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Neil Cox
Position: Central defender
From: Bolton Wanderers - £350,000 (plus increments) - November 1999
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: What every team needs
Past profiles: October 2001, June 2000


It was no surprise that Ray Lewington made Neil Cox his captain upon his appointment as Watford manager. A player who was written off and transfer-listed by Gianluca Vialli, who forced his way back in and captained the team, while still on the transfer list, who conducted himself with class and dignity in the face of what must have been a very difficult situation, could not fail to command the respect of the other players, most of whom were all first-hand witnesses to his shocking treatment by the previous management.

A player who has proved his versatility in the back four, he has played at right-back, centre-back and left-back (although we won't dwell too long on that) and never given less than one hundred percent for Watford. Every team needs a player like Neil Cox.

The first thing that really stood out for me about the 2002/03 Coxy was his ability to win balls against much bigger and stronger opponents. While the towering Marcus Gayle simply swats away everything that comes his way, Coxy has to work much harder to make the ball his, levering opposing strikers into awkward positions and giving himself the extra few inches that ultimately turn a fifty-fifty ball in his favour.

He has turned this positional awareness and aerial ability into a devastating weapon in the opposing penalty box. Countless times early on in the season, corners from either flank were turned in by the skipper, ghosting in unmarked to head home, leaving opposing defenders to argue between themselves while the Hornets celebrated.

With Cox and Gayle at the back, we have two central defenders who are comfortable on the ball. You might have expected it from Marcus, having been a winger-cum-striker for his entire career, but Coxy has added an accomplished range of passing to his repertoire, which has been a joy to watch. A ball out of the back courtesy of Cox's right boot rarely fails to find its target.

At the time of writing, Cox has only missed two games - Walsall away, when his tally of yellow cards finally caught up with him, and Preston at home, when he was not the only first-teamer to be 'excused' for the day. Apart from those two games, he has been an ever-present, has finished every game, had accomplished strikers such as David Johnson and Lee Hughes in his pocket, and chipped in with seven goals. What more could you want for your club captain?

A new contract would be a start....

James Frankland
Last updated: March 2003