They Played for Both Clubs: Neil Cox

Mark Thompson /Allsport

Chris has a toot at the best right back he has ever seen.

I have seen good right backs in my time. I have been to Rome and seen Cafu, I have been to Daisy Hill and seen Nicky Hunt. I have seen Daniel Alves on the telly, I have seen Gary Neville in the Millgate, Bury. All top class right backs, but none are a patch on the best right back of my lifetime: Neil Cox.

Neil Cox was born in Scunthorpe in 1971, turning professional at his local club in 1990. He would make a mere 17 appearances for the Irons before attracting Premier League interest from Aston Villa where he would go on to spend the next three seasons.

Cox made 40 appearances for Aston Villa, and picked up the first medal of his career as a late substitute in the 1994 League Cup Final victory over Manchester United. He would move North that summer, joining Middlesbrough for £1.5m.

At that time Middlesbrough found themselves in the First Division, though had high hopes following the appointment of their new player-manager Bryan Robson. The club had been taken over by local businessman Steve Gibson previously. They would go on to win the league title in the last season at their former ground, Ayresome Park, before moving to the shiny and new BT Cellnet Stadium.

That season, Bolton Wanderers too won promotion to the Premier League following a famous 4-3 win over Reading in the Play Off Final.

Cox would remain at Middlesbrough until 1997 where he moved to Bolton following 106 appearances and three goals at the club. He would go on to make the right back position his own.

Equally proficient at defending as he was attacking, Cox was a quality signing. Despite his arrival the club was relegated to the First Division following a single season in the top flight (I would say cheated, by Everton, but that's a bit immature). Cox remained at the club and was an occasional captain when the first choice, Gudni Bergsson, was unavailable.

Cox made 51 appearances that season, including an appearance in the Play Off Final defeat against Watford. The following year saw the arrival of Sam Allardyce to replace Colin Todd, and this spelled the end of Cox's time at the club as cost-cutting measures took hold. He left the Reebok Stadium having amassed 80 appearances and seven goals.

He was sold to Watford for £500,000 where he would go on to spend six seasons, making 219 appearances, scoring twenty goals. His first season back in the top flight came under the management of former England boss Graham Taylor, though the club was relegated at the end of the season. Taylor then retired and was succeeded by ex-Chelsea striker Gianluca Vialli. This prompted further spending and underachievement, meaning that Vialli left the club and the end of the season.

Watford's poor financial management led to hard times at the club, though the arrival of young manager Aidy Boothroyd sparked a revival which led to their promotion back to the Premier League in 2005/06. Cox was not part of his plans however, and left to join Cardiff City.

A single season in Wales yielded two goals from 27 appearances, before he was released to join Crewe Alexandra where he began to work on his coaching badges with the club's famous academy. He would spend two seasons there before retiring in 2008.

In October 2010 he returned to the game after being appointed as the new manager of Leek Town, however this would only last a single season. He did return to the field during an injury crisis, with four appearances providing a bookend to his playing career.

In 2012 he joined up with former Watford teammate Neal Ardley as the management team at AFC Wimbledon, a position he holds to this day.

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