‘If you’re not playing football you’re not being seen, you get forgotten’, the words of a man who knows all too well the strains of being left out of a managers plans. But for Giles Coke, those troubles are behind him and he is back in the mix at Sheffield Wednesday, enjoying life as a regular Championship player.
Cokes’ career has been a disjointed one, constantly on the move; he has never stayed at a club more than two years. Now at Hillsborough since 2010, despite two loan spells away, he now believes he has found what he believes is the ‘perfect’ club.
He began at Queens Park Rangers before joining Kingstonian with his older brother Jon. Spells at Mansfield and Northampton followed where he impressed and attracted interest from numerous Championship clubs. After rejecting a new contract at Sixfields he made the move to Scotland to ply his trade with Motherwell. He said, “Before I went, I was quite wary with the Scottish league, I chose to go to test myself. It’s such a mixed league, Celtic and Rangers at the time are top teams, but then you’ve got the ones that aren’t”.
After a year in Scotland he signed for Sheffield Wednesday where he spent his first season as a regular. The following season saw him frozen out after an injury and he ended up at Bury, a move he was apprehensive about, “I love football so I want to play and I feel like I can play at this level. All players say they shouldn’t be out on loan, they think they should be playing but when you’re not you have to prepare yourself for a loan (but) I didn’t want to go”. After a year at Wednesday a move to Bury saw a big change in quality, in particular the changing rooms and the training ground. Coke describes his time away as difficult, but admits these spells are necessary and eventually he came home a fans favourite from Gigg Lane.
Giles’ style and demeanour is that of someone who’s made of tough stuff, something he attributes to being a father at a young age. “I had a child quite young so I had to grow up fast, my responsibilities grew, and you get mentally stronger. When I was young I was injured for a year, that was hard for me but again it makes me mentally stronger”. For Giles, it’s this characteristic that has kept him going through the hard times in his career. When Sheffield Wednesday were promoted two years ago he found first team opportunities limited, “I didn’t sulk, I didn’t have a bad attitude, I worked hard, I’m all about hard work. I would cheer the team on and just wait for my chance. When I returned (from Swindon) the team were struggling and so the manager took a chance on me and from then on I’ve done well”.
Playing for Wednesday is an achievement Coke is extremely proud of, now back in the first team fold the Westminster born midfielder is happily settled in Yorkshire, “They’re a massive club, I enjoy the demand to perform and the pressure we deal with, I love playing for them”. When asked if he missed the south he gave a wry smile, “I do miss the south but I haven’t lived there for a while, I’m turning a bit northern”, laughing as he speaks, he then delivers an impression of his northern son.
Onto current matters and Wednesday manager Dave Jones will be feeling the pressure this week with his side losing Saturday’s lunchtime derby with Huddersfield, but Giles believes he has the players full backing, “We all like him, he’s a good manager. I know everyone looks at the manager but at the end of the day we (the players) need to play well, we’re the ones not performing”. Another manager that Giles has worked with is Paulo Di Canio during a brief loan spell at Swindon. Smiling he says, “He’s different, an angry man but such a good coach. He’s had his problems but I learnt a lot from him.
A final topic to be touched on was that of racism, with the World Cup in 2018 to be staged in Russia and Yaya Toure’s recent comments, Giles feels that the FA needs to do more, “(The FA) have to come down harder, they give fines but it’s money which players can easily pay”. With Toure saying players should boycott Coke remained on the fence about his belief, “Some players might not go which I can understand and some might just choose to ignore it, the fact is they need to do something, but I don’t know how they do it”.
Giles Coke is finally settled at Hillsborough and with him back in the fold he will be hoping his next step is a promotion campaign to the Premier League. But for Wednesday there’s a long way to go till they reach that level, should they do so, Giles is sure he can play a major role in that push.