It has been an eventful first few months on the other side of the world for Simon Cox. He arrived to bushfires and is now facing disruption as a result of the coronavirus.
The eyes of the world have been on Australia’s A-League, where Cox now plays for Western Sydney Wanderers, with football continuing on the continent even after much of Europe has shut down. The latest plans are to play the remaining games behind closed doors.
“It is all changing by the hour, to be honest,” Cox tells Sky Sports. “I wake up in the morning to find out something else has happened and then you pick up the phone to people back home too. We are all waiting to find out what the next steps are here.
“As it stands we are continuing.”
This Australian adventure is just the latest for Cox, the Republic of Ireland international forward who has scored more than 100 goals in a career in English football that has taken him from Reading to Swindon, West Brom, Nottingham Forest, Southend and many more.
But how did it come about?
“I actually spoke to the old manager here Markus Babbel in the summer when we stayed up with Southend,” says Cox. “He wanted to bring me out then but I had a year left on my contract. Obviously, this is football and things change, directions change and that’s fine.
“When that happened to me at Southend, my representatives LPM decided to see if the Sydney thing was still a possibility in January. Thankfully for me, it was. Moving abroad was never something that I had really thought about until I was given the green light to find a new adventure.”
And an adventure it has certainly been.
“I came over during the back end of the bushfires so we were talking 40 degree heat during training,” he adds. “That was a tough period for two weeks. After that we had another two weeks of torrential rain and downpours. There were all sorts of problems.
“The electricity in the building went. We had no gas either. I am on the 25th floor so when the lifts don’t work that’s a long way going down but it’s even longer going up.”
All of the tales are told in an upbeat tone and with laughter. Sydney is no retirement for the 32-year-old Cox. Instead, it is a new lease of life for him in his career.
“It is a beautiful city and I have settled in really nicely,” he says.
“Our stadium is a new 30,000-seater stadium. The crowds are decent with 9,000 at home games and many more for the Sydney derby. Anything you could ever want is there and the training ground is the same so it is completely different to what we had at Southend.
“I have been nothing but impressed by the facilities and the standard of play. It is just a nice way to enjoy the rest of your career. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a place to relax and not try hard. You come over here and you soon know that defenders are going to kick you up in the air. That’s what they are there to do. The boys don’t take any prisoners over here.”
A goal off the bench on his debut against Central Coast Mariners was a good start – “a nice way to introduce myself” – and there has been another since in a win over Adelaide United.
But there is no getting away from the fact that the added scrutiny hasn’t all been positive – when Cox beat the goalkeeper against Melbourne City last time out only to be caught on the goal-line by defender Curtis Good, the footage of the moment was seen around the world.
“My phone was quite hot straightaway,” he admits.
“It was a poor piece of judgment. I thought it was going to go in but it’s never in until it’s over the line. It was quite nice in a way because I was obviously quite disappointed but the boys and the manager were great with me. Sometimes the best thing in those situations is to have a bit of a laugh and a joke about it to get yourself out of the mood I was in.”
All part of the fun.
The plan is to return to England in the summer for “three or four weeks” when Cox intends “to take in some of the playoff games” with so many of his former clubs potentially involved. “I am hoping that West Brom can seal promotion automatically but there’s my old clubs Brentford, Bristol City and Nottingham Forest still in the mix too.”
After that, he will be back in Australia and looking forward to a new season that will take in the long trips to Perth and Wellington that the fixture schedule denied him this time around.
“Perth is a three-hour flight and a five-hour time difference or something like that. Apparently, that is a real body-clock mess-up. It is obviously the travelling that’s different here. Friday travel and getting back on a Sunday is a little bit different to what I am used to.”
Even so, Cox would recommend this experience to anyone.
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