It’s almost three months since David Cox vowed to quit football after allegedly receiving appalling abuse from ex-Stenhousemuir star Jonathan Tiffoney.
Cox took to Facebook live from his car as play raged on between his old club Albion Rovers and Stenny to call out Tiffoney over the alleged incident in a viral social media clip.
In the video, Cox claimed Tiffoney said: “You should have got it right the first time,” in a reference to a previous suicide attempt by the new Brechin City star.
Tiffoney was later cited and charged by the SFA for his actions and was expected to discover his fate in June.
"I'm no angel. I say shit to folk. But I would never mock somebody for trying to kill themselves and tell them they should have done it right the first time."
Albion Rovers player David Cox has retired aged 32 after an opposition player mocked his past mental health issues. pic.twitter.com/7WYjuqditc
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) April 30, 2021
Tiffoney will not face a hearing over the allegations until he re-registers as a player having been released by Stenhousemuir.
But Cox has been talked back into returning to the game by Brechin boss Andy Kirk as the Angus side try to bounce back from relegation to the Highland League.
And, speaking for the first time since his move, Cox tells Courier Sport why he wanted to return to the game he loves.
“When I left football that day it made a bit of a statement,” said Cox.
“I never intended for it to be that big but it was something I had to do for myself.
Cox will try to block out future abuse
“My statement maybe helped to raise awareness and gives people something to think about.
“Do I think it’s going to stop? No.
“I’ll probably get something said to me again but, listen, I’m going to have to get myself into a frame of mind where I know it’s coming.
“The most important thing will be how I deal with it.
“It says more about the people who say these things than it does about me.
A decision I thought long and hard about was returning to football. But as many have told me 'don't let the b@#$%$#@ win'
Looking forward to this! https://t.co/40p0fuEJSv
— David cox (@davidcox17389) July 1, 2021
“You are always going to get those type of people whether it’s fans or, unfortunately sometimes, players. That’s how the game is.
“I can’t not play football through the fear of people saying stuff to me.
“People will say things like you need to ‘just man up’ or that it’s ‘just words.’
“It’s different when you’ve experienced something and people try to have a go at you for that reason.”
Cox bravely shared stories of his own mental health struggles
Cox, a patron of the mental health charity Back Onside, has spoken openly of his own past struggles.
Having scarred himself through self-harming, Cox released a moving Twitter post in May where he used red pen to highlight the places in his body where he had cut himself.
Each of these red lines represents a time where I was struggling and self harmed or tried to take my life. We never really know what's going on behind closed doors.
I'm not afraid to show my scars. Mental illness isn't a choice!
Be kind! pic.twitter.com/tDDoA0OS8S
— David cox (@davidcox17389) May 19, 2021
As he returns to the game, Cox is determined to eliminate the stigma of mental health from football but accepts it won’t be an easy task.
For the moment, though, he’s delighted to have a ball at his feet again.
“I’m just looking forward to going back to playing,” added Cox.
“People have said to me that I’d regret it if I got a chance but chose not to go back and play.
“There were a lot of boys that I know who tried to get me to go and play again.
“Some of my friends are at amateur teams and junior teams. I played a couple of games but I hated it. I couldn’t be bothered.
“But a couple of weeks went by then I got call from Brechin and it made me think.
“Don’t get me wrong, I had to take the time off to properly think about stuff. Brechin called me at the right time.
“At any other point I would probably have said no but I’m glad I didn’t.
“I had a good chat with the gaffer and Craig Levein and I was really excited about their plans. I couldn’t say no.”
Football focus with Tiffoney case in limbo
Whether Tiffoney follows Cox in returning to the game remains to be seen.
But with former Kilmarnock youth star Cox, 32, just one match short of making 400 senior appearances he is purely focused on his own game.
“As far as I’m aware, because he isn’t a registered player any more it isn’t going anywhere,” said Cox.
“The SFA can’t do anything about it but I’m not worried about him any more.
“I’ll just concentrate on playing football.
“I’ve had great support from everyone – ex-players and fans from different clubs.
“Everyone has said the same thing: ‘Don’t hang your boots up too soon.’
“I’m not getting any younger and need to make the most of it while I’m still fit so I’m going to do that at Brechin.”