Simon Cox tells David Hennessy that not being involved with Republic of Ireland is “hurting” him
“It is hurting that I’m not being selected and enjoying the ride of the campaign that the lads are in at the minute and doing so well in,” 27-year-old Reading striker Simon Cox tells The Irish World. Named in Martin O’Neill’s provisional squads for recent Euro 2016 qualifiers, Simon, who has earned 30 international caps making his Republic of Ireland debut in 2011, has been left out of the final cut for recent clashes against Germany and Scotland. Ipswich strikers Daryl Murphy and now David McGoldrick as well as Celtic’s Anthony Stokes have pushed Cox further down the pecking order but Simon was one of the five strikers that travelled to Poland for Euro 2012.
“It’s gonna be a difficult one to break into and watching the previous games, especially the Germany game, you want to play or be involved in nights like that in your career. After being involved in the last two, three years consistently, it’s a bit strange watching in front of the telly. It’s difficult to watch at home because you want to be there yourself.”
Is it even a slim consolation for Simon that he is being named in the preliminary squads as it shows he is in Martin O’Neill’s plans? “I’d rather be named in the 27. You name everybody and then you reduce it to 27 and it’s like ‘not this time but we are thinking of you’. I don’t know. I can only control what I can control and that’s playing well for Reading and if the (Republic of Ireland) manager decides to select me then great.
“I really enjoy working with them (Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane). I had some good conversations with both of them, especially over the summer when we were over in America. They’re doing really well at the minute, it’s hard to break into but I would love to work again under both of them whether that’s now, in the next six months, a year, two years, whatever it is. I would like to get back in the fold so we can work together again.”
Simon burst into the international set-up during the campaign to qualify for Euro 2012, scoring twice in his first five games. Simon then played in all three of their games when Giovanni Trapattoni took Republic of Ireland to Euro 2012 in Poland and his aims are certainly geared towards figuring so prominently for his country again: “That’s why I think it’s hurting a lot now. When you experience major tournaments like we did in the Euros, although results weren’t great, to be involved is the pinnacle of your career really.
“Especially how well the lads are doing in this campaign and not to be a part of it, it’s tough to take really. You do want to be a part of it: The lads doing really well in this campaign and in France. If they do qualify, not being involved would be a tough one to take as well. But good luck to them and if they can keep up the good run that they’re on at the minute, they can do it.”
Sky Sports came under fire for displaying a graphic that separated Republic of Ireland’s squad by birthplace: Republic of Ireland (15), Northern Ireland (2), England (8) and Scotland (2). Fans were outraged, noting that a similar graph is never known for England teams that include Jamican-born Raheem Sterling or in the case of cricket Eoin Morgan from Dublin.
On English-born players representing Ireland, Simon says: “I think as long as you declare at the right time and not just to get an international cap, that’s very important. Then obviously, once you declare, that you declare for the right reasons instead of, as I say, just trying to get an international cap so you can say you’re an international player.”
As a young player coming through the ranks with Reading, Simon was envious of club team mates Shane Long and Kevin Doyle: “There are reasons behind everybody declaring for a country that they can play for and in my case, it meant a lot to me. I’d always tried to declare for Ireland even at a younger age. As long as you’re declaring for the right reasons, I don’t see the problem in it really.
“I feel that if you feel that you want to represent that country and that’s your country, then by all means, I think that’s the way to go forward.”
Last summer saw Simon, who has family in Galway, move back to Reading, the club he began his career with and also the area where he grew up: “It’s obviously nice to be back around familiar faces, a lot of people from when I left are still at the football club. It’s nice to be back at home as well, a lot of my family are still in Reading. It’s just a nice football club to be at and it’s nice to be back.
“I was here from 9 until about the age of 20. They always say never go back but I think it was just a really good time for me to go back to a football club, one that I knew and accept the challenge of going back.”
Simon then had stints at Swindon Town before moving to West Brom, who he played in the Premiership with before moving to Nottingham Forest.
Promotion is a realistic target for Reading especially as they are managed by Nigel Adkins who has experience of taking Southampton up to the top flight in recent years. “He’s a very positive man,” Simon says of his manager. “He doesn’t like to look at negatives. We always look to the positives of everything. He’s got us playing some nice stuff although results probably haven’t shown what we’re capable of yet so far but we believe in what we’re doing and we’re trying to do the right things. He’s a really nice guy and he’s good to work under.”
Simon mentions results not going their way, is consistency what they need to work on? “Yeah, I think at the minute we either win 3-0 or lose 0-3, we’re trying to find the consistency of winning a game and then going into the next one with a clear mind and a clear mental state and at the minute we’re struggling to do that. We’re just a team at the minute that are struggling a little bit with consistency and we’re coming towards the stage of the season where we probably need it most.”
Are the club conscious that just a few results put together can lift them into play-off places? “Well, that’s it. I think we’re probably three wins off the top three or four teams so it literally is one of those leagues where you put a run of results together and you find yourselves right back in the mix. It’s one of those where if we can find that at the right time then we’ll be in the mix come the end of the season.”
Simon has already scored seven league goals for Reading including two in a 3-0 win over Rotherham, although this was followed by a defeat to Charlton: “It’s always nice to score goals but then again, we win that game and then we end up getting beat against Charlton so again it’s the consistency of winning one game and then going into the next game and trying to win that one as well, instead of winning one and taking your foot off the pedal.”
Having played for him at West Brom, what are Simon’s thoughts on the work Roy Hodgson is doing in charge of England? “I think to be a successful nation, England need to be hard to play against and at the minute they’re showing that that’s exactly what they are. England are unbeaten in their group at the minute and that comes down to the ethics of what the manager wants. He’s doing a really good job.
“When he came to West Brom, Roy Hodgson was exactly what we needed. Under Roberto Di Matteo, we probably weren’t as resilient at the back and we were probably leaking more goals than we should have. Then Roy came in and he made us hard to beat and he made us difficult to play against. Everybody knew their roles in the team, everybody knew what the team ethics were and I knew exactly what England were going to be getting under Roy Hodgson. It is surprise to me that when England win 1-0 or 2-0 that they haven’t conceded because he’s that tactically astute that a lot of teams don’t know how to play against his teams.”