Oct 062014

Tony Cottee knows what it feels like to shoulder the burden of a huge transfer fee.

The free-scoring forward didn’t just become Everton FC’s record signing when the Toffees paid West Ham £2.2m in 1988, the deal broke the British transfer record too.

So while Cottee, who scored 99 goals in his 241 match Everton career, is sympathetic to Romelu Lukaku having to come to terms with being a £28m man, he thinks the answer to the Belgian’s patchy form this season is more straightforward: he needs to put himself back on centre stage.

Cottee was a master at giving himself the opportunity to score goals – an arch-penalty box predator – and he believes Lukaku needs to start being more selfish.

Steven Naismith and Romelu Lukaku look dejected after Manchester United score at Old Trafford Steven Naismith and Romelu Lukaku look dejected after Manchester United score at Old Trafford  

“He appears, to me, not to be playing down the middle often enough,” said Cottee, now a successful analyst for Sky TV.

“He seems to be playing out wide or out left and a centre-forward can’t score goals if you’re spending all your time outside the box.

“You need to be in the middle and in the penalty area. I think that’s where Lukaku needs to be playing.

“Evertonians are fantastic supporters who know their football – and they certainly know their centre-forwards, which is why they are a bit frustrated at the moment.

“They know a centre-forward needs to be in the middle of the pitch and my advice to Romelu Lukaku would be to play down the middle.

“He seems to be working hard for the team – which is something I never did! – but no matter how hard you’re working you’ve got to be in the box if you’re going to score goals.

“Everton have players like Steven Pienaar, Steven Naismith, Aiden McGeady and Leon Osman who can play either wide or around the penalty area. Lukaku needs to be in there where the chances are.”

Cottee is speaking from personal experience.

After his record breaking switch from The Hammers in the summer of 1988, he celebrated a famous hat-trick on his debut against Newcastle, then followed up with the only goal of the game the following weekend at Coventry – all from a combined range of less than 18 yards!

But Cottee recalls that those early goals only added to the pressure he felt at being Britain’s most expensive marksman.

“I felt possibly more pressure than Romelu because I wasn’t just an Everton record signing, I was a British transfer record too,” he said.

“I didn’t do myself any favours scoring a hat-trick on my debut – expectations soared after that!

The pressure I felt was incredible.

“But I haven’t see Romelu speaking about his transfer fee creating any pressure for him – which is a good thing.

“You can never dictate what a transfer fee is going to be. You’re just a piece of meat and worth whatever somebody is willing to pay for you.

“You have to put it into perspective. Angel di Maria cost twice as much as Romelu and it doesn’t seem to be playing on his mind.”

Cottee also believes that Lukaku has to be cut some slack following his World Cup exploits with Belgium which left him playing catch up in pre-season.

Lukaku faced Leicester on the opening day of the season without having played a single minute of Everton’s five pre-season matches.

Cottee added: “All the players who have been away on World Cup duty have to be given a bit of leeway. You can’t play for two years solid without a break without feeling tired.

“It’s no surprise that Romelu is still feeling his way back to form after the World Cup, as are several players.

“I’ve been reading that Steven Gerrard was finished – which is absolute nonsense.

“Of course he isn’t finished. He’s still a great player and will continue to be a great player for years to come.

“But after a World Cup summer it can take a little time to get going again.”

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