Stan Collymore: Five Weeks in Oviedo

Stan Collymore: Five Weeks in Oviedo

In January 2001, Bradford City chairman Geoffrey Richmond was tasked with reducing the club’s wage bill. Soon, full-back Dan Petrescu and forward duo Benito Carbone and Stan Collymore were transfer-listed. The latter, a former England international, had only signed in October and featured seven times before being put up for sale.

VFB Stuttgart and Celtic came in for Collymore, but instead the Staffordshire striker opted for Real Oviedo in a move that surprised many. On 31st January he signed an 18-month contract with the club, his move from Yorkshire to Asturias was confirmed. To understand how the former Liverpool ace came to this transfer, we’ll have to go back to when he was playing at Aston Villa, in 1999.

A Tough Couple of Season for Stan
Two years before moving to Spain, the striker had a chance to move from Aston Villa to Greece side Panathinaikos. However, the move fell through but it showed that Collymore had his eyes set on a move to a different country and to have a chance to play abroad.

In January 1999, Collymore found himself struggling with his mental health. He was subject to scrutiny whilst at Villa due to his lack of goals and on-field disciplinary problems. On the back of this, he sought medical help for his troubles with depression, stress and anxiety.

Aston Villa’s manager at the time, John Gregory, dropped Collymore from the first team soon after he returned to the club after a spell searching for self-betterment. It was at the end of the 1998/99 season when the Panathinaikos deal collapsed, instead of an overseas move, he was sent on a short loan to Fulham at the start of the following season.

In 2014 he reflected on the situation he endured at boyhood club, Aston Villa, with Birmingham Live: “People couldn’t understand it when outwardly they thought I had everything – to them I was living the dream… I was branded a disgrace for suffering from depression.”

From Leicester to Bradford
After failing to have an impact during his three-months at Fulham, Collymore joined Leicester City on a ‘pay-as-you-play’ basis in February 2000. By April, Collymore broke his leg after landing awkwardly during a game and, despite regaining fitness, found himself out of the manager’s plans ahead of another new Premier League season.

West Yorkshire outfit, Bradford City, came in for Collymore and he joined the Bantams in October 2000. He scored a bicycle-kick on his debut against pennine rivals, Leeds United. Overjoyed with his contribution, Collymore celebrated in front of the travelling Leeds fans. The F.A. deemed it as inciting violence and he faced disciplinary charges, a precursor to his time at Bradford City.

What followed was a series of fitness issues, F.A. incidents and fleeting performances. In late November he was banned for three games for a challenge he committed on Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne whilst playing for Leicester at the start of the season.

With all this going on in the media spotlight, Bradford’s administrative problems soon reared its head and, after serving his ban, Collymore was placed on the transfer list. He racked up eight appearances in his ten weeks, scoring twice.

Now, Real Oviedo became the most recent club to give the player an opportunity to get his head down and let his football do the talking. Finally, after years of trying and failing, Collymore had his move abroad.

La Liga Calling Collymore
The forward made his move to Spain on 31st January 2001. One of his first media duties was to feature on the national radio, with Onda Cero. Host of the hit show ‘Supergarcía’, José María García, tracked down Collymore’s hotel and, after a brief chat with the receptionist on the phone, was put through to speak to Real Oviedo’s new signing. The conversation that followed was one for the ages (give it a listen).

The host spent most of the interview inadvertently mocking Collymore’s fitness, speaking about food and even mentioning the Spice Girls. Then, after just three minutes the whirlwind chat came to an end. To his credit, Collymore held his own in the conversation, correcting García on who Oviedo’s next opponents were (Villarreal, not La Real Sociedad) and boldly stating that: “There is no difference [when playing abroad], football is football.”

After coming on off the bench in his first two games with Los Carbayones, in games against Las Palmas and Villarreal, he was dropped by Serbian coach, Radomir Antic. Again, his fitness proved to be the barrier between Collymore and regular gametime.

A Premature End
After being frozen out from the team for most of February, Stan Collymore featured for the third time against Celta Vigo on March 4, 2001, yet another defeat for the Asturian team- this time by one goal to nil. In his post-match press conference with Spanish radio- thankfully not with García again- and Collymore seemed upbeat despite the result:

"I'm glad to have come to Spain because I've found peace and all I'm interested in now is football.

"My first experiences of Spain are unforgettable and I'm sure I will find lots of happiness here."

Just three days after making this quote, Collymore announced his retirement from football, aged 30. After just five weeks in Oviedo, he had decided to not only leave the club, but the game all together. It seemed that his experiences at five clubs in two weeks had confirmed that he no longer had the desire to keep playing.

What Happened Next?
Real Oviedo spokesman at the time, Miguel Solis, could barely contain his disbelief after hearing that their new signing had quit the sport, five weeks into an 18-month contract:

"It really is an amazing situation. He seemed to like it here and treated his move to Spain as a new chapter in his football career.

"Nothing like this has ever happened to Oviedo. It seems like only yesterday we presented him to the fans. Our fans took to him as their new hero," Solis was quoted saying on BBC Sport at the time.

The club were unsuccessful in suing Collymore for breaching his contract. They tried to charge him £7 million for what had happened and the nature of his departure. Collymore later threw his hat in the ring for the vacant Bradford City manager position, after his former coach, Jim Jefferies, was dismissed in december 2001.

For Stan Collymore, it was quite the five weeks in Oviedo before calling it quits on his career.

Words by Owen Mawer
Illustration by Jenks In The Cut