good nature of the pupils as much as anything.

“The vast majority have been very polite, pleasant and well intentioned and the staff have been very pleasant, so it has been a real pleasure teaching at Blue Coat.”

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