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First team

300 not out: The rise and rise of Steve Cook

Steve Cook celebrates column.jpg

AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Steve Cook has carved his name indelibly on an illustrious list of AFC Bournemouth defenders to have donned the club’s colours.

A key performer during the Cherries’ rapid rise to the Premier League, Cook has taken the climb in his stride and grown in stature with every season.

He has been a model of consistency and commitment since arriving at Dean Court when the club was languishing in the lower reaches of League One. 

Born in Hastings, East Sussex, he made the decision to end his long-standing association with his local club Brighton when he signed permanently for the Cherries in January 2012.

Cook, who had been on the Seagulls’ books since he was nine, initially caught the eye during an impressive nine-match loan spell for the Cherries.

Having taken just 13 points from the first 15 games of the 2011/12 season, the Cherries found themselves in the League One relegation zone when Cook was drafted in at the end of October.

But when he left following a 3-1 win at Yeovil on New Year’s Eve, the Cherries had more than doubled their points tally with Cook having contributed to five victories and two draws in his eight league appearances.

The club managed to seal a permanent deal for Cook at the start of the January 2012 transfer window, the player going on to repay his modest £170,000 fee with interest during a success-laden seven-year period to date. 

Signed during Lee Bradbury’s tenure as manager, Cook experienced differing fortunes under his successor Paul Groves but went on to blossom and realise his full potential following Eddie Howe’s return in October 2012.

A cultured and ball-playing central defender, Cook initially had to bide his time under the new boss as Howe assessed his squad.

But after forcing his way in, Cook missed just one of the last 29 games of the season as the Cherries clinched the runners-up spot in League One and promotion to the Championship.

Although injury forced him to sit out eight games midway through 2013/14, Cook’s exploits helped the Cherries secure a comfortable 10th-placed finish in the club’s first season back in the second flight.

And his eye for a spectacular goal was witnessed by travelling supporters when he scored a stunning overhead kick during a 2-2 draw at Ipswich on Easter Monday.

A firm favourite with the Cherries faithful, Cook further endeared himself to fans when he turned in a succession of impressive displays and played a starring role during the club’s Championship-winning campaign of 2014/15.

He was ever-present as the club realised its dream of reaching the Premier League for the first time and his five league goals included another memorable strike, his rasping effort capping a sensational 5-1 victory at Fulham in March 2015 as Howe’s team reclaimed top spot in stunning fashion.

Again, Cook quickly adjusted after stepping into the top flight, partnering several different players at the heart of the Cherries defence as the club finished 16th.

Cook scaled new heights in 2016/17, playing every minute of every Premier League game as the Cherries ended the campaign in ninth place - the highest finish in the club’s history.

One of his two goals in a memorable season restored parity during the epic 4-3 win over Liverpool at Vitality Stadium.

Cook deservedly collected a host of awards and was named player of the season before being rewarded with a new contract in May 2017.

Ever-present again this season, Cook was pivotal as Howe’s team made their best start in the top flight with the defender also closing in on a place in the top ten of the club’s all-time league appearance-makers.

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