Born in Coventry, Abbott started his career with his hometown team Coventry City. He was released without playing a game but recommended to Bradford City, where he won the Division Three title in the 1984–85 season and went on to play more than 300 games. He had spells with Halifax Town and non-league Guiseley before he returned to The Football League with former manager Terry Dolan at Hull City. He spent four seasons with Hull playing another 100 games to take his career total to in excess of 500 first team matches.
After retiring, he went into coaching. He spent a decade at Leeds United coaching a number of junior and reserve sides, before he was appointed assistant manager of Carlisle United in 2006. He spent a brief spell as caretaker manager in 2007. He was given the job full-time in December 2008, after the dismissal of John Ward.
Abbott was born in Coventry, Warwickshire, on 14 December 1963. He started his football career with his hometown club Coventry City, first signing schoolboy forms, before becoming an apprentice in June 1980. He developed through the junior and reserve teams to sign a professional contract in January 1982 but at the end of the season he was given a free transfer without making a league appearance for the Division One side. The youth development team at Coventry City instead recommended Abbott to Bradford City, where he was given a trial in July, before earning a one-year contract at the newly promoted Division Three club.
Abbott had to wait eight months for his first team debut, which came in a 3–1 defeat to Plymouth Argyle at right back. However, he was a regular member of the club's reserve side, which won the 1983 Northern Intermediate League Cup. Abbott finished with 11 first team games in his first season with City at full back or in midfield, who finished 12th in the first season in Division Three.
Abbott became a more regular member of the first team the following season as City won just one of their first 15 games, following a summer where the club was nearly closed. However the club resigned striker Bobby Campbell from Derby County and embarked on a club record ten consecutive victories, during which Abbott scored his first senior goal as City defeated Lincoln City. The club eventually finished seventh after winning only once in the final six fixtures of the season. Abbott finished the season with four goals from 39 games, which included starting the final 20 games of the season.
During the summer of 1984, City signed winger John Hendrie, who had played with Abbott at Coventry, as well as defender Dave Evans. Abbott missed two of the season's first six games and was substitute for another two, but after that he missed only two more as City won the title by four points. Abbott's games again were shared between his roles in midfield and at full back as he weighed in with six league goals, four from penalties. City's joy, however, was overshadowed on the final day of the season against Lincoln City, when the game was abandoned because of a fire killing 56 supporters, only an hour after the team had paraded the Division Three trophy.
City played their home games at a number of grounds during the 1985–86 season during the redevelopment of their Valley Parade ground. That season, Abbott had his best season in terms of goals, scoring 13 times, which included ten in the league, and a total of nine penalties; his tally helped Abbott to be the club's joint top goalscorer tied with John Hendrie. Despite having no home ground, City finished in mid-table in Division Two. He added another ten the following season, which included a penalty against top flight side Newcastle United in the League Cup. Despite struggling during the first half of the season, City returned to Valley Parade and ended in tenth position thanks to seven games in the final nine fixtures under new manager Terry Dolan.
On 16 September 1987, Abbott scored the first hat-trick of his career to give City a 3–1 victory against Plymouth Argyle and elevate them to the top of the division. City remained in promotion contention for most of the season, with Abbott playing 32 games, though he did not start in any of the final eight fixtures, as City missed out on promotion after losing the final two matches. Abbott returned to the side for the play-off semi-final matches against Middlesbrough, which City lost 3–2 on aggregate to prevent them from winning promotion to Division One.
As a result of the defeat, both Stuart McCall and John Hendrie left the club and City could not maintain their form finishing in the bottom half for the first time in three years. Abbott was limited to just 23 league starts. Abbott was more of a regular the following season, playing 40 games in all competitions, but City were relegated back to Division Three.
John Docherty had taken over as City manager and Abbott's first team opportunities were limited with Docherty favouring a number of players he had bought from his former team Millwall. Abbott left City at the end of the first season back in Division Three one season short of his testimonial year, with his last start coming in January 1991. He had played 281 league games with the club, scoring 38 goals. Abbott claimed Docherty had split the dressing room and said: "I thought John Docherty was a disaster."
Abbott signed for City's West Yorkshire neighbours Halifax Town for a fee of £25,000. He spent just over a season with Halifax, in Division Four, but played only 28 league games, and a total of 34 matches, before he left because of injury. He moved to non-league side Guiseley for three months, before he was given another chance in the Football League, by his former manager Terry Dolan, who was now in charge of Hull City. Abbott scored on his debut against Doncaster Rovers in a Football League Trophy game. He spent four seasons at Hull, playing 124 games and scoring 15 goals before he retired in 1996.
When he finished his playing career, Abbott was invited to join the Leeds United coaching staff, by Ces Podd, who had played with Abbott at Bradford City. Abbott worked with Brian Kidd at Leeds' academy with the teams from under 10s to under 18s level. He also had a brief stint as reserves team manager, but wanted to coach senior teams. He turned down an offer from Paul Jewell, another player Abbott knew from his time at Bradford City, to do some short-term coaching at Wigan Athletic. During his time with Leeds he also spent a brief period as assistant manager at his former side Guiseley before he resigned in February 1998. Five months after leaving Guiseley, he also combined his role at Leeds, with that of joint manager of Thackley, a role he shared with another former Guiseley coach Brendan Hudson. He resigned in January 1999, to concentrate on his role with Leeds United as well as radio commentary with BBC Radio Leeds.
In July 2006, he joined Carlisle United as assistant manager to Neil McDonald. When McDonald was sacked by Carlisle on 13 August 2007, Abbott was appointed as caretaker manager. He won five of his ten games in charge to guide Carlisle to fourth position, before Carlisle appointed Cheltenham Town manager John Ward as their new boss in October; Abbott returned to his original assistant manager role with the club and signed a new two-year contract. The pair led Carlisle to the League One play-offs where they were defeated by Leeds United in the semi-finals.
When Ward left the club after 13 months in charge following a run of nine defeats in ten games, which left the club in 20th place, Abbott was once again appointed caretaker manager. Abbott's first game as caretaker was an FA Cup game with Conference National-side Grays Athletic, in which they were only six minutes from being knocked out, before a late equaliser avoided an upset to force a replay. He won three games while in caretaker charge and was appointed the club's permanent manager on 5 December 2008 on an 18-month contract. After a poor start to the 2013–14 season Abbott was sacked on 9 September 2013.
On 6 November 2013 Abbott was appointed Assistant Manager to Shaun Derry at Notts County. He was sacked in March 2015.
After a spell at Cambridge United, he returned to Bradford City as Chief Scout in July 2016.As of 7 September 2013