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First team

Elton fan Cook hopes Saturday night's alright

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Elton John fan Steve Cook could have been forgiven for belting out the lyrics to ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’ following his last visit to Norwich.

Cook’s rush of blood in January 2020 contributed to the Cherries’ downfall at Carrow Road, a venue graced by one of his favourite musicians in 2005.

His deliberate handball from a goalbound shot by Ondrej Duda resulted in a straight red card and a penalty, which was clinically despatched by Teemu Pukki.

It was the only goal and condemned the Cherries to a fifth defeat in six Premier League games, leaving them three points adrift of safety and three above the bottom-of-the-table Canaries.

Neither team could avoid relegation and Norwich will bid to secure an immediate return to the top flight when they host the Cherries on Saturday, while the visitors will hope to tighten their grip on a play-off place.

For captain Cook, the much-anticipated clash offers a chance of redemption at a venue where he scored his first Premier League in a 3-1 defeat in September 2015, arguably one of the Cherries’ poorest showings in the top flight.

Cook told afcb.co.uk: “In our first season in the Premier League, we went to Carrow Road straight after an international break.

“We had been worked extremely hard during those two weeks and I know I was very leggy going into the game.

“It was a tough one and we were really poor. Although I got my first Premier League goal, it didn’t really mean too much to me at that point.

“As games and seasons have gone, I have looked back and it was a proud moment to get my first goal, even if my memories of the game aren’t great.

“When we went there last season, we needed wins and had a lot of games against the teams around us.

“The handball was a moment of madness and was a bad mistake. I received a lot of criticism from our fans and probably deserved it.

“It was something I regretted. People ask me now if I can see the funny side of it and I can’t. I had a lot of highs in the Premier League and that was a big low.

“Carrow Road is a difficult place to go when their fans are in. It’s a lovely stadium but it’s also very hostile. It’s still very old school and the fans are close to the pitch.

“They had some good results there in the Premier League last season. They beat Manchester City and drew with Tottenham.

“Has it lost a bit of its edge now without the fans? I hope so and hope we can go there, have a good performance and get the three points. We’re certainly in a good place.”

Cook, who is in line to make his 350th league appearance for the Cherries at Norwich, has led the team to five successive wins and back into the play-off places.

“It’s a run of form we knew we had to go,” said Cook. “Words are one thing and actions are another. We’ve been talking about going on winning runs throughout the season.

“It’s good timing and winning breeds confidence. We’re a confident team at the moment and we’ve got individuals playing very well. Hopefully, we can continue this until the end of May.

“These games are a benchmark for where we are because Norwich have been by far the best team in the league this season.

“They have responded extremely well to a really poor Premier League season and I’m sure they would admit that as well. It’s never easy and they have been outstanding this season.

“They didn’t start particularly well so it just shows how well they’ve done in the past few months. It’s a game we are really looking forward to.

“It will be good to see where we are and how good a team we are because it’s probably the toughest game we will face.”

Asked what he had learned from working under head coach Jonathan Woodgate, Cook said: “A lot and I really enjoy playing under him. He’s a great guy.

“When you’re a centre-half and Jonathan Woodgate comes in the door, you expect to pick up things from him because he played for Real Madrid, the biggest club in the world.

“First and foremost, he wants you to defend and that’s right up my street. I enjoy heading the ball, blocking the ball and tackling.

“But where he’s been at the big clubs, he wants you to pass and play out but play out in the right way and not take risks.

“You have to be good enough to do it because it’s a dangerous way of playing. So, if there’s an opportunity where you can protect yourself, do that as well.

“It’s a good balance. He works really hard with the defenders and gives you a lot of confidence.

“He gives you praise when it’s due and you can see the lads really like the way he does things. Hopefully, we can get the job done for him.”

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