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First team

Cook reacts to 2019/20 fixtures

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

With the fixtures now out, Steve Cook believes AFC Bournemouth will be well prepared for the new season following the “massive learning curve” of 2018/19.

The Cherries start their new campaign with a home match against Sheffield United before visiting another promoted team Aston Villa for their first away match.

Eddie Howe's men round off the season at Everton on May 17th, the eighth year in succession they have been away on the final day.

Meeting two of the three promoted clubs in their opening two matches, the Cherries will quickly get a chance to see what the new boys will bring to the Premier League in 2019/20, a challenge Cook is relishing.

Discussing the fixtures, Cook told afcb.co.uk: “The three clubs coming up all have huge fan-bases so it will be terrific to play at their grounds.

"You couldn’t have asked for three bigger clubs to get promoted from the Championship. They will bring extra quality to the league because they all play very good football.

“Sheffield United will be a tough start for us and we won at Villa Park to secure our status in our first season in the Premier League (pictured above), so I'm looking forward to going back there.

"I scored my first goal in the Premier League against Norwich at Carrow Road (in September 2015), even though we lost the game.

“We will face four teams who reached the finals of the two big European competitions last season and I think that shows just how much of an achievement being in the Premier League is.

“We worked incredibly hard to get here in the first place and have had to work even harder to stay here for four years.

“It is a privilege to play against some of the best players and teams in Europe but we have earned the right to be here.

“Hopefully, we can really kick on and try to finish as close as we possibly can to these teams. We want to stay in this league for many years to come and know we have a lot of work to do to make sure that happens.”

Cook is the club's leading appearance-maker in the Premier League, having featured in 139 of their 152 games in the top-flight.

The defender missed seven matches last season due to a persistent groin injury as Eddie Howe’s team experienced fluctuating fortunes.

Cook starred at the back as the Cherries banked 20 points from their first ten games – their best start in the Premier League – before a combination of factors derailed their hopes of a top-half finish.

And while the 28-year-old acknowledges there was an element of “frustration” at ending the campaign in 14th, Cook also thinks valuable lessons would have been learned.

Speaking after the new fixtures had been announced, Cook said: “The Premier League improves every year. It gets quicker and stronger and next season will be no different so we know we need to improve.

“Last season didn’t finish as we would have wanted and we were a little disappointed, especially after the way we started.

“Injuries hit us hard, results were affected and confidence dipped. It’s a punishing league and very difficult to get back to winning ways.

“But when the dust settles and you look back, it was still a successful season, even if it was a testing one. It was a massive learning curve for us.

“Players stepped up and played a lot of football which perhaps they didn’t expect. They will be even more ready for next season.

“The squad is quite young and the manager and his staff have always successfully integrated players into it to keep it fresh. We have a lot of potential and I think we will be very strong next season.”

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