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Features

Bourne legacy: Richard Cooke

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Winger Richard Cooke was one of the final pieces of the jigsaw in AFC Bournemouth’s Division Three title-winning squad of 1986/87.

Signed by Harry Redknapp from Tottenham in January 1987, Cooke was ever present during the second half of the season, chipping in with seven crucial goals.

Capped by England at under-21 level, he played in the top flight for Spurs and was an unused substitute in the first leg of the 1984 UEFA Cup final against Anderlecht.

He featured 34 times in the Cherries’ debut season in the second flight and started both games as they took Manchester United to a replay in the fifth round of the FA Cup in 1988/89.

Cooke joined Luton Town in March 1989 before returning to Dean Court for a second spell two years later. He scored 34 goals in 152 appearances in all competitions for the Cherries.

After being forced to hang up his boots due to a persistent knee injury at 27, Cooke became a cab driver in London and is now the manager of Sandbanks crazy golf.

HOW DID YOUR MOVE TO AFC BOURNEMOUTH COME ABOUT?

David Pleat was the manager at Tottenham and he told me they had agreed a fee with Groningen. He wanted me to go there for a week to train with them.

I did okay and they wanted to sign me but I was only 21 and didn’t really want to move abroad.

The next thing I knew, when I came back from Holland, Harry Redknapp was in the office at White Hart Lane and the club had agreed a fee with Bournemouth so I signed there and then.

WHAT ARE YOUR RECOLLECTIONS OF THE TEAM YOU JOINED?

They were on a good run and it was a great time to join. They were flying high in the league, they were scoring lots of goals and playing attacking football which suited me.

It was nice to be able to slot in and feel quite comfortable having just joined.

I scored on my debut against Notts County in front of the home crowd and that was an added bonus. 

GIVE US ONE MEMORY OF THE RUN-IN? 

We went to Blackpool towards the end of the season and won 3-1. It was a crucial victory.

It was a lovely sunny afternoon and I was fortunate to score one of the goals. I remember it well because it was one of my better goals.

There was some fella on the Blackpool bench giving Harry and John Kirk a load of stick. That’s what I can recall of that day.

AND CLINCHING PROMOTION AT CRAVEN COTTAGE?

Winning promotion at Fulham was a fantastic experience for everyone associated with the club. The celebrations on the pitch were fantastic.

Seeing all the supporters with their red and black scarves and banners coming back down the motorway was wonderful. It was such a memorable day.

HOW DID YOU CELEBRATE THAT EVENING?

We had a few drinks on the coach on the way back and then went to Little Peters on the Lansdowne roundabout.

I can’t recall too much about it. As Harry has mentioned previously, I couldn’t keep up with the big boys’ drinking so I went home.

I’d had enough and couldn’t take any more. Willo, Mark Newson and Mozzy were all Premier League drinkers and I was a third division drinker!

AT THE START OF THE 1988/89 SEASON, YOU SCORED THE ONLY GOAL TO SEE OFF CHELSEA. WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF THAT GAME?

Ken Bates had slated Bournemouth for being in the same league as Chelsea, saying Chelsea should never be in the same league as Bournemouth or words to that effect.

For us, that was red rag to a bull. We beat them 1-0 and I scored a header, I believe.

WHAT WAS BEHIND YOUR MOVE TO LUTON IN MARCH 1989? 

We went on a good run in the FA Cup and reached the fifth round where we played Manchester United.

I played well in the home game, I set up Luther Blissett for a chance at the end when Steve Bruce clipped his heels.

I think the club were struggling for money and Harry came to me one day and said Luton were interested.

It was a step up to the old first division and better wages so I went there.

AND WHAT WAS BEHIND YOUR RETURN TWO YEARS LATER?

It didn’t work out for me at Luton. Ray Harford signed me and said he was looking for me to be a squad player.

He wanted me to pit myself against Danny Wilson but Danny was a legend at Luton so it was hard for me to make the team in that position.

I think they signed me for about £140,000 and agreed to give me a free transfer two years later.

I couldn’t believe it when Harry signed me again. It was music to my ears to come back to play for Bournemouth and to live here again.

WHAT WERE THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF YOU CALLING IT A DAY IN MARCH 1993?

I’d had a couple of operations on my cartilage and, every time I came back, my knee just kept blowing up in training.

I couldn’t do the training so spoke to the specialist and he said he didn’t think my knee would take full-time training every day.

I think things would be a lot different now if I’d had the treatment the guys get these days.

I was 27 and Tony Pulis was the manager then. He said they would try to sort me a testimonial so that’s when I decided to stop playing.

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER YOU LEFT BOURNEMOUTH FOR A SECOND TIME?

A team in Hong Kong wanted to sign me. I went over there and they put me up in a block of flats which seemed about five miles high!

I thought ‘I can’t bring my family here, I can’t stay here with my family’.

It was in the new territory. I told them that if they got me back in the town, I would sign.

It didn’t happen so I got on a plane and came home. They held my registration for two years so I couldn’t play for any one and that was the end of my footballing days.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR TESTIMONIAL AGAINST SPURS IN 1994?

I think we lost 5-0 but there were nearly 6,000 in the crowd. Ossie Ardiles was the manager and Chris Hughton was involved as well.

It was a wonderful evening for me and my family.

I had my testimonial and then went back to London and did the Knowledge. It took me three-and-a-half years to become a London cab driver.

One minute I was playing football and the next I was on a scooter learning the Knowledge!

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