Aberdeen striker Sam Cosgrove has defended his robust style of play, claiming: “I’m only doing what big defenders used to do to me.”
Cosgrove, named the Ladbrokes Premiership player of the month after his December scoring spree in which he netted seven goals, revealed that as a youngster he was toughened up in non-league football in England.
He said: “I’m one that’s not had it all his own way. I came through at Everton when I was younger, then at Wigan in the youth team on a scholarship. Towards the end at Wigan I spent quite a bit of time out on loan in the non-leagues, which was quite an eye-opener. Not a lot of football takes place and it was a hard realisation for me.
“There were times when I was thinking ‘is this something I really want to be doing?’ I would always play football at some level so I thought I’d stick in and do the best I could.
“I spent a few months at Barrow, Chorley and North Ferriby. It was basically big defenders doing what I do to people!
“You need a certain amount of resilience and self-belief within football. I’ve shown I’ve got that coming through some sticky times and it almost makes me realise it’ll never happen again to me. Thankfully at the moment it’s keeping me in a good place and I don’t intend to stop.”
Cosgrove revealed his physical presence was spotted early on at Goodison Park by no less a figure than former Dundee United, Rangers, Everton and Scotland striker Duncan Ferguson, never a shrinking violet when it came to the physical aspect of the game.
The 22-year-old said: “He’d just started his coaching at Everton when I was there. He was always fond of me, being a big guy myself.
“At the time there were all these small kids and playmakers coming through, so he took a shine to me and maybe saw a bit of himself in me. He was good with me the few weeks I worked with him.”
However, insisted Cosgrove, it’s not a case of all brawn and no brain, disclosing that he is continuing with a course studying accountancy.
“I did my A-Levels at Wigan, alongside my football,” he said, “and I’ve kept my studies going. I’ve always felt education is important, so I’ve topped that up. It’s the AAT course – it’s self-taught and not quite a degree, but by the end I’ll be qualified.
“I’d always have that as a potential fall-back. A career can be over within the click of a finger – a bad tackle or fall and you can be out of a job. I enjoy it at times as we’re normally finished training by 2pm, so it keeps my mind active. Sometimes you can only get an hour done but it’s pretty easy to balance.”
Cosgrove’s days in non-league football came to an end when he was plucked from North Ferriby, a semi-professional outfit in the East Riding of Yorkshire who play in the seventh tier of English football, by League Two Carlisle.
But he spent only a few months at Brunton Park before Aberdeen made their move, an opportunity he felt was too good to ignore.
He said: “I’d just got into the Carlisle team and scored for them. Whenever you do well there’s always talk but the Aberdeen thing came out of the blue. It was a no-brainer, I was always going to come up.”
However, Cosgrove endured a nightmare debut, sent off for a lunge at Celtic captain Scott Brown only eight minutes after replacing Stevie May, Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers and team-mate Kieran Tierney claiming the midfielder was lucky to escape serious injury.
But Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes stuck by his player, agreeing the incident was mis-timed but insisting it was nothing more than mis-timed.
For that, said Cosgrove, he will be forever thankful. He explained: “It’s well-publicised that the manager was fantastic for me. I’m not a malicious player – it was a rush of blood. The manager and everyone around me was fantastic and let me know it didn’t affect anything at all. I’d always be part of the squad and that helped me through.”