Digital Football Journalist
Lewis Cook on how Bournemouth survival, injury recovery and England hopes could be affected by lockdown break
Bournemouth's Lewis Cook tells Sky Sports: "[Injury] prepared me for the lockdown, but I'm so happy we're nearly fully through it. It's a big part of football that you miss, the banter side of it, having a good time, working hard on the pitch"
Last Updated: 20/06/20 8:30am
The Premier League break has proved difficult for many clubs and players. But Bournemouth's Lewis Cook is hoping it can prove a blessing in disguise.
The three-month break initially threw everything we knew about the logistics of football into the air. If we come back, when? How? What happens with the transfer window? Most of these questions have not needed considering in living memory. One question rarely asked was how footballers, just as susceptible to mental struggles as the rest of the country, would deal with trading one of the most sociable jobs going for three months of relative solitude.
- £18 Premier League and Football channel offer
- Watch 39 Premier League & 45 EFL games exclusively live
- Latest Sky Live Bournemouth games announced
Cook is used to spells away from the action, owing to a tough time with injury over the past few years. A knee ligament rupture in December 2018 kept him out for almost a year, two seasons after an ankle problem had put paid to most of his first Premier League campaign before he had even broken into the Bournemouth first team. In almost four years at the Vitality Stadium, he has started only 48 Premier League games.
Aside from finding a new penchant for gardening during the lockdown, the 23-year-old may have actually benefited from another enforced break. It has proved a chance to, hopefully, see off any remnants of his latest injury lay-off once and for all, and afforded an extra 12 months to stake a claim for Gareth Southgate's Euro 2020 squad, now to be named in May 2021.
"I knew being by myself that I can deal with it," Cook tells Sky Sports ahead of Bournemouth's first game back, against Crystal Palace, on Saturday evening. "I've got my family here, my partner, she's living with me, she helps a lot. People with long-term injuries can go through long periods of time not being… You're in and around the squad, but you're not fully involved.
"It prepared me for the lockdown, but I'm so happy we're nearly fully through it. It's a big part of football that you miss, the banter side of it, having a good time, working hard on the pitch. We're very lucky to be kicking a ball around every day.
"The pause in the season gave me a little bit of a chance to get my body to recover and make sure it's 100 per cent, that's another positive and I feel great now and raring to go. You go through a long period of being back, back playing, a stage where you can play, but there's always that healing process going on for a while; over 12 months."
Bournemouth may feel the break came at a good time for them too. Notoriously streaky in recent seasons, Eddie Howe's side were on a run of one point from four games, and eight defeats from 12, before their season came to an unexpected halt. The abrupt loss of any momentum - for better or worse - which will inevitably follow from such a long pause could prove welcome assistance, especially with the toughest run-in of any side in the division on paper.
Cook doesn't see it that way, though. "We've all been in bad situations before," he says. He's right - Bournemouth's up-and-down form has become almost a staple of their five years in the Premier League, and for every bad run you can be almost as certain a sharp upturn in form will follow. It's mainly a question of when.
"We don't change too much," he adds. "We're a hard-working group, whatever happens, so I think we're going to try our best to hit the ground running again and be fully prepared to give it our all."
Speaking to Cook, you get a sense of how much he is itching to get back on the pitch, and to make sure Bournemouth finish the right side of the dotted line come the end of the extended season. Longer-term, that could have more impact for the one-cap England man than just Premier League survival.
Injury has more than played its part in his international career so far, and without it, he may well have enjoyed more than just the solitary England appearance, especially in a squad featuring such a transitional midfield across Gareth Southgate's tenure to date. So an extra year to prove himself before England's next summer tournament must be in his thoughts?
"A lot of players will have that in the back of their mind," he said. "But I always just think if you're performing at your club level, that's your main focus, make sure you're performing there, performing well and that might be a consideration. A year push back might have helped a few players get the form to sneak in there.
"The midfield has changed quite a lot, but whoever's been in there has been top quality and England have a lot of great midfielders, you see that in the clubs they play for and the performances they put in. If you're going to get into the England team, it's a tough ask."
'It'd be great to have Leeds in the Premier League'
Even after four years in the Premier League some still remember Cook best for his northern roots with the Leeds United academy, emerging from a production line that has bred a number of Premier League players in recent years, and whose latest midfield protege, Kalvin Phillips, may end up challenging him for a spot in next summer's England squad.
The boyhood Whites fan never got a chance to say a proper goodbye to his former club when he left in the summer of 2016, and he freely admits that every time a cup draw comes around he quietly hopes to see Bournemouth and Leeds drawn out of the hat together.
He might not have to cross his fingers much longer, if the Championship leaders get the job done in the final nine games of the season.
"I don't know what the reception would be like if I went back with Bournemouth, but I loved my time there so it'd be good to play them next season," he said.
"When I was there, unfortunately, we didn't get there but like I say, they're playing great football right now and it looks like a great place to be with the fans really taking to the team.
"Hopefully they can get there, I'm sure they will with the football they're playing which is top quality. When I have seen it, it's been great to watch.
"I've spoken to a few of the lads that are still there, I think everyone knows, you can see even if you don't know him (Marcelo Bielsa) like I don't that he's a great manager, he's top, top. A lot of other managers say the same, the way he has them playing is great and he must be doing something right."
Sky Sports will show 64 live Premier League games when the season resumes. In addition to the 39 matches already scheduled to be broadcast exclusively live on Sky Sports before the coronavirus interruption, 25 more matches will be available on both Sky Sports Premier League and Sky's free-to-air Pick channel, allowing the whole nation to be part of the return of live sport.