When Dundee United signalled their desire to get an experienced man in to assist new head coach Thomas Courts, not many would have pictured a 37-year-old.
However, given what Liam Fox has gone through in the game, you’d struggle to find many people more suited to the role.
The United No 2 has coached at Hearts and most recently under David Martindale at Livingston, after a playing career that earned him legend status in West Lothian.
The former midfielder also took charge of Cowdenbeath for the 2016-17 season.
Although his time with the Blue Brazil didn’t exactly go to plan, with Fox leaving the club languishing at the bottom of League Two, he learned a lot from his time at Central Park.
Lessons he hopes to carry into his new position with the Tangerines.
Fox ran before he could walk
“Cowdenbeath was probably the best thing that happened to me,” Fox said.
“I probably started to try to run before I could walk and learned a massive amount from that process.
“I went back and had to lick my wounds a wee bit. I learned a lot of lessons that have helped me get to this point.
“I was at Hearts for a number of years with some really good people, staff and players.
🗣 "Everyday we will do the absolute maximum. I can guarantee we will give everything we've got and no detail will be left to chance."
📺 Hear from new Assistant Head Coach Liam Fox for the first time since joining United.#UnitedTogether
— Dundee United FC (@dundeeunitedfc) June 24, 2021
“Then Davie gave me the opportunity to go to Livingston last year and, again, that was great.
“It was another part of my development, another part of my learning and to have a successful season there was really good.
“I’ll always be grateful to Davie for that opportunity but I just felt this one (joining United) was the right move.”
Difficult world of football management
Reflecting further on his time with the Fife club, Fox admits it would’ve been easy to feel sorry for himself and become disillusioned with football.
However, he battled back, working under the likes of Craig Levein and Daniel Stendel at Tynecastle as both a first-team coach and reserves boss.
Last term, he played his part in a successful season for Livi, helping the club secure a top-six finish and contest the Betfred Cup Final.
He’s rebuilt himself and is ready for a new challenge.
Asked what lessons he learned with Cowden, Fox was frank, as he said: “How difficult football management is!
“There’s loads of different things I learned – how I behaved, some of the demands I put on people – it was just a really tough learning environment.
“We didn’t win enough games and it didn’t end particularly well but I had a choice.
“I could’ve felt sorry for myself and I almost thought: ‘I’m not doing that again’.
“But I went back and had to re-build my confidence a wee bit and find myself and be more ready.”
New No 2 is here to help
Fox now feels better equipped to assist after being a gaffer in his own right.
That kind of lived experience is something Courts, relatively untried at Premiership level, will be looking for.
His right-hand man, he assures, is ready to deliver at the highest level.
Fox continued: “One thing I need to say here is Cowdenbeath are a totally different level from Dundee United – who are a far, far bigger club.
“The feelings you get when you’re a manager are the same, though.
“You always want your team to do well and win. You carry the responsibility of that.
“Things will crop up in the future – we’re going to lose games and have bad spells but nobody is hiding away from that or expecting anything different.
“I can, hopefully, use my experience to help.
“It’s about being honest enough to reflect on things and realise where you’ve made mistakes and evaluate where you could’ve done things a wee bit better.”
Asghar and Courts sold Fox on United
Looking ahead to the new term, Fox is enjoying working with the Terrors stars, now back in pre-season training, and revealed what persuaded him to join the club.
There were other offers on the table, notably from top-flight rivals Hibs, but, once he heard the pitch from Courts and sporting director Tony Asghar, there was only one place for him.
“I think it’s just the project that Tam and Tony had put in front of me and the responsibility they were going to give me (that convinced him to join),” Fox commented.
“That was important for me and I feel I’m ready for that at this stage of my career.
“It’s up to me now to take a hold of it and try to improve everything at the club, alongside the manager.
“I’ve been really impressed by how he works.
“I spoke to Tam a couple of times before I got the job.
“I had quite a clear idea of where he saw the club going and what he needed me to do.
“The relationship will grow and develop over time and that’s just the process.”