Dean Cox talks to Dylan Smart about his boyhood club and today’s visitors Brighton, pre-season, his new shirt number, his first full season with the Reds and more.
(The following interview was published in Saturday's matchday programme for the game against Brighton & Hove Albion).
Today Dean Cox comes up against the club where he spent his entire youth career, and for whom he made his competitive debut for in 2005.
But the winger didn’t just make his debut for the Seagulls, he also went on to make 179 appearances over a five-year period, before he moved on to Leyton Orient in 2010. The club still clearly still holds a place in his heart, and Cox looks back on his time on south coast fondly.
“It was good, I signed when I was young and it was great to come through and make my debut; I’ve got very good memories there, “ he begins.
“It’s where I found my trade I suppose, and played a lot of games and had some periods of success, others not so successful. Ultimately it’s my boyhood club that I always wanted to play for and I was lucky enough to come through the youth system and eventually play for the first team which was a special feeling.”
Having been away from Albion for seven years now, today will be the first time Cox has played against his former club.
Whilst much of the playing staff has changed since Cox was there, the 29-year old is still looking forward to turning out against Albion.
“It’s pretty much a changed squad to be honest, so there will only be a couple (I played with), but the backroom staff will mostly be the same so I’m looking forward to seeing them,” Cox continues.
“It’s the first time I would’ve played against them since I left, so it’ll be nice for me and family, and for my Mum especially. They’re all coming and looking forward to seeing it so hopefully it’ll be a special day with a good result.”
A lot has changed at Brighton & Hove Albion since Cox was at the club, including a change of ground from Withdean Stadium to the impressive American Express Stadium. Where the Seagulls play hasn’t just changed in a physical sense, but also in a divisional sense.
The club were promoted to the Premier League for the first time last season after finishing runners-up in the Championship, and Cox is pleased to see them there.
“The club is all geared up for Premier League football. I was there when the Amex was still getting built, and now with the success they’ve had in that new stadium and training ground, it was only a matter of time.
“A lot of thanks has to go to Tony Bloom for spending the money, because it does take money to push you in that direction and he gave that in abundance and he’s been paid back with Premier League football.
“It’s also great we’ve got a club from Sussex in the top flight, so anytime I can get down there I definitely will.”
Looking away from today’s opponents, and back to last season, it’s safe to say it was a strange one for Cox. After leaving Leyton Orient after the registration deadline last summer, the midfielder was unable to play EFL football until the new year.
Fans and the player alike were desperate for him to play for the Reds, and the ex-Orient man is excited at having a full go this time around.
“It was stop-start last year and I was lacking fitness coming back from a cruciate ligament injury, only having a couple of months with the club to train. I actually only became fully fit when the season finish to be honest, so it was frustrating. But I’m looking forward to this season, I feel fit, I feel strong and ready to go and hopefully we can have a good year.”
How much of the season Cox will be playing isn’t the only thing that’s different to the last campaign, the manager has also now changed. In his first pre-season with the Reds, Cox is working under Harry Kewell and says the squad is reacting well to the boss’ ideas.
“He has been getting his ideas across in the pre-season games, I think the matches coming up now will be where he probably will be doing that more so than the others.
“We’re all working hard and trying to transfer those ideas onto the pitch and ultimately we just want to get to the league games and start winning matches.