WES FOGDEN is still playing the game he loves despite injuries blighting much of a career that might never have got off the ground.
Being told he might not play again when undergoing an operation to remove a benign tumour on his spine as an 18-year-old at Brighton made him even more determined to enjoy every moment of being able to step out onto a football pitch.
Although he eventually broke through to Albion’s first team, it was at AFC Bournemouth that he got regular league football as the Cherries began their rise through the football pyramid.
Brighton-born Fogden has stayed in Dorset and now plays part-time for Poole Town while working as head of football for Branksome-based Elite Skills Arena, a business owned by former Bournemouth chairman Eddie Mitchell.
“Bearing in mind the amount of time injured, I’ve missed out on about five seasons of football,” Fogden told The News, Portsmouth’s Neil Allen in an interview published on 1 December 2022.
“I’ve had pretty much every injury going. Cruciate ligament damage to both knees, hamstrings, ankles, I’ve broken my nose four or five times, I fractured my cheekbone when going up for a header in the FA Youth Cup against Andy Carroll.
“There was even the time when the ball smacked me in the private regions, requiring an operation and putting me out for four or five weeks. A real variety of injuries.
“But I wouldn’t have it any other way. As long as I’m fit, I want to be playing every game, especially after what happened at Brighton.”
Fogden was never short of admirers for the way he bounced back from the devastating blow of being told he might never be able to play football again.
Tommy Elphick, who also went through Brighton’s youth ranks before moving to Bournemouth, said: “One thing with Wes is that you know he is going to dig in for you. He is a very good player; a footballer who can play at right-back, right wing or in central midfield.”
The player himself told the Albion matchday programme: “When I was told that I might not play again was the worst moment of my life but to come through it is a great achievement.”
After surgery to remove the tumour from his spine was thankfully successful, Fogden had to spend three months in a body cast before slowly recovering throughout the 2006-07 season.
He was grateful to the support of physio Malcolm Stuart, fitness coach Matt (‘Stretch’) Miller and physio Kim Eaton in aiding his return to fitness.
Albion sent him out on loan to Dorchester Town to gain experience but when Dean Wilkins’ squad was hit by ‘flu, the midfielder, who had previously been part of Wilkins’ successful Albion youth team, was recalled.
He made his first team debut at right-back in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie against Swansea City when he was up against future Albion player Andrea Orlandi.
Fogden kept the shirt for the following Saturday’s league game at Oldham but was unfortunate to be sacrificed early in a reshuffle Wilkins was forced to make after wantaway Dean Hammond had got himself sent off early in the game. Nathan Elder went on as a substitute and scored a last-ditch equaliser for the Seagulls.
After that, Fogden’s involvement was a watching brief from the subs bench although he did get on in the 64th minute of a game at Cheltenham, replacing Albion’s goalscorer Jake Robinson in a 2-1 defeat.
Fogden subsequently went back out on loan, this time to Bognor Regis Town, and when Micky Adams was brought back to the Albion over Wilkins’ head that summer, he preferred to select more experienced players.
Fogden returned to Dorchester on loan initially and made the move permanent in October 2008. “Dropping out of league football wasn’t a tough decision,” he told afcb.co.uk. “Dorchester Town offered me a good deal, they were the only professional club in the Conference South at the time and it was a good opportunity to play first team football week-in-week-out.”
A cost-cutting exercise early in 2009 saw Fogden let go and he joined Havant & Waterlooville, who were in the same division. He was voted the Supporters’ Player of the Season in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Having contemplated a career outside of football, he enrolled to take a degree in sports coaching and PE at Chichester University but Bournemouth boss Lee Bradbury gave him a second chance to build a career in league football.
“It was a difficult decision to put my studies on hold when Bournemouth approached me,” he said. “I was a year and a half in and I wasn’t expecting that call.
“After speaking to my family and the university, I decided to give the professional game one last shot.”
With the three-year deal done, Fogden said: “I’m really pleased to get back here at this level.
“It is a big jump for me. I was only young when I made my few appearances for Brighton and the pace was a lot quicker so hopefully I can just adapt as soon as I can.”
Bradbury told BBC Radio Solent: “Wes is a young prospect, who has a good grounding from his time at Brighton. He can play on either wing and can also play up front or in behind the strikers.
“He’s well thought of in the non-league circuit, and I saw it as a good opportunity to get him down here and integrate him into our squad.”
After three substitute appearances, Fogden produced an eye-catching performance on his full debut in a 1-1 draw at Colchester United in October 2011, Bournemouth’s Daily Echo observing that he “showed some neat touches in a lively display” playing just behind the striker in an attacking midfield role.
“I thought Wes Fogden was probably the best player on the park for us,” said Bradbury. “He was different class. He had great energy levels and worked really hard. He set the standard for the rest of the team.
“He has played off the striker quite a lot. He can play on either wing or up front in a partnership.
“He has got a lot of uses. He showed on Tuesday night what great quality he has, what a great professional he is and the fitness he has as well.”
The following March, after Fogden struck a 20-yard winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Brentford, Bradbury was once again full of praise for his signing. “I’m delighted for him. It was a terrific strike,” he said. “His energy levels are fantastic and he works so hard for the team. He’s very durable and a pleasure to work with.”
Fogden was part of a group of players who shared a close bond through meeting up at the Cotea coffee shop in Westbourne. The group included Ryan Fraser, Marc Pugh, Benji Buchel and Shaun MacDonald.
MacDonald, who joined Cherries two months before Fogden, told the Glasgow Times: “Just before I left, we all started going to Cotea in Westbourne. The food was always perfect, the coffee really nice and the people who own it are lovely.”
Fogden remained part of the set-up during Paul Groves’ brief reign after taking over from Bradbury, and then the return from Burnley of Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall. “Eddie and Jason gave the whole club a lift, the fans, the staff and the players, and we went on a roll that didn’t stop,” said Fogden.
Howe’s appreciation of Fogden was demonstrated in an interview with the Daily Echo, when he said: “Wes is a hard worker and a real team player but has got ability as well. He is a very good footballer, he has quality on the ball and you can`t underestimate that.”
Describing him as a valued member of the squad, the manager added: “Wes has certainly got the fire inside him to want to improve and to keep his place and I have been very impressed with him.”
Having made 59 appearances for the Cherries, including 32 League One starts, Fogden didn’t make any appearances in the Championship during the first half of the 2013-14 season and moved on to Portsmouth in January 2014.
Ahead of the move, Howe told BBC Radio Solent: “He’s been a really good servant to the club in his time here, he’s been an outstanding professional and someone who we have really enjoyed working with.
“But it’s been difficult to give him, although he has been injured this season, as much game time as he wants.”
Looking back on it a couple of years later, Fogden said: “I still had 18 months on my contract but decided that moving to Pompey was right for me.
“It was sad to leave, but it was time for a new chapter in my career. After the injuries I had when I was young it made me realise that, ultimately, I just love playing; if you’re not in that starting eleven on a matchday it’s very difficult.”
Born in Brighton on 12 April 1988, Fogden started playing football from an early age. “I was four or five years old, playing with boys a couple of years above me in my older brother’s team, which was run by my dad,” he said. “I signed for Brighton at 11 years old and played right the way through my school years.”
That senior school was Patcham High and in 2001 Fogden was in a Sussex under-14s squad alongside the likes of Richard Martin, Joel Lynch, Tommy Elphick, Tommy Fraser, Scott Chamberlain and Joe Gatting who all went on to play for the Albion.
He was part of the hugely successful Albion youth team of 2006 who, against all the odds, beat the youth sides of Premier League clubs Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers in the FA Youth Cup before losing on penalties to Newcastle United (managed by Peter Beardsley) in the quarter finals.
It was only after he had signed on as a professional at 18 in 2006, that he found out about his spine tumour.
“Initially I was told I would never play football again,” he recalled. “A diagnosis like that definitely changes the way you think about things; you take each day as it comes and enjoy it for what it is.”
Fogden’s time at Portsmouth was disrupted by a serious knee injury and he was only able to make 29 appearances in 19 months at Fratton Park. He later suffered a similar injury while playing for Dorking Wanderers and, in a March 2022 interview with Surrey Live, said: “With both of my ACL injuries I gained a lot of experience in the exercises I’d need to do,” he said.
“With the first ACL I had, I had a great physio at Portsmouth, Sean Duggan, who gave me a step-by-step plan. It was an unbelievable plan and I’ve used a lot of that into what I’ve done this season.
“Every minute of every game is a bonus now. I’m one of those that likes to play every minute anyway because of the injuries I’ve had. You cherish the moments you are out there.”
Fogden’s last professional league action came at League Two Yeovil Town where he was the 12th of 19 new signings made by Paul Sturrock ahead of the 2015-16 season.
He scored two goals in 17 appearances (plus one as sub) but was released in the summer of 2016 by Sturrock’s successor Darren Way.
He returned to Havant & Waterlooville in the Isthmian Premier League, helping them to promotion to the National League South and over four seasons made 154 appearances, scoring 23 goals.
For the 2020-21 season, Fogden switched to National League South outfit Dorking Wanderers, where he was once again dogged by injuries, including a nasty head injury that required hospital treatment.
He dropped back down to football’s sixth tier with Poole Town for the 2022-23 season because of the travel requirements playing and training for Dorking entailed.
There had been times when it clashed with his day job demands and taking on more at Elite Skills Arena had also influenced the decision. ESA owner Mitchell was chairman at Dorchester way back when the player went there on loan from Brighton.
“I’ve been working for Eddie Mitchell for a while now and have known him going back 15 years. He’s been really good to me,” he said.
As regards continuing to play, Fogden told The News: “All the time I can move about the pitch and be involved, playing as well as I can, then I’ll stay in the game. I’m still playing central midfield, right in the action, attacking and defending. I’m still going.
“When you’re a footballer, injuries are going to happen, the way I play is always twisting and turning, being involved, action packed. Freak injuries occur for me because of that – I can’t change my playing style.
“Considering I’m a bit shorter than a lot of players and at elbow height, it doesn’t help with my facial area. The same for dead legs, my thighs are knee-height compared to most players, it’s just one of those things.
“As I’ve got older, I’ve learnt to get away from some of the injuries which maybe I could have avoided previously. I’m still all-action, but sometimes it’s a case of pulling out of tackles I know I haven’t got any chance of winning.
“Are my injuries connected with the back? I don’t think anyone can really know, there might be a bit of a lack of mobility in that area, which could cause hamstring injuries and give less knee support, and perhaps a pelvic imbalance. I don’t know, I’m not really sure.
“It has been 16 years since that back operation and I’m still playing. Without football I wouldn’t be anywhere near the person I am. It’s strange thinking back to how it could have been, had it not been for a fantastic surgeon.”