Mar 27, 2016 Sports
By Santokie Nagulendran
When the final whistle blew at Providence Stadium on Tuesday night and Guyana secured
their 7-0 victory over Anguilla, a sense of jubilation could be seen etched on all of the player’s faces: despite the lowly ranking of their opponents, it was a confident and assured performance that marked the first step on the road to the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which Coach Jamaal Shabazz has targeted qualifying for. For one player in particular however, the win had even more significance: England-based player Sam Cox had risked his career to play for the Golden Jaguars on Tuesday night.
Boreham Wood FC, the club Cox is contracted to, took the unusual step earlier this month of publically criticizing Cox’s decision to represent Guyana in CFU qualifiers, as it meant he would be missing three of the club’s league games. Most clubs are happy to see their players feature for International sides as it raises both the profile of the club and value of the player: so in a surprising change from the norm, Boreham Wood Head Coach Luke Garrad would say of Cox’s decision: ‘Sam has put his own wants above that of his teammates and in my opinion that is not the behaviour of a club captain…it’s Sam’s choice and we need to plan without him’, suggesting Cox’s future at the club is in doubt as a result of choosing to represent his country.
With such a huge sacrifice made to represent Guyana and a cloud of uncertainty hanging over his future with his club in England, Cox was in good spirits nonetheless: ‘I feel we (Guyana) displayed a professional and ruthless performance against Anguilla, no disrespect to them but we were stronger in every department and the result reflected that’. Speaking on his own performance, he said: ‘I felt fit, strong and ready to go, although I should have scored! But it’s always nice to pick up an assist and for me, that’s just as rewarding.’
With numerous overseas players returning to the Golden Jaguars side such as Cox, Neil Danns, Marcel Barrington, Walter Moore and Anthony Whyte, it is a side which, on paper, are one of the strongest in the region. Cox said he had no problems adjusting to the climate after only landing on Monday: ‘This time around it was much easier to adapt, on Monday we trained, focusing on possession play and team shape, everybody was just as welcoming as they were last camp (in June)’.
The next hurdle for the Golden Jags is Puerto Rico, whom they face on Tuesday away in Puerto Rico, with the objective being to defeat them and finish as group winners. Puerto Rico, currently ranked 170th in the World and 14 places below Guyana, will be a tougher challenge than Anguilla, but the Golden Jags are confident. ‘We will prepare correctly and focus on what needs to be done to obtain a positive result: the fans, the players, the staff, we’re all in positive spirits’, Cox declared.
Indeed, co-captain of the Golden Jags Chris Nurse has played in Puerto Rico before for club Puerto Rico Islanders, and only this month joined newly-formed side Puerto Rico FC, so his knowledge of the country will be a vital link for the team. Puerto Rico has not played an International game since June 2015, which they lost 2-0 to Grenada, but they are a side which always has the potential to defy the odds so Guyana cannot get complacent against them.
With Sam Cox making such a big sacrifice in defying his club to play for Guyana, emotions were running high, not only professionally, but on a personal level: ‘I dedicated yesterday’s win to my Uncle Adrian who passed away earlier in the year who was a huge fan of the Golden Jaguars’’ ‘’’:’I dedicated Tuesday’s win to myUncle Adrian, who passed away earlier this year, he was a huge fan of the Golden Jaguars’. Cox was also appreciative of the home support given during Tuesday’s game: ‘I just want to say a huge thank you to all who showed support, which was huge for the team’. Indeed, crowd support was huge for the team, and just as importantly, Cox’s determination to represent Guyana has been huge for the country.
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