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George Cox: The Englishman In The Eredivise With A Premier League Dream

George Cox: The Englishman In The Eredivise With A Premier League Dream

Interview with Fortuna Sittard’s English left-back George Cox, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You are currently playing for Fortuna Sittard in the Eredivisie having joined from Brighton in 2019. How would you describe your experience of Dutch football and culture so far?

“The main reason I came to Fortuna was my desire to play competitive games at a high level. I’ve been able to do that which is pleasing.

“The last year has been crucial for my development. I had the opportunity to work under Dutch international Kevin Hofland which was great for me as a fellow defender.

“My current manager is Sjors Ultee who is a young coach at the age of 34. In my opinion, he is a coach with a big future. He is very clear on how he wants us to play. Tactically he is really strong.

“In terms of settling into the Dutch culture, it helps that Fortuna is a multicultural club with a squad featuring a range of nationalities.

“The common language in the dressing room is English and most people in the city also speak English. I have learned key Dutch phrases to help me in other situations too.”

The Eredivisie has various world-renowned teams playing within the league such as Ajax and PSV. What has it been like to test yourself against such esteemed opposition on a regular basis?

“The top teams in the league are very strong, like Ajax and PSV as you’ve said. Ajax recently beat Sporting Lisbon 5-1 in the Champions League so you can imagine how much intensity they played with when we faced them this season.

“I have to say that the teams around mid-table and towards the bottom of the table are very even which makes every game competitive and enjoyable.

“The pace of the game is slower here than it was in England but I think it demands greater tactical understanding as you have to think carefully about every situation rather than solve problems in the blink of an eye.

“In terms of individual opponents, I played against the Brazilian player Antony of Ajax who is incredibly pacey and skilful. I am a quick player but his level of pace was scarily quick.

George Cox Antony

George Cox of Fortuna Sittard (L) battling with Ajax winger Antony

“I also came up against Steven Berghuis in the same game who was also exceptional. He has been a key player for years in the league with Feyenoord before joining Ajax this summer.

“He doesn’t dribble often but he can play killer passes from any area of the pitch which makes him a constant threat for any opposing team.”

Do you have a particular highlight that stands out from your time at the club so far?

“My highlight would have to be scoring a brace at the Johan Cruyff Arena against Ajax last season. Not many players can say that they’ve done that in their career so that was a special night for me.

“Scoring against PSV also meant a lot to me as I always want to perform well in any game so to do it against the very top sides in the league means a lot to me.

“It was just a shame that fans weren’t in the stadiums at the time due to the COVID pandemic.”

I mentioned Brighton and Hove Albion earlier. You started your career there at a young age. Can you sum up what it was like to develop at the club over a number of years?

“I loved my time at Brighton and I have an ambition to return to the club one day if possible.

“I started with the club at the age of nine and stayed there until I was twenty. I really grew from being a boy into being a man at the club.”

You were loaned to Northampton Town then of League Two during your time at Brighton. How would you reflect upon that loan spell?

“If you had asked me at the time then I’d have described it as horrible as I hated it at the time, to be honest.

“However, in hindsight, it was a humbling experience and one that I needed. It is important for young players to realise that football is not all fancy training grounds with swimming pools, bikes and nice pitches.

“I got injured after the second game so I did not play a lot which made it even tougher but I certainly learned a lot from playing and sharing a dressing room with senior pros.”

In recent years, several young British players have made moves abroad for regular game time. Based on your first-hand experience, would you recommend to other young players within Premier League academies to move abroad for regular game time?

“I have spoken to many young players and I always recommend to players to go and challenge themselves abroad or out on loan within the UK if they have the opportunity to do so.

“Under 23 football in England is of a good standard but playing competitive games is an even greater challenge.

“I would certainly recommend Dutch football to any young British player if they have the opportunity to come here.”

Finally, George, you have played regular first-team football in the Netherlands for a few years now. What are your ambitions for the future?

“I am loving my football at Fortuna at the moment but my ultimate ambition is to play in the Premier League. I think that is the dream for any young British boy.

“The club are open that they want to develop young players and move them on in future.

“I believe that I am ready to make my next step in football but it is vital that I do not let my standards drop and give everything to Fortuna Sittard until the time comes for me to take on another challenge in another European league or back in the UK.”