The feelings of returning to your old club as an opposition player – featuring Shawn McCoulsky
By Toni-lea Poll
• Facing your old team – Shawn McCouslky on playing against his former club Newport County.
• How young players develop during loans to smaller clubs – “Newport will always hold a special place in my career.”
• Role model – Frank Nouble teaching him the ropes.
• Toni-lea Poll reports on Shawn McCoulsky’s return to Newport as a rival player.
There has always been a sense of remarkable sentimental value within football that humanises it against the commercial greed it commands. Fans alike go to heightened lengths to support their clubs and players, as football has always been and will always be for the enjoyment of the people. However sometimes in football, rivalries come in between passion for something you believe in, and the humane part of our thinking. Players also experience this, but how do they really feel when returning to their old club that has played a significant role in their history as a player?
For a player like Shawn McCoulsky, who has spent his entire developmental career on loan itching to get his opportunity in the first team at a professional club, the very thought of playing against his former side Newport County who gave him his debut was relishing “I really enjoyed Newport and getting that experience playing in the league so young”. Shawn spent a full season on loan from Bristol City with The Exiles where he played 35 games and established himself as key squad player, scoring 11 goals, with the most notable coming against championship side Leeds with a last-minute header to progress Newport into the third round of the FA Cup. “I scored one of my favourite goals against Leeds in the FA cup which I will always remember”. This was the very beginning of his journey as a footballer with big aspirations of reaching the highest level and competing in important cup games.
But with nostalgia, comes pride and integrity in fulfilling the requirements put upon you by your peers and manager. Shawn was honest in his outlook heading into the match and where his focus stood “I just treated it as any other game, Newport will always hold a special place in my career, but I just tried to get the job done with Colchester”. However, the sentiment of re-connecting with his teammates and those within the Newport County football club was welcomed “It was good to see
Familiar faces that I played with and get to catch up”. This was a touching part of the interview, as it highlighted the spirit of football and just how big of a role it plays in bringing people together. Check out the Match Centre report from Shawn’s return to Newport: Colchester United vs Newport County on 26 Nov 21 - Match Centre - Colchester United (cu-fc.com)
Rivalries and expectations aside, Shawn is an example of the positive angle of football which exemplifies the precedent of its compassionate side. One well practised criticism of players and managers is their inability to be able to express emotions that don’t coincide with a football matter. They are expected to function with a certain etiquette that epitomises their ‘professionalism’. Players should honour their rivalries and act in the best interests of their team, not their own agenda. This has been a topic well debated within the football world. With players leaving their clubs to look for ‘the grass greener on the other side’. But Shawn’s approach has always been to praise his former club for their contribution to his development but be mature enough to put his team’s interests above all.
When deep diving into players returning to their old clubs as an opposition player, McCoulsky’s teammate Frank Nouble is no stranger to the Newport dressing room. The Colchester striker spent an entire season with Newport, acting as a role model to young Shawn McCoulsky who found himself featuring with the first team during Nouble’s time with the club. A combination of fate, and the proposition of being without a club during the summer transfer window saw both players reunite, but this time wearing blue and white colours.
McCoulsky has credited Nouble as being a source of his own self-assurance “the main thing that I took from Frank is his confidence on the pitch and the way he plays, in terms of his leadership in and around the dressing room and just believing in himself”. The veteran striker has had spells at top clubs, most notably with West Ham and Wolves, but not limited to caps at an international level for England. McCoulsky and Nouble were seen training one on one with each other in front of the Newport away fans, just moments before he was eventually subbed on. Although they received no immediate reaction from their former fans, the travelling supporters took time to clap for the young forward as he made his way onto the pitch.
This show of affirmation is reason enough for Shawn’s love for his former club and represents the positive side of transferring clubs to further your growth as a professional footballer. However, it also works to instil friendly competitiveness in football, which is not always present as seen in sporting history and present day.