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Accrington Stanley boss Cook will always cherish Anfield win
DEVASTATED to be released by his beloved Liverpool as a teenager, Paul Cook will always cherish the night he went back to Anfield and won.
Cook grew up watching his hero Kenny Dalglish on the Kop and even now he still has a season ticket in the Paddock, cheering on his boyhood club whenever he can.
His love for Liverpool never waned, but one of the biggest high points of his playing days was beating them with Coventry in 1995. Peter Ndlovu scored a hat-trick and the Sky Blues pulled off a memorable Premier League upset, winning 3-2.
“It was possibly the highlight of my career – when you go back to a club that had said to you that you won’t play league football, when you go there and you beat them and you play 90 minutes,” recalls the Accrington Stanley manager.
“Liverpool are in my opinion the best team in the world and always will be, so that was a great day for myself and my family.
“At Liverpool you had to be physically bigger and stronger than I was when I was there.
“Mark Seagraves was possibly the only other player who went through my generation at Liverpool and was a professional footballer, so that’s quite pleasing when I look back that for all the lads Liverpool kept on instead of me, I like to think that I was the only one who had a good career.
“But Liverpool’s the club I love. They will continually get decisions wrong.
“For any young lad you’ve got to have self-belief that at 16 you might not be physically developed but at 21 or 22 you can be, so don’t give up.”
After leaving the Liverpool youth system Cook joined non-league Marine before being swiftly snapped up by Wigan, then in the Fourth Division.
Four years later the midfielder stepped up three divisions to the top tier with Norwich, although the move did not work out.
“I moved for about £70,000 or £75,000 but my family have backed me so well in my life, so to move away from your parents at a young age was difficult,” he said.
“Like a lot of lads my mam does everything for me and I don’t mind saying that.
“It was such a far place in those days, it was a real bad journey.
“Norwich were a big First Division team and they were full of good players.
“I was sub-stitute a lot and being out of the team it was a bad time in my life.”
So Cook moved on to a Wolves side looking for promotion into the top flight.
They never quite made it in his five years at Molineux, but it was a club where he had some of the happiest times of his career.
“Wolves was fantastic,” he said.
“It’s a huge club and a club that I would love to think that one day I could manage.
“The people there are fantastic, they love their football and in my age group we let them down in that we didn’t get them into the Premier League.”
After joining Coventry for £750,000, Cook would also go on to play for Tranmere and Stockport – in an era when the Hatters were remarkably challenging for the Premier League.
He does look back on that time at Wolves, though, and think that he could have done things better.
The 45-year-old remains firm friends with Graham Turner, the manager for most of his time at Molineux. But his relationship with Turner’s success, the former England boss Graham Taylor, was more difficult.
“I didn’t particularly see eye to eye with Graham but looking back I was the one who was wrong,” Cook said.
“They were obviously seeing a player who maybe had a little bit more talent than I was producing.
“I came through the days of football being a drink culture.
“When I was playing for Wolves we would go over to the pub across the road after the game, the Goalpost, and start drinking.
“I didn’t lead the life a professional footballer should. I should have been more dedicated.
“I should have practised more.
“Unfortunately there were a lot of other people out there like Paul Cook, that was the norm then.
“When we used to come back from games the whole bus would be drinking. When I come back from games with Accrington now, it is not an alcoholic bus.
“It’s just not done any more and that’s for the better.”
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