The story of South Cardiff attacker, Sam Ford, is the tale of an incredible journeyman who has now found a home at Ulinga Oval. Sam began playing football in the small country of Brunei, before spending time in England and now settling into life in Australia signing for South Cardiff at the start of the 2019 season and quickly becoming a key weapon in the arsenal of the Gunners. Sam caught up with league correspondent, James, to talk about his remarkable journey, his reason for joining the football club and his expectations heading into the business end of the season.
Where and when did you start your junior career and how did you progress into senior football?
I started playing football when I was in Brunei – a tiny little country we lived in as that’s where Dad worked. So that’s where my junior football started. I played my first ever adult ‘seniors’ game at around 13 years old. Only 10 minutes here and there but that’s when I got my first taste of it. I’ll never forget my Dad forcing me to take corners on both sides with my left foot at 13 years of age in a bid to make me two footed which has worked a treat.
Tell me about your playing history – What teams have you played for and when?
When I was in Brunei in took me a while to start playing the league there due to where I was from. I eventually moved to England in 2007 where I started playing for Shaftesbury FC. I played my first senior first grade game at 16 which was a great moment for me. I moved town about 2 years in and started playing for Gillingham Town FC. I didn’t get much first team game time there due to my age and just not being ready which was a learning curve for me. I eventually moved back to Brunei where my football really took off as an individual. I started playing in the league as the only foreigner to start with before a close friend joined me. The team was called Indera FC. I was lucky at that time as they were one of, if not the best, team in the league so scoring and winning trophies was just part of the norm. Every year we went toe-to-toe with the Army as they were the other big dogs in the league. I then moved to Australia in 2016 where a new chapter began. I played for Singleton, before moving to Weston and then finally South Cardiff where I am now.
You signed for South Cardiff at the start of the season, what attracted you to play for the Gunners?
I sat down with Denis Fajkovic during the off season. Of all the people who spoke to me he was the most honest. He didn’t give me any nonsense about where the club wanted to go and the typical pipe dream coaches give. He just said things along the lines of ‘this is who’s coming’, ‘this is what we’re trying to do’, ‘this is what we can offer.’ I signed 1 week later and it’s the happiest season I’ve ever had in Australia.
You’ve managed 9 goals so far this season for yourself, is your ability to create and score goals something you pride yourself on and is the golden boot a target of yours?
Obviously playing up front this season, winning the Golden Boot is something I feel I have to strive for, however, I don’t care if I don’t win it. If I was a striker and that was my position all my life I’d be gutted with 9 goals so far, but for a midfielder playing up top I’m happy with what I’ve done so far. I don’t take penalties either so that’s a massive opportunity missed out on for goals. As long as we win and I contribute during the game either with goals or assists or tackles or anything, then I’m happy. 3 points matter the most.
You’ve played at NPL NNSW level before, do you have ambitions to return to the top division and do you believe South Cardiff, as a club, have the potential to return to the top flight?
Of course, I want to play in the NPL. My visa has been my biggest issue, not my footballing ability. There are imports playing in the NPL currently and I watch and think ‘what have I done wrong’ to not get the opportunity they have. But that’s the game. I just keep working hard, training hard and trying to help the team win games. These last few games are massive for us so I want to try and carry the team over the line. I feel it’s my job as an individual with the ability I have to win games and that’s all I’m aiming for. Southy have already been in the NPL. They’ve got the facility. The funds are the only issue any NL1 team would have. You can’t go up to the NPL and spend what you do in this league.
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not playing football?
Training. I’m a personal trainer and I work at an incredible facility at Genesis at Cooks Hil. In all honesty, I have the best job. We’ve got indoor courts, a gym floor, a Ninja Parc, a Climb Parc – literally anything you can think of. I’ll finish a shift, run lots, lift weights, play basketball, go home, and repeat. What a life!
I’ve been doing qualifications since I was 16. Starting with my Level 1 in football all the way through to my A Coaching License. I’ve also got my Football Fitness certificate with the FFA so I’m heavily qualified for someone my age. I’d love to eventually own my own facility where we do football specific work like pre-season work, in-season work, workshops and all the rest but I want to get it right. Newcastle doesn’t have something like that, and I’d love to eventually be the guy who delivers it. But I’m young and have lots to learn and study for so I’m just grinding along and soaking up everything until the time is right.
Most influential person in your career?
The most influential person for me is without doubt my father. My biggest regret is that we aren’t living in the same country. He has and always will be my driving force. I was a different animal around him as he loved the training and it made it so much easier for me. I had my own PT with me 24/7 and it transformed me. I’ve no excuse now and I’m fit as I’ve ever been but it’s just not the same feeling when you push yourself. There’s no noise when I train as I’m always alone. Nobody wants to wake up at 5am and do a training session and I don’t blame them. Even I wonder why I do it sometimes. My Dad was always there regardless of time. He lived and breathed it just as much as me and I’d do anything to have him here with me to train. But he’s in Dubai working and lapping up the sunshine while I sweat and work!
Most memorable moment (s) in your career?
I used to have long hair – I mean very long. I once played a friendly game way back in 2005 and a few guys on the opposition team were telling the ref that I shouldn’t be playing because they thought I was a girl. I got the ball 40 yards out. Left foot – I don’t think I’ve ever hit one sweeter – top corner. Turned around and just smiled. We went on to win 4-0. The feeling was great! I did get a haircut soon after though.
South Cardiff are a club that sets high expectations so is anything less than a finals finish a disappointment? What is the key for the Gunners to achieve success in 2019?
If we don’t win the grand final, we’ve failed. That’s all I can say. We as a club must finish in the top 4 and make the grand final and win it. Nothing else is good enough. The key to success is to win. It’s simple. Show up, play well and repeat. We haven’t done that in the second half of the season. We know this and we’re addressing it. The grand final is what we set our sights on and we’ll do our best to get there. The season is long and some of our results have been great and others have been terrible. We’ve lost games we should never have lost but that’s the way sport is. You can’t expect to win because you have good players. We need to finish in the 4, then it’ll be crunch time and when it really matters I still feel as a team we can go all the way. I’d be mad to sit here and say otherwise. I’m someone who believes they can achieve anything with work. It’s a trait and a curse at times but that’s the way I am. Grand final or bust.