IN THE SPOTLIGHT . . . with Jay Fulton

16th January 2017
In The Spotlight

The standard of family kickabouts in the back garden was pretty high.

There was dad Stephen, a classy midfielder who played for Celtic and Hearts, and eldest son Dale, who would go on to play professional football for Falkirk, Clyde and Stirling Albion.
Stephen's youngest son Tyler, who was on Falkirk's books for a while, was known for throwing his weight around, and then there was the middle brother.
Growing up in a football-mad family in Cumbernauld, just outside Glasgow, has helped Jay Fulton reach the Premier League.
For a long time there was a debate about who was the most talented of Stephen Fulton's three sons.
The fact that one of them has been playing regularly for Swansea City of late suggests the topic can be put to bed.
"We used to have fierce arguments when we were younger about who was the best player," Jay remembers.
"I think my brothers both agree with me now," he adds through a smile.
Fulton is quick to point out that his siblings have been unfortunate.
Progressing in football is about "timing", he suggests, and Dale and Tyler, who these days are playing at local level, have "not had the luck you need".
Football runs in the Fulton family. Jay's grandfather Norrie was a prolific goalscorer in Scottish junior football, while his dad's talents were enough to see him called up by Scotland, although he was never capped at senior level.
"We would have decent games in the back garden," Jay says.
"Me and my older brother are a bit more technical than my younger brother, but he threw his weight around a bit.
"All three of us were at Falkirk at the same time. I was at Celtic but left when I was 12 and went to Hearts. I then joined Falkirk at 15 and a year later I went full-time.
"My older brother made his league debut for Falkirk in the same game as me. It was Raith Rovers away - we got beaten 1-0.
"My brother was in central midfield and I had been shifted out to right midfield that day. It was a big moment for us."
The fledgling careers of the Fulton brothers meant they did not see many of their father's games.
"My dad came through at Celtic," Jay explains.
"He went down to England for a year, and that's why I was born in England (Bolton). Stephen Kingsley tries to tell me I am English, but I am not having that.
"My dad then went back up and had a good career in Scotland. He captained Hearts to the Scottish Cup. He also captained Kilmarnock and played for another couple of teams.
"When you have a house with three boys and your dad's a professional, it's football mad.
"It was my mum that did most of the running about with us, to Glasgow or to Edinburgh, because my dad would be playing on a Saturday at the same time we were playing.
"But we have got DVDs of the build-up to the (1998) Scottish Cup final (when Hearts beat a Rangers side featuring the likes of Brian Laudrup and Ally McCoist).
"I was four at the time. We have videos of me and my brothers on the pitch after the game and on the open-top bus. They are nice to look back on."
These days the family spend much of their time following Jay's career.
Dale was at Goodison Park to watch the Swans' 1-1 draw with Everton, while Jay's parents were in Wales over Christmas.
Whether dad is in these parts or back home, there is always time for a football chat with Jay.
"We speak probably every day on the phone," Jay says.
"My dad doesn't push too much. He used to give me advice on what to do, but these days he just says good luck really because he doesn't feel he needs to tell me anything anymore.
"But it's good to have him there. If I have a bad day at training or I feel as if I should be doing this or that, it's nice to be able to speak to someone who has been in football and knows what the situation is like."
It is not just football tips that Jay needs these days.
In late November, after all, he became a father for the first time when partner Maxine gave birth to baby Jenson.
"It's been great, although it's quite difficult at night!" Fulton says.
"My partner is great. She understands and she takes on most of the workload.
"I will do my bit - if we have got a couple of days off I will do a wee bit more. But if it's leading up to my game then I have to get my sleep and I will be in the spare room because my son is waking up two or three times a night."
Jenson came into the world shortly after the Swans' extraordinary 5-4 home victory over Crystal Palace.
Fulton started in that game, just as he had done at Everton the previous weekend.
It was the first time since he joined the Swans from Falkirk almost three years ago that he had made the XI for successive league fixtures.
And Fulton's performances at the base of midfield were impressive enough to bring him a first proper run in the Swans side.
For a player who had been used to getting regular football north of the border, the sequence of appearances had been a long time coming.
"I was really happy to get a run of games for the first time," he says.
"My time at the club has been a bit stop-start for me in terms of first-team appearances.
"To start a number of games in a row is something I have been looking to do for a while and I have enjoyed it.
"There are a lot of demands on you but I am trying to improve all the time, as we are as a team."
When he signed for the Swans in January 2014, Fulton initially joined up with the club's development squad.
But very quickly Garry Monk saw enough potential in a young player with an eye for a pass and a willingness to make a tackle to give him a chance in the senior side.
His Swans debut came as a substitute in a home win over Aston Villa in April 2014, and his first start followed in the victory at Sunderland a few weeks later.
However, Fulton suffered a knee injury during the following pre-season which hindered his progress for a while.
"That set me back, and it turned out to be the season where we got the best points total the club have ever had in the Premier League, so it wasn't easy to get into the side," he says.
Fulton managed just one league start in 2014-15, as part of a depleted Swans line-up who chalked up a memorable 1-0 win at Southampton.
Despite an impressive display at St Mary's, he was soon back on the sidelines as the likes of Jack Cork, Jonjo Shelvey, Ki Sung-Yueng and Leon Britton were ahead of him in the midfield pecking order.
Fulton continued to find game-time hard to come by in 2015-16, hence he joined Oldham Athletic on loan in the autumn of last year.
He made 11 appearances for the Latics and felt his stint at Boundary Park was worthwhile.
When he returned to SA1, however, Fulton faced another scrap for some football.
"I'd found it difficult to get in so I went out on loan, and it was good to get out and train all week and then play on a Saturday," he says.
"The loan served its purpose. I enjoyed it, but I was happy to get back when I did."
Fulton rejoined his Swans team-mates almost exactly a year ago. 
There were two substitute appearances last spring, in the notable victories over Arsenal and Liverpool.
But it was not until the autumn that he finally made league start No. 3 of his Swans career.
Since then, Fulton has barely looked back.
Perhaps we should not be surprised. It is not as if playing week-in, week-out is anything new to him, after all.
Fulton has been doing it since he played his maiden game for Falkirk's first team at the age of just 17.
"I think the experience I got in Scotland has helped me down here," he says.
"I played over 100 times for Falkirk and was involved in some big games, against Celtic and Rangers.
"I had just left school when I made my Falkirk debut. The following season I played in almost every game, and then I did the same in the two seasons after that.
"I think it is a better standard than some people think it is and it was a good grounding for me. You see it with Stephen (Kingsley) as well. He is exactly the same as me in terms of having 100 or so games under his belt."
The next challenge, Fulton acknowledges, is to become as much of a first-team fixture at the Liberty as he was in his Falkirk days.
"Even when I had long spells out of the side, I always thought my chance would come round because it wasn't as if I hadn't played at all," he says.
"Now I have to do as well as I can in every game I play. Hopefully that will be enough to keep me in the team for the next one."

 

 

 

 

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