Ahead of tomorrow's game at Kingsmeadow, here's a look at the career of former Bolton Wanderers player and the current AFC Wimbledon assistant manager, Neil Cox.
Neil Cox, born 18th October 1971, began his career with hometown club Scunthorpe United in 1990.
After making 26 appearances for the Iron, Cox moved to then First Division side Aston Villa for a fee of £400,000, having only spent less than a year with his hometown side. At the time, it was a record fee for a player moving from the Fourth to the First division. Aston Villa also gifted Scunthorpe 4000 blue seats, as the Lincolnshire side wanted blue seats behind the goals.
Cox spent three years at Villa Park, and made 18 appearances for Villa in the inaugural Premier League season, as Aston Villa finished 2nd, ten points behind winners Manchester United in 1993. In 1994, Cox came off the bench at Wembley as Villa beat Manchester United 3-1 to win the League Cup. In July 1994, Cox dropped down a division to join Middlesbrough for a then club record fee of £1 million. In total for Aston Villa, Neil Cox scored four goals in sixty games.
Cox's debut season for 'Boro was successful. Playing alongside fellow former Wanderers Andy Todd and Jamie Pollock, Cox helped Boro to win the 1995 First Division title, which meant promotion to the Premier League for the second time in the club's history. It was also the last season that Boro played at Ayresome Park, before moving to the newly built Riverside stadium in 1995.
After a solid 12th place finish in the 1995 / 1996 season, Boro were relegated the season after due to being docked three points after postponing a game against Blackburn Rovers at short notice.
Despite the relegation, Middlesbrough did reach the finals of both the League Cup and FA Cup, but lost both to Leicester City and Chelsea respectively.
With Boro in disarray off the pitch as well as on, Cox looked for a change of scenery, and subsequently signed for newly promoted Bolton Wanderers on a three year deal. Cox spoke to Vital Watford about the move to Bolton a couple of years ago:
"On the train home from the Cup final I got a phone call from Colin Todd and I just thought I`d go down there for a chat, and that was it, I was looking to go and play abroad if I could, that was what I really fancied. I got down to Bolton and Colin spoke really highly of the football club and they were moving to The Reebok Stadium and I just signed a three year contract then and there really. Colin sold the area and the football club to me straight away"
In total for Middlesbrough, Neil Cox played 128 times, scoring 4 goals.
Bolton suffered the same fate as Boro in Cox's first season at the Reebok, as the Trotters finished 18th, being relegated solely on goal difference, with Everton staying up instead. Cox did score once that season in a 3-1 win against former club Aston Villa at Villa Park.
Cox stayed with Bolton for another year and a half, as Bolton failed to gain promotion straight back to the Premier League, losing 2-0 in the 1999 Play-Off Final to Graham Taylor's Watford.
After the departure of Colin Todd in September 1999 and the arrival of Sam Allardyce, Bolton needed to cut costs, so Cox was sold to the team that had pipped them to promotion Watford, for a fee of £500,000 in November 1999. In two and a half years with Bolton, Neil Cox scored eight times in 97 games.
Cox left a lasting impression on our editor-in-chief Chris, who described Cox as ‘The best uncapped English right-back in the modern era’.
Cox would go on to spend nearly six years at Vicarage Road. Cox’s first season with the club ended in relegation from the Premier League. After failing to gain promotion back to the Premier League, Graham Taylor then left in 2001 and was replaced by Gianluca Vialli, who put Cox in the reserves. However, Cox soon found himself back in the first team due a number of injuries. It would be under the next Watford manager, Ray Lewington, when Cox's Watford career flourished. In the midst of financial troubles, which saw the players give up 12% of their wages so the club didn't go into administration, Cox was made the Hornets' captain, and guided Watford to the Semi-Finals of the FA Cup in 2003, where Watford lost out 2-1 to Southampton.
Cox left Watford in 2005, and had spells with Cardiff City and Crewe Alexandra before retiring in 2008.
After a brief spell away from football, Cox became manager of non-league side Leek Town in 2010.
In October 2012, Neil Cox joined AFC Wimbledon as their new assistant manager, reuniting with former Watford team mate Neal Ardley, who had just been made manager. The duo kept Wimbledon up on the final day of the 2012 / 2013 season. Wimbledon achieved promotion to League One via the Play-Offs last season, and Cox will be in the dugout tomorrow as Bolton will be the club's first opponents at Kingsmeadow this season. I'm sure Neil Cox will get a warm reception from the travelling Wanderers fans.