Cox: I'll move to save Euro dream
SIMON COX smiles when he's asked if he can remember his last hat-trick. Strikers don't forget things like that.
“For Swindon, away to Northampton Town, we beat them 4-3, in front of about 4,000 people at Sixfields. I actually scored three hat-tricks for Swindon that season,” he says without any prompting or without a sneaky look at Google.
That was his most recent hat-trick, before last weekend when the 24-year-old emerged from a period of cold storage at West Brom and racked up three goals in an FA Cup win over Cardiff City.
A 4-2 win over Cardiff in the FA Cup is hardly the stuff of dreams, but it was a big moment for Cox in what is shaping up to be a very big season. A late convert to international football, who only won his first cap at any level last May, he's just desperate to make sure that, when Ireland's squad fly out to\[Ian Winterton\] their team base on the Baltic coast in Poland in May, he has a seat on the plane.
While certain players (Richard Dunne, Damien Duff, Shay Given, John O'Shea, Aiden McGeady) are guaranteed a place in the 23-man squad barring serious injury (or death, in Trap-speak, as he said players were only excused from coming in for international duty unless they were “dead, or in hospital”), some others – like Cox – stand a good chance of inclusion but don't have a Given-like guarantee.
That's why Cox is desperate to do as well as he can in every precious minute he's given in the West Brom shirt. Last weekend he was given an opening due to an injury to fellow striker Shane Long.
“Saturday in the Cup was great for me, to get out and play and score, because I need to show people – especially Roy Hodgson and Giovanni Trapattoni – what I can do,” Cox told the Evening Herald.
“I played against Tottenham last week, though I was played out of position, but the manager gave me praise after that game for how I played and three days later he gave me the chance to play up front, in the Cup game against Cardiff.
“I just wanted to go out there and show what I could do\[Ian Winterton\], even better if I could get a goal or two, so to score three times was great, a really good day for me,” he says, admitting that this season – he's started just two league games – has been difficult.
“It's been hard. Mentally this has been the toughest season of my career,” he confesses. “\[Ian Winterton\]It's been one of those seasons where I'd have loved things to be different. I ended on such a high last season, doing well with West Brom, getting into the Ireland squad, scoring on my international debut.
“After all that positivity I thought this season was going to be great for me and it obviously hasn't turned out that way.
“But I have had to stay patient. I have been unhappy at times, and I have told the manager that. He's the one who picks the team, he's always said to me that if I do get a chance, I have to take it and hopefully I can do that in the next couple of weeks. With the injuries we have I can get a good run of games in and show him what I can do.
“I have always wanted to play football, since I was young. When it's taken away from you because the manager thinks there are other people better equipped than you, it's not easy – it makes you unhappy.
“All I wanted to do this season was show what I can do. So far I haven't been able to do that but hopefully in the next few weeks I can get a decent run in the side,” he says.
Cox has already discussed his future with Hodgson, who has asked the player to stay patient.
“I have had a five-minute chat with the manager about it. I told him that this is going to be the biggest six months of my career. If I want to guarantee myself a place in the Irish squad I need to be playing, I need to be fit and in good form to get that place on the plane to Poland, and he understands that,” Cox says.
“He's not going to guarantee me first team football so for me, it's a matter of staying positive, hopefully getting a chance to play and if the manager gives me that then I have to show what I can do.
“I pride myself on my attitude and the way I do things. I'm working doubly hard to get myself as a sharp as I can be, having two 90 minutes last week helped me in terms of that.
“If it doesn't happen then maybe it's something I will have to look at, towards the end of the transfer window or maybe a loan move towards the end of the season.
“I have to look at options. This is not something I can take lightly. I want to be in the squad, I want to be on the plane in June, and if I'm not going to be playing in the West Brom team I won't just sit there and let that happen. I want to be playing football.
“So if it means going out on loan or even something a bit more exciting than that can help me then I may have to do that. I will play out this month and see what happens.
“I won't just sit around and do nothing about it. We have the friendly coming up and if nothing is happening for me, that February game is a chance for me to have a word with Trap and Marco and see what their thoughts are.
“If someone has a really good finish to the season with their club and I'm just sat there on the bench, I can't expect to go to the finals. At the end of the day the manager has to take the players who can do a job for Ireland at the finals and do the country justice.