Born in Tamworth, Tony (TC) supported Birmingham City as a child and joined his favourite club after leaving school when Jim Smith signed him up. He had to wait patiently on the sidelines as first Jim Montgomery and then Jeff Wealands & Neil Freeman were preferred. He went on loan to Fourth Division Hereford United but even then he was understudy to Tommy Hughes. His chance finally came on Christmas Saturday 1980, when he stood in for Wealands and made a sensational start to his League career, saving a penalty for Birmingham in their First Division match against Sunderland after only 54 seconds. He played two further games that season but vied for the number one jersey with Wealands the following season before Jim Blyth arrived and he was back in the reserves once again. However, during the 1982/83 season he established himself as number one 'keeper under former City manager Ron Saunders. Tony went on to make 94 League appearances for the Blues.
Birmingham were relegated at the end of the 1983/84 season but a £300,000 move to Graham Taylor's Watford in September 1984 gave TC a quick return to the First Division. He made his début a few days later against Everton and quickly took over from Tim Sherwood as first choice 'keeper. At the end of his second full season at Vicarage Road he won the Hornets' Player of the Season and Display of the Season (for his FA Cup 6th Round performance at Anfield where he became only the second visiting 'keeper to keep a clean sheet that season) awards, this in a side also featuring John Barnes. Tony went on to win a further 2 Player of the Season awards whilst he was at Watford. Manager Taylor left for Aston Villa and Watford's fortunes began to slip; they were relegated at the end of the 1987/88 season. Tony signed a new contract but insisted in a clause stating that he could leave if Watford were not back in the First Division after two seasons. They weren't and City signed him for nearly £1,000,000 before the start of the 1990/91 season. Tony had made 233 League appearances for the Hornets.
He made his City début in a 3-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on 25th August 1990. He was first choice 'keeper for most of the season which saw City finish in 5th place, finishing above neighbours United for the first time in 14 seasons. It wasn't all plain sailing though as the City fans didn't take to him for several months. This was mainly because it was felt that Howard Kendall should have spent the money on a striker; we had a perfectly good 'keeper in Andy Dibble. Such was the animosity shown to TC that he cited the City fans as being his Most Difficult Opponents in a feature in Shoot magazine. By the end of the following season though, his form had been so impressive that he won the City Player of the Year award and an England "B" cap. This form continued during the following season too but despite his former manager Graham Taylor being in charge of the England team and his fellow professionals' vote as the top 'keeper in the English League, he never managed a full England cap. He is widely regarded as one of the best English 'keepers to never receive a full England cap.
Tony was City Player of the Year again in the 1993/94 season, this time helping the Blues stay in the Premier League with a series of outstanding performances. He missed half of the 1994/95 season after damaging a shoulder and then suffering a back injury. After recovering from these injuries, he suffered a badly strained thigh muscle in the penultimate home game of the season; this required a number of operations and led to some worrying but exaggerated headlines in some of the British tabloids.
In January 1996 Tony was transfered to Manchester United for £500k. His long term injury combined with an excellent Eike Immel in the City goal prevented him from taking back the number one spot. The move did not go well down with the fans, and Tony was not a popular figure during his brief spell across town. After only 6 months with the rags, he moved to Sunderland for £600k where Peter Reid was in charge. He made a few impressive performances for his new club before he unluckily broke his leg during a league match against Sotuthampton. The leg was fractured in five places and marked the end of a long and outstandig goalkeeping career. Tony made over 500 league games and was involved in 4 big money transfers, the biggest being his £1m move to Manchester City.
Stories by the fans
It must have been around 1991/92. I was working in the galleon hotel in Didsbury. The City players used to come in there quite often to train and give us tickets etc.. I did ask T.C. if he could get me the new white/black stripes 3rd kit (it wasn't due in the shops for another 4 months or so..) He did his duty and brought it to me the day after. I cant really say how good it felt to have T.C. hand me the shirt. Come to think of it I still owe him a tenner :)
Paul MC (email@example.com)