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Is Ricky Otto one of the greatest 12 figures in SUFC history?

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Yorkshire Blue

Super Moderator
Staff member
Oct 27, 2003
Next up for election to the Hall of Fame is Ricky Otto.

Ricky Otto had it all: skill, flair and funny looking hair.

He was signed by B****y F*y for £100,000, a fee that seems suspiciously high for a Leyton Orient reserve. I won't make any libellous suggestions about brown envelopes inflating the transfer fee for that transaction and anyway it turned out to be (Collymore) money well spent.

Otto had what is usually euphemistically referred to as a colourful past. He arrived at Orient via the Wormwood Scrubs having spent a spell at Her Majesty's Pleasure having tried to open a post office account with a gun. To my knowledge that makes him the only convicted armed robber to have ever played for Southend United (a stat which would make him an automatic in the Southend Hall of Infamy alongside David Roche, who was arrested at half-time during one game for GBH, and managed by Alvan Williams to provide the killing touch).

In a Southend shirt he proved to be a sharp shooter, notching 15 goals in his first season (1993/94), a fantastic return from the left-wing. To put that in some sort of context between then and the start of the Tilson era, only one player (Carruthers) managed to score that many in a season, and he was a striker.

It wasn't however his goals that caught the eye as much as his outrageous skill. Above all he was an entertainer. In all my years following Southend, I haven't seen anyone to match him as an entertainer (although honourable shouts to Phil Gridelet and Dom Iorfa) and I'd guess you'd probably have to go back to Eddie Firmani* to find someone who was such a showman. For our younger readers think a grown-up JCR with an actual end product.

Take this goal
v Barnsley for example. I don't know whether he meant that as a shot - I certainly saw him put in a few crosses like that - but he is the one Southend player that I've seen that would have both the arrogance to shoot from there and the ability to execute it, and I could well believe that that was deliberate.

I'd also hoped to put up the clip of his goal at Swindon, when he ran from his own half and beat half a dozen players, but I can't find it on youtube. Someone please help, that clip needs to be seen.

In the meantime here's another clip of Otto destroying a team as we put six past Oxford with Otto scoring two and setting up one. We were awesome that day and it was Otto who led the way. I also remember how in the dying seconds, bored with playing the keep ball to oles, he started to juggle the ball.

When you pull stunts like that you start to realise why a disgruntled Cosenza player chased after him with a hammer after an Anglo-Italian cup game. He wasn't adverse to the odd bit of verbals either. I remember him spending an entire game against Charlton trying to get one of their players sent off. He'd got him booked in the opening minute and spent the rest of the game provoking him. Unfortunately that meant our best attacking weapon wasn't having much influence on the game.

That first half of the season, Southend were the most exciting team I've ever seen. We'd go to big clubs and really take the game to them on their home patch and amazingly come out on top. And the most exciting player in our most exciting team was Ricky Otto. Moreover, this was at the highest level the club has ever played at. It was thrilling stuff.

Sadly it wasn't to last. That Judas ******* sniffed Karren Brady's perfume caught sight of thirty pieces of silver and took off, spending the rest of the season unsettling our team.

With Otto to the fore, we did however make it to the Anglo-Italian final. Well the regional final and we were agonisingly close to making it to Wembley, unable to defend a 1-0 lead we went out on penalties. It remains a legendary campaign and I'm still bitter that my parents thought school was more important than a jaunt to Florence to see us take on the likes of Batistuta and Effenburg of Fiorentina.

The following season, with the other Fry players either gone or unwilling to play for new manager Taylor, it was Otto who carried the team. We got off to a painfully slow start and it took a Ricky Otto special to earn us our first point of the season with a spectacular swerving volley against Luton after a corner was only half-cleared. Typically he then inspired our first win of the season when he got the Oldham keeper sent off for hauling him down and it was Otto who eventually broke down their stubborn defence for the only goal of the game.

Otto's role was more than just the attacking thrust of the team, he dominated the team and I distinctly recall it being our flair player who was the one who was back at corners heading them clear as the likes of Keith Dublin stood stationary and no doubt pointed at where they should be. Otto really did stand head and shoulders above the rest of the team. In fact in all our years in the second tier, I think only three players stood out as clearly better than all their team-mates: Collymore, Royce and Otto (although Marsh and Whelan flashed their class, their legs had gone). They were all so much better than their team-mates it was at times embarrassing.

It was therefore a devastating blow when he was sold and replaced with Julian Hails. It was like having Cameron Diaz replaced as your babysitter by Josef Fritzl. The club did however get £800,000 for him, then the second highest transfer fee received behind Sir Stanley and since only Freddy Eastwood has gone for more.

In all Otto made just 63+1 league appearances for the club, with cup appearances taking his total up to 75+1, before being sold to Judas B*rry F*y.

His spell at B*rm*ngh*m C*ty wasn't the success his talent suggested it should have been as he found himself getting caught in possession and sticking to the white lines a few too many times. In all each start cost the Brummies £32,000 which might seem a lot of money, but £32,000 a game for Ricky Otto was a bargain compared to the £25,000 a game they ended up paying for Kevin Francis:D

He had brief loan spells at Charlton and Notts County and a slightly longer one at Peterborough, but a career of just 154 appearances was a waste of talent. Although he did score a late equaliser at Liverpool, his best years (well year and a half) was certainly at Southend.

From there he drifted away from the game and joined his brother's bookbinding business in Oxford. However when changes in academia relaxed binding requirements, demand dropped and Otto became a probation officer instead, trying to help youngsters fulfil their potential in a way he never quite managed.

Otto will be remembered fondly by all who saw his erratic genius for the Blues. Where he may fall down is longevity as the Otto era was short and sweet. His legacy should have been substantial, but the £800,000 received for him was largely frittered away. I suppose it probably paid for another couple of seasons in the second tier. What Otto can boast is having played at the highest level the club has ever featured at, that combined with the Anglo-Italian exploits might be able to counter the short nature of his stay. Otto was certainly memorable, but was he one of the dozen greatest?

*If anyone can recall Firmani, I'd love to hear how he compared to Otto.