Bitterness might easily surface in Ross County goalkeeper Scott Fox’s mind as he awaits Sunday’s League Cup semi-final against his former club Celtic. The Parkhead side refused to release him without a fee just over six years ago, leaving him in limbo for six months in a dispute which his advisors took to Fifa.
Far from harbouring malicious thoughts, though, the County keeper these days views Celtic’s actions as understandable and a back-handed compliment.
Certainly, the 28-year-old is out to wreck his former club’s bid for a treble this weekend, but not through any thirst for vengeance. Fox has long since come to terms with the circumstances of his Celtic exit in summer 2009 and, if anything, feels indebted for the grounding gained after being scouted by Tommy Burns at 16.
He progressed to serve as understudy to Artur Boruc in season 2008-09 under Gordon Strachan.
After Strachan left, frustration at failing to win a single first-team appearance persuaded him to knock back the offer of a new Celtic deal and try his luck elsewhere.
It was then the complications arose. Trials in England drummed up interest, but Celtic’s demands for a development fee scared off suitors.
Advisors took his case to Fifa, which he lost, leaving him staring at a year out of the game before Queen of the South’s Gordon Chisholm stepped in to offer amateur terms the following January.
Fox soon followed Chisholm to Dundee, before bouncing back in his career with Partick Thistle and now County.
“When I decided to leave Celtic, it was 100 per cent about needing to play,” Fox recalled. “I didn’t want to be the boy who came out of the club at 25 with no games behind me.
“I’d been on the bench a few times, but they kept bringing in somebody else. On that particular occasion, it was Lukasz Zaluska – and I knew I was going to be third choice the next season.
“I knew I wouldn’t play for a year and, at best, I’d be sitting on the bench. It was one of those ones where Celtic were entitled to compensation because I was an under-23 and had rejected a contract offer from them.
“I went down on trial to Exeter City and Peterborough United and, while they were keen, the clubs couldn’t agree fees with Celtic. There was a period out of the game for me but, luckily, Queen of the South took me in and played me there.”
There are no hard feelings, then, with Fox crediting Celtic in part for the strength of character he has shown in rebuilding his career. “Looking back, I completely understand the way it was,” Fox said. “Celtic put a lot of time and effort into me and you could say it was a compliment they didn’t want to get rid of me.
“Obviously, it was hard at the time with everything that went on, but you look back at it differently. They needed to get some of the money back they had put into my development.
“I’ve got a lot to thank Celtic for and they were good times.”
Fox knows Sunday’s semi at Hampden will be difficult but thinks County can take something from the match.
“I wouldn’t say we have nothing to lose,” he said. “You obviously don’t want to go there and take a hiding. Hopefully we turn up, do what we mean to do and get a result.
“With the form they are in and the confidence and quality they have in their squad it will be tough. It’s a big pitch at Hampden but the fans will be behind us as well and, hopefully, we can go down there and get something.”