Ruel Fox offers premier guidance

FORMER Premiership winger Ruel Fox will be lending his expertise to the renowned football partnership between Suffolk College and Whitton United.

FORMER Premiership winger Ruel Fox will be lending his expertise to the renowned football partnership between Suffolk College and Whitton United.

The move is so that fewer young players are left with the soul-searching period he faced following retirement from the game.

The 40-year-old Ipswich resident started his playing career as an apprentice at his hometown club, but spent the baulk of his career at East Anglian rivals Norwich City.

Successful spells followed at Newcastle, Tottenham and West Brom, however, Fox admits that when the time came to hang up his boots he was left with some difficult decisions.

Fox said: “A lot of players, once they finish football, they have got nothing else to fall on. When I was an academy player they used to send us to college, but for some reason that stopped somewhere along the line.

“I ended up having to go back to college at 36-years-old.”

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After passing his course as a personal fitness trainer, Fox became manager of Whitton United for a while and it was there that he became aware of the PASE (Programme of Academic and Sporting Excellence) scheme which had launched in 2003.

A partnership between Suffolk College and Whitton United, PASE gives a group of young Under-19 players the pathway towards a good level of non-league football, or even beyond, while at the same time maintaining their focus on academic studies.

The players train like professionals on a daily basis, play for a college team during the week, while many are involved with Whitton United's Ridgeons League side at weekends.

Fox recognises that while the ultimate goal of the PASE scheme is to help the players into as high a level of the game as possible - two players having been selected for Sheffield United trails recently - the vast majority of aspiring young players are not going to make a full-time living out of football.

“In this day and age, with all the money and glamour that surrounds the game, everyone wants to be a footballer,” said Fox. “But it's getting harder and harder to get into the game.

“If I turned back the clock and was trying to make it now I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't make it.”

He added: “A lot of these kids are concentrating so hard on making it as a footballer that they forget about the academic side of things, so when that disappointment comes along they don't know what to do.

“That's where this scheme comes in because it hopefully gives the players motivation to do well in both football and their studies.”

John Coupe, the coach who heads up the PASE scheme, said: “I think it is fair to say that these footballers wouldn't normally be academically orientated if it wasn't for this scheme.

“What this scheme does is keep talented footballers in education. It also helps to bridge the gap between local football and professional football by giving them the full-time training that they wouldn't be getting in non-league.

“They choose what they study, a lot choose sports related courses, but they can do whatever they like.

“There's so many opportunities to stay in football these days. We just give these lads the opportunities and, to be fair, most of them take them.

“I just want to praise the college because they had that little bit of foresight to see that sport can attract people to their college and I really feel that this scheme has given everyone around the college and the estate of Whitton a little bit of a boost.”

Fox added: “Some of these boys have already been released by professional clubs but instead of just leaving them to find their own way, we are giving them some proper direction. Without getting too deep this is already a second chance in life for many of them.

“If any of them want some advice from me or they ever want me to come and watch a game, if I can, I will.”