Bradford gamble on Collymore

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The Independent Online

Struggling Bradford City today became the latest club to try and tame the talented but volatile Stan Collymore.

Struggling Bradford City today became the latest club to try and tame the talented but volatile Stan Collymore.

The former Crystal Palace, Southend, Nottingham Forest, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Leicester striker, who has hit more headlines off the field than on it, has joined the Valley Parade club until the end of the season.

Bradford owner Geoffrey Richmond, whose team is secomd bottom of the Premiership and has scored only four times in 10 games, described the signing as "a legitimate gamble".

Capped three times by England, twice as a substitute, the 29-year-old striker has had a stormy career.

His lowest point was when he went to a clinic to be treated for depression for several months. That was not long after his highly publicised break-up with TV personality Ulrika Jonsson in May 1998, reportedly leaving her injured on the floor of Paris nightclub.

He also fell out with Villa manager John Gregory, who refused to select him, and moved to Leicester last season in what was seen as a last chance to save his career

On his home debut for the Foxes, Collymore scored three times against Sunderland but, not long afterwards, broke his leg and was sidelined for several months.

Not selected for the first time by new manager Peter Taylor, Collymore ran into more trouble playing for the reserves when he had a row with teammate Trevor Benjamin at half-time and didn't appear for the second half.

"We are well aware of the Stan Collymore story, and we consider this to be a legitimate gamble," Richmond said.

"But there is a clear problem in the goalscoring department. We hope the signing of Stan will act as a catalyst for the rest of the team and we hope it will happen fairly quickly.

"We are 19th, the team are struggling and the fans are not happy, and understandably so. We want to give them something to cheer about."

Collymore could well make his first appearance at home to Yorkshire rivals Leeds on Sunday.

"If Stan scores the goals we need, then there won't be a better place to start than against Leeds," Richmond said. "And, if he does, he will be given the freedom of the city."

Collymore's career has been one long rollercoaster ride.

He began his professional career in 1989 aged 18 with Walsall, who later cancelled his YTS contract. Wolves completed his trainee term and he scored 18 goals in 20 games for their youth side, but failed to make the first team. He joined Vauxhall Conference club Stafford Rangers, scoring eight goals in his first season.

Collymore then moved to Crystal Palace for £100,000 in 1990, and he made six league appearances as a substitute in his first season. In 1992 he left Palace, having made only four League starts, 16 appearances as a substitute, and scoring just one goal.

In November 1992, he joined Southend £80,000. It proved to be a shrewd investment by then Shrimpers boss Barry Fry, as he scored 18 goals in 33 games, with 15 in the league.

He then went to Nottingham Forest in their post-relegation season. He would have gone sooner had Brian Clough been prepared to pay the £2.2m asking price. Instead Collymore had to wait until Clough had departed, and his successor, Frank Clark was willing to pay the original asking price, plus another £500,000 on goal and international achievements.

The striker proved a success, hitting 24 goals - 19 in 28 league games - in 1994 as Forest won an immediate return to the Premiership. At that time Clark said a £10m offer might tempt him to sell.

But the first hint of serious trouble came in 1995 when Collymore was acquitted of an assault charge for an alleged fight outside a nightclub.

Back on the field, he scored 25 goals - 22 in the League - including 10 in the last two months, as Forest finished third in the Premiership and qualified for the UEFA Cup.

Collymore won his first England cap against Japan on June 3 and the second as a substitute against Brazil in the Umbro Triangular tournament, under Terry Venables.

During the summer of 1995 he was transferred from Forest to Liverpool for £8.5m.

At Liverpool Collymore made 44 appearances in his first season, scoring 19 goals as Liverpool finished third in the Premiership.

As the 1996-97 season kicked off Collymore still commuted from his West Midlands home to Merseyside, and soon afterwards Villa were reported to have failed with a £6m bid.

On May 13 1997 Liverpool accepted Villa's £7m offer and Collymore was on his way 'home' to the club he had supported as a boy growing up in the Black country.

As the World Cup got under way in June 1998, Collymore upstaged the football action after an altercation in a Paris bar with then girlfriend Jonsson. Through his agent Collymore expressed regret at what happened and made a public apology.

In the autumn of the same year, improved form saw him temporarily back in the Villa team, and a UEFA Cup hat-trick against Stromsgodset was the highlight of his upturn in fortunes.

But as Villa's title bid went off the rails in January 1999, it was revealed that Collymore - by now more used to occasionally warming the substitutes' bench - was seeking counselling. He spent just over two weeks in a clinic to undergo treatment for depression.

Manager John Gregory and the board admitted it was doing more harm than good to continue with the troubled former England man.

Gregory announced Collymore would be receiving full-time treatment for his depression and would not play again that season.

"He won't be training with us at all as we have decided to send him back full-time to the clinic," said Gregory.

Collymore also had a three-month loan at Fulham, and this year, He moved to Leicester.

This season Collymore only managed to make seven starts for Leicester, with four appearances as a substitute, although he did manage to knock away five goals from those few games.