BY rights, David Fox should be consumed by bitterness when it comes to Blackpool.
After all, it was only three years ago that the Seasiders didn’t want the 27-year-old and allowed his contract to run out before waving goodbye.
So now Fox is a Premier League regular with Norwich, illuminating the top flight with his silky passing skills, he’d be entitled to bad-mouth his former employers and give them what for. Fox, though, isn’t the type. He’s too nice.
He has his head screwed on and a good attitude, which perhaps explains why he has been able to get his career so spectacularly back on track since exiting Bloomfield Road in summer 2009, just after Ian Holloway took over.
It wasn’t just the Blackpool setback that Fox had to deal with. Following his seaside stay, he signed for Colchester.
Initially it went well for Fox, but when Paul Lambert quit a few months later to take over at Norwich he was replaced by Aidy Bothroyd, whose long-ball football didn’t exactly suit Fox’s more cultured style.
The midfielder was a bit-part player for the remainder of the season and, just like at Blackpool, was then allowed to leave.
Released in successive years by a Championship side and a League One club, it seemed Fox’s career was on the slide.
Then he joined Norwich. Two years on, playing under a manager in Lambert who appreciates his talents, Fox has helped the club to back-to-back promotions and has been a regular in the Canaries’ 11 Premier League matches this season.
It is a dream come true for a lad who was released by Manchester United early in his career and has had to deal with more setbacks than most. But the closest he’ll ever come to criticising his former clubs is this.
“I suppose I’ve made a point to a few people. It is nice that certain people at clubs where I’ve played can look at Premier League games and see that I am playing in them,” he said. “It does feel strange, when the majority of your career has been played in League One and the Championship. So it is satisfying to get to the top flight because it is never nice when you are not wanted by clubs.”
You can tell by that rather diplomatic answer that Fox hasn’t changed a bit since his Blackpool days. He is as down-to-earth and approachable as ever, picking up the phone as soon as I rang and spending 15 minutes or so chatting away.
And there is no doubting the highlight of his Premier League experience so far – last month’s trip to Old Trafford.
Norwich played well but lost 2-0. For former Red Fox it meant so much.
“I have waited a long time to play Manchester United and it was brilliant,” he said. To play there in the Premier League, not just a cup game, was very special. That’s the most satisfying thing – to be there on merit in a Premier League game.
“A lot of lads at Norwich have dragged themselves up from the lower league or non-league, so it is unbelievable to go to places like Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge or Anfield for a league game.”
Did he speak to Sir Alex Ferguson, manager during his six years at United from 2000-06? “Unfortunately, I didn’t actually see Sir Alex but I spoke to René Meulensteen, who is first-team coach,” Fox said.
“He was the reserve team manager when I was there, so I had a word with him. Then there was the kitman and physios, who I hadn’t seen for a while.”
Given that Fox is better known for his exquisite passing than any rough stuff, he created a unexpected piece of history at the start of this season– the fastest booking ever on a Premier League debut.
He was yellow-carded a minute into Norwich’s opening-day 1-1 draw at Wigan but can laugh about it now.
“I was a bit nervous before that game, but I think a lot of the boys were. No-one in the team had played in the top flight before and I don’t think we played too great. But as soon as we got that one out of the way we relaxed and we’ve done well.
“I’ve loved every minute – the coverage, watching your game on Match of the Day ... and fortunately I’ve not got any serious stick off Alan Hansen yet!”
Norwich are sitting pretty in ninth. But Fox, who still has a lot of friends at Blackpool, watched Blackpool closely last season and knows a good start means nothing if it isn’t maintained.
It has taken Blackpool a while to rid themselves of the Premier League hangover, and Fox can understand why. “This division is fantastic and you want to stay in it,” he added. “I’m sure that if we go back down it would be massively difficult because the Premier League is where everybody wants to play. You kind of never expect to get here, and when you do you don’t want to give it up.
“The disappointment of going down would be massive and is something that is driving everyone on. You have to try to carry the momentum from last season. That’s what Blackpool did last year, and it’s what all the promoted teams are doing this season. It is important to keep that feelgood factor around the place for as long as possible.”
Fox would love to see Pool bounce straight back. “I still look out for their results,” he said. “I hope they get promotion again – I don’t see why they can’t. It does seem a while ago that I was there and I’ve not been back to play a game – next year in the Prem would be nice.”
If it happens, Pool fans should give Fox a fine reception. One of life’s good guys, and a lad who has rolled his sleeves up and got to the top the hard way.