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Cox wary of push to play as he prepares for road back to Oz

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Simon says: Western Sydney Wanderers striker Simon Cox is no fan of games behind closed doors. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Simon says: Western Sydney Wanderers striker Simon Cox is no fan of games behind closed doors. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Getty Images

Simon says: Western Sydney Wanderers striker Simon Cox is no fan of games behind closed doors. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

He is one of the small batch of footballers from this part of the world to have recently played with what he calls the "unnatural" backdrop of a game behind closed doors.

And while former Ireland striker Simon Cox is eager for his own career in Australia to resume from the break caused by coronavirus, he's wary of the Premier League's bid to rush back to action unless the health of players and their families is guaranteed.

"In the Premier League, and everywhere else, the safety of players, and of staff and those involved in the games, has to be the priority," says Cox, who is unexpectedly back at his base in England after his time with Western Sydney Wanderers was cut short when the A-League was halted in March.

Meeting

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"I said that at a meeting back in Australia before I left, if we say it's all fine and we go back playing but then players start to pick up the virus, it will look as if we went back too quickly.

"Once we prioritise player safety and continue to get better at testing, then I am all for getting back to playing, whenever that is, if it takes another eight or ten weeks, as long as we are back in a safe environment.

"There is no point in going back to matches and then having to stop after one week because half the league have coronavirus in their camps. Once we go back, we are back for the long run," he added.

"The Premier League needs to wait, it's the most-watched league in the world and has the most money coming into it, but they can't rush it," he says.

"The German league is back next week but the Premier League is a different animal to the Bundesliga and we have to make sure that, whatever the PFA and Premier League decide, it has to be safe for everyone - it can't be back for a week and pause it again.

"One person dying from the virus is too many. We're over 30,000 now in the UK and that's a shocking figure, we need to get that under control before any sport can continue."

He also knows the gap between the Premier League (where he played for two seasons) and League One, his last home in England.

"It's vital for a club like Southend to get 6,000 people for every home game and that's not the case in the Premier League. I can't see League One and Two starting back again," he says.

A meeting in Australia today involving government bodies, the Football Federation of Australia (FFA), clubs and one key stakeholder, the Fox Sports TV network, could clear the way to resume action on August 1, as planned.

Cox (33) is aiming for a return to training in Sydney on July 1, giving him a month to prepare for a restart to the league with has five games left in the regular season.

A January move from Southend United to a new club in Sydney appeared to have sparked a revival in the career of Cox, capped 30 times between 2011 and 14.

"I was enjoying my time there, I scored on my debut, it took me out of my comfort zone and Sydney's a great place to live," says Cox, who is playing outside England for the first time in his career.

But the Covid-19 crisis caused an interruption, the A-League at first carrying on behind closed doors and then stopping.

And he's not a fan of having no fans.

"It's not natural," he says. "We had a big game, the Sydney derby, at our stadium - it was meant to be a sell-out, 30,000 people, but it was behind closed doors with no atmosphere.

"It was like a training game, it was strange and difficult situation to be in as a player, it's hard to get motivated."

Irish Independent