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Danny Fox

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DANNY FOX learnt what it was like to be Scottish not from his grandfather but from the Caledonian colony that sprung up at Everton during the early years of his professional career.


Those experiences will stand him in good stead this weekend when, 20 months after making his solitary appearance for the England under-21 team, the Celtic defender from Chester makes his full Scotland debut in the friendly against Wales in Cardiff.


Fox’s eligibility to play for George Burley’s side is something of a mystery – “It’s too complicated to go through” – but he has been well schooled in what it means to be a Scot.


Duncan Ferguson was a former team-mate and idol to this eternal Evertonian who came through the ranks at Goodison Park but never realised his lifelong dream of playing in the first team.


John Collins was there, too, for a spell, as was David Weir, now a rival across the city at Rangers, and Fox learnt plenty from all of them.


“I did a year at Everton with Duncan Ferguson and Davie Weir,” he said. “I saw Davie at the Old Firm game at Ibrox recently and I had a chat with him.


“He was a great senior pro at Everton, who gave the young boys a lot of good advice. And Duncan Ferguson is an idol of mine.


“All the Everton fans worshipped him. He is a hero to them, to go and then come back to the club. He’s got the Everton tattoo on his arm and he was a great pro for us. He was someone I looked up to massively.


“I remember the 1998 World Cup when John Collins scored for Scotland. That summer he also signed for Everton and I think he got a penalty in our first game of the season against Aston Villa and put it to the same side and Mark Bosnich saved it.”


Fox is not the first player to appear in a Scotland squad with a southern accent and an inability to pronounce the word ‘loch’ but claims his decision to switch allegiances was not merely an act of convenience.


He will likely never lose the soft Scouse accent or develop a love for The Proclaimers but he insists he now feels as Scottish as the rest of the squad.


“I first thought about [representing Scotland] when I was 15 or 16, when the Victory Shield was being played. Obviously, a few boys from Everton were playing in it, and I knew that I could have played for Scotland around that time.


“But it would have been a bit too soon to decide. Then I played for England in the under-21s in a friendly, which was a nothing game [against Poland], but that is all in the past now.


“Obviously, I want to play for Scotland, or I wouldn’t have stated that, and wouldn’t have come out and said that my grandfather was Scottish – I could have just kept that quiet. I want to play for Scotland, and that makes me as Scottish as anyone.”


Fox’s elevation into the full squad has been a year in the making and taken in two false starts, one when his paperwork was not ready in time for him to play in the B game against Northern Ireland at the end of last season, and another last month when injury denied him a debut against Japan.


“I spoke to the manager about it when I was at Coventry last year around Christmas time. The physio at Coventry, Michael McBride, is the physio here as well, and he told the manager.


“It has been a long process but I’m glad it has been finalised. I’m looking to get a lot of playing experience with Scotland. I don’t want it to be just one cap, I want to be involved all the time, and play as many games as I can.


“It has been a long time coming. It seems like ages ago since the Japan squad was announced, and I missed that through injury, so now hopefully I can play some part on Saturday.”


Footballers are mere onlookers like the rest of us when it comes to influencing the bigger decisions in the game. Fox acknowledges as much.


It is not his place to say whether the grandparent ruling or FIFA’s new residency ruling are right or wrong, but he is grateful for the chance to exploit the former.


“The rules chop and change all the time. You’ve got that young lad at Celtic [islam Feruz from Somalia] who has just played for Scotland in the Victory Shield. So they are always going to change the rules. Hopefully, I can be positive for Scotland, and come in and do well.


“I think it is going to help the country, and I am all for it. But at the end of the day, it’s not my decision, and it’s not something I can control, but it has put me in a very good position and I really hope I can take my opportunity.”


England wanted Fox to travel with their under-21 squad to Spain last season but injury denied him that opportunity and also the chance to play in the European Championships. He hopes that might be an indication that he has made the right decision.


“Towards the back end of last season I was called up to the England under-21 squad to La Manga but I had to pull out through injury. Maybe it was a sign that I wasn’t meant to play for England.


“Then I never got picked for the [under 21] European Championships. Since then I’ve had no contact from the English FA and, for me, it’s in the past now. I’m looking forward to playing for Scotland, and hopefully I’ll do very well.”


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