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First team

No old pals' act for captain Cook

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth skipper Steve Cook is hoping some familiar faces will not gatecrash his special occasion.

Cook, if selected, would make his 350th appearance in all competitions for the Cherries against Championship rivals Nottingham Forest on Tuesday.

The long-serving defender is the club’s ninth highest league appearance-maker with 322, including topping the list in the Premier League with 168.

Starting with the visit of Forest to Vitality Stadium, Cook will get the chance to renew acquaintances with a number of former team-mates in the Cherries’ next three games.

Midfielder Harry Arter and striker Lyle Taylor are expected to feature for Chris Hughton’s team, although Lewis Grabban could miss out due to injury.

Shaun MacDonald, currently sidelined with a broken leg, will be at the New York Stadium when the Cherries visit Rotherham on Saturday, while Cook could mark Jayden Stockley – one of his biggest pals – when Preston come to Dorset next Tuesday.

Cook, who made his first nine appearances for the club during a loan spell from Brighton in 2011, told afcb.co.uk: “It will be nice to see everyone again but, whoever plays, hopefully, they won’t have a great game against us!

“I played with Harry, Lewis and Shaun when we won promotion from League One in 2013 and it was a great season. Harry was a big player when we won the Championship and we went on a memorable journey together.

“Where I’ve been here for such a long time, I don’t get to play against former team-mates as often as some of the other lads so it will be strange, especially when it’s close friends.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing Jayden. We speak regularly and it will be interesting if we come up against one another next week.”

Asked what Arter was like to play against in training, Cook replied: “It depended what mood he was in!

“He was always very intense so, sometimes, he could be close to the mark but that’s the way he plays.

“He puts the same sort of tackles in during training sessions as he does in games. I’m guessing if he plays, he will have something to prove.”

Cook has led from the front as the Cherries have made their best start to a season in the second tier after 12 games, having taken 23 points.

“It’s been solid,” he said. “We’re disappointed with the points we’ve dropped but we’re pleased with where we are.

“We want to stay in the top two and start opening a gap. To do that, we are going to need to be more consistent rather than going behind and having to chase games.

“We want a full performance and, hopefully, we will take confidence from Saturday and start games better.”

Cook, who was ever present when the Cherries lifted the Championship title in 2014/15, was asked whether the division had changed much.

“There is a huge difference in circumstances with no crowds,” he said. “When we won the title, going away from home was really difficult because some of the crowds could be quite hostile.

“But in terms of quality, it’s similar and I don’t think it’s changed too much. The Championship is always a very strong competition and it’s extremely difficult to get out of.

“If we can manage to keep the majority of our squad fit, hopefully, we will be able to emulate what we did in 2015.

“Having games every three or four days is really difficult, mentally and physically.

"If you’re winning, it’s brilliant because you look forward to the next game and don’t really feel the aches and pains.

“If you’re losing, you get a chance to put it right very quickly. It’s tough on the body.

"The number of games is crazy but, as long as we’re winning and enjoying them, I’m sure they will fly by.”

Asked about his latest appearance milestone, Cook said: “It seems like only yesterday that I was making my debut at Preston after signing on loan from Brighton.

“As a kid, you always wanted to be a footballer and hoped you would play a few games.

"I have been very fortunate to have played 349 times for this club and will never take that for granted.

“We have had some memorable seasons and I would like to think there are many more to come.

"It has been an honour and a privilege to captain the team and to play for such a wonderful club for as long as I have.”

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