Sam Cox is one of the biggest talents in the National League and has achieved great things in recent years. The Boreham Wood captain recently received a call up for the Guyana national side alongside other big names including Matthew Briggs and Neil Danns.
The talented footballer who can play in both midfield and defence started his career as a youth player with Tottenham Hotspur. During his time at White Hart Lane the Guyana international spent a number of spells loaned out to different clubs in order to develop as a player.
After being released by Spurs in 2010, Cox joined Football League side Barnet. During his spell with The Bees, Boreham Wood acquired the players services during the 2011/12 season. Cox helped Boreham Wood to their highest Conference South position and the defender was awarded with a Player of the Season for his efforts.
In 2012 Cox dropped out of the Football League to sign for Hayes and Yeading United. The former Spurs youngster was given the captaincy as he teamed up with former Tottenham players Callum Butcher, Kudus Oyenuga and Josh Ekim.
After a year with Hayes the defender joined Boreham Wood in 2013 and has captained the club to promotion whilst achieving the 100+ appearances award. Boreham Wood are currently playing in the National League and have big ambitions as they aim to break into the Football League in the near future.
You started your career at Tottenham Hotspur as a youth player; how did you find your time at the club?
I always look back at my time with Spurs and say it was probably one of the best times of my life. During the five year period I was there, from being a school boy to a professional allowed me to make some unbelievable friendships and developments, not only as a player but also as a man. It allowed me to travel the world, playing in various club tournaments in different continents and this ultimately provided me with the grounding I needed to have a career in the game. I gained invaluable experience playing and training with some top players and I can look back at my time at the club with some great memories.
You featured on the bench for Spurs in the 2009 UEFA Cup against Shakhtar, what can you remember from your first team experience?
I can remember it being one of the proudest moments of my career. When the squad list went up on the changing room door the day before the game and I saw my name, it was one of the best feelings. I remember walking into the changing rooms at White Hart Lane where I saw my “COX 62” shirt hung up in between Gareth Bale’s and Giovani Dos Santos’ shirts. It was like a dream come true. It was quite surreal stepping out onto the pitch for the warm up with these big name players who I had looked up to for so long. I was disappointed not to have got any game time that day but the experience was one I will treasure for a life time.
A number of faces from that Spurs bench went onto have great careers at Spurs, including Andros Townsend and Ryan Mason. From a young age could you tell that they had something special?
I’m proud to say I was part of that special crop of youth players that were coming through the academy at the time. It was down to a lot of hard work and great coaching from the likes of Alex Inglethorpe, John McDermott, Chris Ramsey and Ricardo Moniz who all helped us develop our trades on the pitch. The group was so competitive and you could tell from the early stages of our apprenticeship that there was something special going on. Training was always full on and the professionalism was always second to none.
It’s no surprise that the core of the Spurs side which are doing so well today are products of that special generation which I’m glad to say I was part of. Players such as Ryan Mason, Andros Townsend, Tom Carroll, Harry Kane, Danny Rose, Alex Pritchard are all flourishing now for both club and country. It’s not often you see so many success stories coming out of one academy alone but Spurs have one which should be recognised as one of the best. It’s not only those players that went on to have great careers at Spurs but players from our youth team such as Jake Livermoore, Steven Caulker and Adam Smith have gone on to play for their respective Premier League clubs. Players such as Yaser Kasim, Paul Mpoku, Massimo Luongo have all represented their countries and others including John Bostock, Dean Parrett, and John Obika, have all gone onto have successful league careers. It’s a credit to both players and staff at the academy.
You are currently a coach at Tottenham. What age group are you involved with and are there any future stars Spurs fans should look out for?
I am currently working for the Spurs Foundation which involves working in the community, alongside getting valuable experience assisting with the Under 12 and Under 16 academy boys when called upon. There’s some great talent from what I’ve seen coming up from the Tottenham youth sides but keep your eye on Josh Onomah who’s made a few appearances for the first team. Another name is Harry Winks! They are both players with great talents and they are blessed with great technical ability.
You were sent out on a number of loan deals during the first few years of your career. How did these help you develop as a player?
At the time of those loans, looking back I wasn’t quite ready for the hustle and bustle of the Football League. I do believe that I was sent on loan too early by the club as I probably wasn’t ready physically for the challenges of a League Two relegation battle at the age of 18. Looking back at that time it was the wrong time for me to be going out on loan and I probably needed more time developing in the reserve programme which wasn’t in place at the time. It was a transitional period where they took us out the Reserve League and there wasn’t enough development matches being put in place for the likes of myself who needed the game time. Which is why I wasn’t quite ready for a loan deal to a League Two side who were trying to survive and keep their Football League status. However with no reserve team at Spurs I felt like I was being pushed out on loan as I wasn’t ready to be training day in day out with the first team but on the other hand I was too old to be with the youth team. I felt that with this transition being put in place and there being no reserve team manager this inevitably contributed to my time at the club coming to a disappointing end.
Tim Sheerwood was just coming into the club and he looked at my loan statistics and decided that he was not going to offer me a new contract. I was soon released at the back end of the 2010 season. This is why I believe it’s so important for a young player to go on a loan deal which is right for him and will allow him to develop at the correct pace. This will also allow a player to prepare for first team football at their parent club. It has to be relevant to their development. There is no use sending a player to a struggling club which will not benefit the players development.
I do believe it is being done much better now days and you only need to look at players at Spurs such as Nathan Oduwa who wasn’t a regular at Luton last season in League Two but he is now flourishing on a loan at Rangers under Mark Warburton. This will prepare him much better for when eventually he gets his chance in the first team. I can look back now and say that my loans at Cheltenham working under Martin Allen, and Paul Buckle at Histon and Torquay were experiences that I have learnt from. This is because I gained experience in the League as I was dealing with relegation battles. I also gained many life skills such as living away from home but this allowed me to make many friends.
In 2010 you joined Barnet after being released by Spurs, how different was the quality of training when you compare the difference between a Football League side and a Premiership side?
My time at Barnet again was a very difficult one. It’s always hard coming down from a top Premier League side to a lower League outfit where you have to start adapting to their style but it makes it even more difficult when you work with six different managers in the space of two years.
The training was a lot different but my experience of going on loan to different clubs when I was at Spurs helped me massively in regards to preparing for that. It’s at those times when you come out of a big club where your professionalism is truly tested. This is because you are not watched over all the time like you are at Spurs, you have to do the right things when nobody is watching. So that means you have to be eating, sleeping and preparing in the best way to give yourself the best chance of being successful.
Again I made some fantastic friends at Barnet and I had a special connection with the fans there. They were always good to me and supported me throughout my time at the club.
Another loan deal followed when you joined Boreham Wood during the 2011/12 season, how has the club changed since your first spell?
My first stint at Boreham Wood was a very successful one! I helped the club achieve their highest position in the Conference South and I also won the Player of the Season award during my loan. Since then the club has just got bigger and bigger. There is always something being put in place season after season to make this club better. From the new stand, to going full time and there are now plans for a new on site facility, I’m sure it won’t be too long before you see Boreham Wood playing in the Football League. The club is set on great foundations. We are financially stable and I believe The Chairman, Danny Hunter is doing a fantastic job.
You dropped down from the Football League to play for Hayes & Yeading. You were also announced as captain for the 2012/13 season, how did this move come around?
It was hard to take when I decided to drop out of the Football League as every boy wants to be playing League Football. I still felt I had a lot to offer at Barnet Football Club. The move to Hayes came about through Nas Bashir. When he saw I would not be signing at Barnet he contacted me straight away. I knew Nas from Spurs as he would to take us for sessions on the odd occasion when we were scholars. It was a tough decision because I had financial responsibilities as I was moving into my first home so the deal needed to be right.
I was close to signing for a number of other clubs but Nas’ belief and confidence in me helped me make that decision and he was determined to help me carry on developing as player. He made me the youngest captain in the history of the club. He also signed Callum Butcher, Kudus Oyenuga and Josh Ekim who were all former team mates of mine at Spurs. Kudus and Callum both went onto get moves to Dundee Untied in the SPL from Hayes and they are now both pursuing great League Careers. Although I never managed to make a move with them I don’t regret my decision of joining Hayes. I was unlucky that summer not to be given a contract in Scotland but I do believe everything happens for a reason. I played nearly 50 games as captain for Hayes and this helped me develop and learn the competitive of the Conference South Division. Again I made some great friends along the way with players, staff and fans.
In 2013 you returned to Boreham Wood, is this where you have enjoyed playing your football the most?
In 2013 I returned back to Boreham Wood for one reason and that was to achieve promotion to the National League. My first spell at the club was a highly enjoyable one and I always knew that I would be coming back, as I had unfinished business. I’m a local lad and live five minutes away from the ground. This is my local club and I always wanted to achieve big things here. In my first season back at the club I captained the side to Herts Cup success and in the following season I did what I said I was going to do and that was to achieve promotion to the National League. It was an outstanding achievement and one I’ll look back on as one of my proudest moments in my career. I have made nearly 200 appearances for Boreham Wood now and I am proud to be the Club Captain. I love playing for my local club and I’ve always wanted to do everyone in this town proud. This season our objective is to sustain our National League status and I believe what we have in our dressing room is more than enough to do so.
You are one of the best young talents in the National League, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I hopefully see myself with a full trophy cabinet and I will hopefully still be playing at the highest level I can be! I love the game and will carry on playing as long as my body allows me to! I hope in that time I go on to make more appearances at the International stage for my country Guyana.
In 10 years time I would imagine I will be a lot more involved with the coaching side of the game and also the managerial side which I am keen to go into. I also see myself doing a lot with the media side of things as that is also something that really interests me so keep and eye out for “The Cox Show”… watch this space! (You’re more than welcome to do a feature piece on ElWriteBack haha) Really and truly when it comes down to it, in 10 years time, when I’m at the end of my career, I want to have gone down as someone who will be remembered not only as a footballer but as a good human being. That will be good enough for me!
I would like to thank Sam for taking part in this interview and I wish him all the best with his future.