Jay FULTON has cultivated a career that convincingly mimicks that of his dad – but is desperate to add success in England and some winner’s medals to an already colourful CV.
The second of a trio of Fultons all learning their trade within Falkirk’s fruitful youth set-up, his elder brother Dale and 15-year-old Tyler are the other two Bairns born to Steve Fulton, the former Hearts midfielder who is now a coach at Falkirk Stadium.
At just 17, Jay has now worn the hoops of the Bhoys and the maroon of Hearts at youth level, and currently sports a first-team shirt at Falkirk, where he has spent the past three years since leaving the ranks at Riccarton.
Despite the success of his old Tynecastle team-mates, who have helped the Jambos to first place in the current Clydesdale Bank under-19 league standings, Fulton is happy exactly where he is – especially having played and won against the first teams of Dundee United and Rangers in the past two months.
“It’s been brilliant,” says the midfielder. “This season especially, getting involved in the first team and playing so many big games, like the Rangers and Dundee United games. I didn’t expect it – not so early on anyway – and it’s all happened fast.”
Despite posting a number of high-profile appearances this term, Jay has only just reached double-figures in his tally of senior starts. Younger than most in a young Falkirk side which in their recent dramatic 4-3 win over Livingston boasted an average age of 23, Jay understands the reasons that Falkirk manager – and another ex-Hearts man – Steven Pressley has expressed for leaving him out of certain games.
“I feel I’ve been quite unlucky not to be starting some of the games, but it’s obviously because of my age that they don’t want to overuse me,” said Jay. “But, I just want to keep on going the way I’ve been going. All the boys are playing well, and sometimes you just need more experience in the team. I can’t really get too down about being out the team.”
Brother Dale has also broken into the first team this season after Pressley saw numerous players leave amid a club cost-cutting drive over the summer. Sixteen-year-old Tyler, meanwhile, is a regular feature in the Scotland under-16 squad and is touted as yet another Fulton with a footballing future.
Jay insists that carrying the surname of a renowned player of the SPL’s recent past does not bring with it any undue burdens, so, while Liverpool fans may sing about their dream of having a team comprising 11 Jamie Carraghers, for Falkirk fans the name Fulton could easily soon feature on three entries on their side’s teamsheet.
“To have three Fultons in the starting line-up is something that’s been mentioned a few times,” admits Jay.
“I think the name just brings a bit more attention. People recognise me because of my name, but I think it’s not really that much different. I think my dad’s been happy with the way I’ve been getting involved in the first team, playing in front of big crowds in big games. Every-thing’s been positive so far.
“I never really got to watch my dad play because I was at my own football bu,t from what people tell me he was a good player. My wee brother is playing with Scotland, so it evens out [the pressure on Dale and me] a wee bit – we don’t feel the pressure.”
While he stresses that Falkirk is the ideal environment for his football education, Jay does not disguise his ambition to move onto a bigger stage in the near future. His birth in Bolton was down to his father’s short stint at Bolton Wanderers and, if he has his way, he will make a return to England to pursue a high-profile career.
“I’m looking forward to a couple more seasons here anyway,” he said.
“In the near future, I’m aiming to keep doing well with Falkirk and, starting this season, hopefully win a few cups and try to push up to the SPL. In the longer term, I can hopefully play at a good level down in England.”
Jay was on the pitch when his father, Hearts’ stand-in captain for the day, lifted the Scottish Cup at Celtic Park on May 18, 1998.
Having followed a career mould hewn originally by his dad, that day serves as further inspiration to an aspiring young talent.
“I’m too young to remember any of it – I can just look back at photos. But, if I can sample any of the type of Scottish Cup success like he did, it’s a bonus.”