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Ternent was my best manager, says Accrington Stanley boss Cook
NOW five months into his tenure as the boss of Accrington Stanley, one man stands out when Paul Cook ponders the managers he worked under during his own time as a player.
Cook’s Football League career spanned seven different clubs but he will always regard his four years at Burnley under Stan Ternent as some of his most special memories.
Ternent’s time in management never quite included a spell in the Premier League, but Cook feels certain that things would have been different had Burnley not been hit by the ITV Digital collapse during his time at Turf Moor.
Having led the Clarets back into the second tier in 2000, Ternent twice narrowly missed out on a spot in the play-offs and a chance to compete for a place in the top flight.
But circumstances off the field, just as they were finishing seventh in the First Division for a second successive season, would ultimately dash Cook’s hopes that eventually they would make it to the Premier League under Ternent.
The liquidation of ITV Digital, who held the television rights for the Football League at the time, sent shock waves through a number of clubs.
Burnley were one of the hardest hit, forced to quickly deal with an unexpected £4m shortfall in revenue.
In the end, it was a situation that led to Cook’s exit from Turf Moor.
Having little option but to cut costs, the Clarets finished 16th in the season following the television station’s demise and then opted to release 13 players that summer.
Among them were Cook, Steve Davis, Marlon Beresford, Nik Michopoulos, Ian Cox, Gordon Armstrong, Andy Payton and Lee Briscoe – players who had been a significant part of the club’s success in previous years.
Ternent stayed for just one more season, finishing 19th as the board opted not to renew his contract.
“Burnley along with Wolves was without a doubt the best times of my career," Cook said.
“Unfortunately for me and I think 13 of us one year, ITV cut the money so all of us lost our contracts, which was life.
“It was a tough time for Stan because he built us into a team and I’m sure under him they would have gone on to play in the Premier League. Without a shadow of a doubt he would have took them up.
“But the knockback that Stan suffered losing those players due to money was catastrophic because they were basically the nucleus of the team that had got them into touching distance of the play-offs.
“That was the start of Stan’s time going stale because he had to go through that process of starting again from start and rebuilding with less money. It was always going to be difficult for him.
“I was 32 when I went to Burnley, on loan at first. But from the minute I got there I could have played for Stan Ternent for 20 years.
“He was a breath of fresh air in my career. He would have been the best manager I played for.
“I’m not trying to say that Stan is better than every manager I played for, but personally for me and the group of players we had he was fantastic.
“He was a leader. He was someone who we respected but also feared.
“He knew how to treat his players and he certainly knew football.”
Cook arrived at Turf Moor on loan from Stockport in the latter stages of the 1998/99 season, before signing on a permanent basis that summer.
In his first full season the club were promoted from the third tier – famously securing their place in the First Division thanks to victory at Scunthorpe on the final day.
“I remember finishing the game at left back thinking, ‘I know I’m not a left back, that’s for sure!” recalled Cook, a midfielder by trade.
“I’m sure Stan didn’t want us to get promoted that day if he was putting me left back!
“But it was great. We had the whole ground, the Burnley support travelled in numbers and we won.
“The coach journey back was amazing, then we got back to Burnley and you can imagine the night out we had.
“It was a great club and we had great support but we had been in a division that we shouldn’t have been in.
“We had to get promoted because we were in the wrong league. We had great players, lads like Glen Little were fantastic footballers.
“And all of a sudden from being a team that were a little bit in the doldrums we stopped it.
“The highlight then was we went on a run of one season in the Championship, we went 12 or 14 games unbeaten and were top of the league. It was great to be part of that.
“In the end we missed out on the play-offs by one goal to Norwich, which was heartbreaking.
“But everyone in the dressing room worked for Stan, lads like Kevin Ball, Ronnie Jepson, Little, you used to love going into work.
“We used to get in early just to see each other, there was that much camaraderie. The team spirit was electric.
“At Gawthorpe you used to come out of training permanently smiling.”
Cook was at Turf Moor when Paul Gascoigne arrived for a brief but unsuccessful spell in 2002.
“I don’t think Paul was going through a great period in his life,” he said.
“We didn’t really know what he was going through but he was obviously going through some stuff.
“I like to remember Gazza as the best player in the world, which is what he was during that World Cup in Italy.”
And Cook’s involvement in derby matches against Blackburn Rovers – fixtures that will again be on the calendar this season – did not exactly go to plan.
The Clarets were beaten 5-0 at Ewood Park during the 2000/01 campaign, and his memories of the game at Turf Moor earlier that season are no better.
“I remember getting beat 2-0 at home, and I was marking Jason McAteer and he scored at the back post, I remember that,” he said.
“That was at the bottom end and I had to walk all the way up to the top end to see Stan so you can imagine how it was, I wasn’t looking forward to that.
“And obviously at Ewood Park we got battered.
“But in those days Blackburn were spending huge money, the players they had, McAteer, Mark Hughes, Matt Jansen.
“We were a little more journeymen together, but it was a great time – if not for Burnley fans – to have those derby matches again.
“I think they have a chance against Blackburn this season. Finance plays such a big part in football and Blackburn have got a fantastic squad with a lot of proven Premier League players. Eddie Howe’s team will be a lot younger and developing.”