Thursday 25 May 2017, 11:32

Captain Cook bounces back for England

  • Lewis Cook is England's skipper at the U-20 World Cup

  • Highly rated midfielder scored in his team's 1-1 draw with Guinea

  • His first season at Bouremouth was plagued by injuries

Setbacks are an inevitable part of any footballer’s career, but what really matters is how a player responds to them, as Lewis Cook can attest.

The talented and acclaimed midfielder moved from his home club of Leeds United to Bournemouth last summer, and after some impressive pre-season performances, the then 19-year-old made his Premier League debut by starting the Cherries’ season opener against none other than Manchester United.

Yet the young star’s meteoric rise was soon abruptly halted by persistent injuries that relegated him to the role of spectator for much of the campaign. Undeterred, Cook worked hard on his recovery, battled his way back into the team and made five more appearances in the closing stages of the season, providing two assists along the way. "Lewis is a very special talent and someone who will go a long way in the game if he continues to show the attitude he has this season," Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe said in praise of his young protégé.

Although Cook also missed the final match of his club’s 2016/17 campaign, it was for much more positive reasons, as the youngster travelled to Korea Republic to captain England at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2017.

"It was a difficult decision for me to miss the last game but I just thought, 'It's the World Cup and it's every boy's dream', so I couldn't really say no to that," he explained. "It was good to get games towards the end of season. Me and the gaffer worked on a lot of things and I feel like I've improved and fitted in when I played the last few games. That hard work has paid off."

Cook’s efforts were rewarded with a 3-0 win in the Young Lions’ opening match against Argentina and his first international goal in the 1-1 draw with Guinea. "It was a good goal,” he said. “I just crept to the edge of the box, got my chance and took it. I’m really happy with my goal but I would have been happier if we had got the three points," added the England skipper, who provided his team with a model of commitment and passion in both games.

While England’s tally of four points gives them a strong chance of reaching the Round of 16, they face another tough task against the hosts in their last Group A encounter. Korea Republic lead the table after two victories and will once again be able to count on frenetic support from their fans, but Cook is ready to face this challenge with confidence and optimism.

"I think for all the lads it will be a great experience,” he said. “There will be a lot of people there. It’s a massive game, and whoever wins it is going to be top of the group. The Koreans are a very strong and well-structured team with a lot of good individuals who can change the game, but I think we’ve got enough in our squad to manage that and defend well and score goals. We’re looking forward to the match."