Interview with #RYG17 mentor Sam Cox
Kick It Out is hosting its seventh annual Raise Your Game national conference on Monday 24 April at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, providing a unique opportunity for individuals looking to break into the football industry.
Supported by the Premier League, the mentoring event will welcome over 300 mentees to the Woolwich Suite as they seek advice from experienced mentors to learn more about careers within the sport.
Ahead of the conference, Kick It Out spoke to Sam Cox, Tottenham Hotspur Academy coach and former player at the club, who will be mentoring in the coaching category, about playing in the lower leagues, developing as a coach and the best way for mentees to approach Raise Your Game.
Sam Cox remembers coming through ranks at Tottenham fondly.
“Looking back at it, it was probably one of the best times of my life,” he recalled. “The facilities we had, training day-in, day-out with all these top players – first-team, reserves and youth. The people and the atmosphere was fantastic.
“I was in a youth team with some really special, talented players who have gone on to be Premier League and international players – you’ve got the likes of Harry Kane, Ryan Mason, Steven Caulker, Adam Smith at Bournemouth, Andros Townsend, Danny Rose and Jake Livermore. It’s phenomenal the amount of players the club produced from that generation.”
Despite featuring on the bench in a UEFA Cup tie against Shakhtar Donetsk in 2009, Sam was unable to force his way in the first-team squad as a regular and he joined Barnet the following year. Aware that a professional career in league football may not quite materialise, he began to think about gaining his coaching qualifications.
“I always stayed in touch with John McDermott (Head of Coaching and Development), Chris Ramsey (former Head of Player Development) and the guys at Tottenham. So when I was at Hayes and Yeading and I told them I’d like to pursue a career in coaching, they said ‘come in, finish off your Level 2 with the scholars and we’ll get you doing some voluntary hours with the Under-16s.’”
“This time last year, I completed my UEFA B License and I would advise all young players to have it under their belt because you never know what’s going to happen – I didn’t plan to be in this position five or six years ago.”
He added: “I was living life, thinking I was going to be a pro at Spurs but football doesn’t work out like that. You have to deal with the ups and downs, so it’s always good to have a backup and if you’ve got a passion for football, then apart from playing I don’t think there’s a better job.”
At 26-years-old, Sam still feels he has plenty to contribute on the pitch, and he mixes his coaching duties at Spurs’ Academy with a part-time playing role at Wealdstone, whilst continuing to captain the Guyana national team.
Sam praised the support he’s been given by Tottenham to develop his skills as a coach and in the long-term, he has set his sights on a management position.
“I’ve got an ambition to be a manager and where I haven’t been as successful in my playing career, I’d like to make that up in my management career. But for now I just want to keep progressing through the Academy – I’ll do whatever John wants me to do.
“I wouldn’t really want to work anywhere else in terms of development. Tottenham’s where I’ve been brought up, it’s where I did my scholarship and as a professional they’ve been fantastic for me. There’s not a better club for me to work at.”
Yet with the lack of BAME managers in the professional game a continuing topic of discussion, what does he think of his prospects of securing the top job at a league club?
“There’s a few that have done it in the last few years like Chris Ramsey and Chris Hughton, but there’s a definitely a question mark over why there aren’t enough. Now I could look at that and say I’d rather stay in development and not push myself onto management because statistically, there aren’t enough black managers, but barriers are there to be broken down and that’s what I want to do.
“With personality, positivity and the right application, I think anything’s possible and you’ve got to believe that, otherwise there’s no point in doing it. There’s no other option for me – this is what I want to do, this is my passion and I will break down doors to get where I want to be at the end of the day.”
Sam looks forward to passing on his experience to coaching mentees at Raise Your Game.
“I think it’s fantastic because mentees get their eyes opened, they can dive into other players’ and coaches’ careers and it’s a fantastic occasion for them to learn, to be inspired, and to then go and achieve their own goals in their careers. It’s all positive work and hopefully we can reach out to a new generation and inspire them.”
He ended with some advice for those attending on the day.
“Come in with an open mind, listen to the mentors and what they’ve been through in their careers. Try and be inspired. Learning from people who’ve had experiences in the game can only be beneficial. Enjoy the day and hopefully you can take something new into your life or career, whatever direction you want that to go in.”