Clean sheets will be key to Bognor success for Cook

Bognor defender Joe Cook is excited and relieved to be back in action at the Nye Camp now the team have resumed training.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 8:00 am
Joe Cook in pre-pre-season training with the Rocks / Picture: Martin Denyer
Joe Cook in pre-pre-season training with the Rocks / Picture: Martin Denyer

The centre half impressed on Rocks duty at the start of last season, featuring in 17 of Bognor’s 18 matches before the extended break. That followed a successful loan spell from Havant and Waterlooville in the truncated 2019-20 season.

Now, having spent eight months on the sidelines, Cook is keen to dust off his boots and continue where he left off, helping Bognor to a potential title charge this season.

"We’ve had a few chats with Jack [Pearce] and Robbie [Blake] already and it looks like they’re going to have a go at it this year," Cook said.

"With some of the signings we’ve made already and a couple of signings hopefully still to come, we should have a really good chance of being up there."

Following Brad Lethbridge’s departure to hometown club Gosport Borough and Tommy Leigh’s likely exit to League One outfit Accrington Stanley, Pearce and Blake are in need of a few additions to bolster the squad’s depth in attack.

Fortunately, according to Cook, new arrivals and trialists have shown real promise in training and look capable of filling the void.

Coach Robbie Blake spoke very highly of his players on the first day of training, commending their commitment and steely determination after fitness sessions with coach Neil Cockcroft.

Keeping fit proved a challenge for Bognor’s athletes during the break away from football, but the squad seem to have returned in excellent condition.

Cook said: "Personally, I’ve been looking to keep up my fitness throughout. I was really happy when the gyms reopened as I was fully able to get back into it. Everyone’s come back in good shape and looks fit and ready, raring to go for the new season."

Cook has given himself a number of targets for the new campaign, hoping in particular to deliver plenty of clean sheets on the road to promotion.

"First and foremost, I’m there to defend. If we keep a clean sheet, we’re guaranteed to get at least a point and then it’s down to the strikers to score. My main goal next season is to win promotion. I think we’ve got the team to do it, so I can’t wait to get started," said the defender.

Cook became a stalwart at the back last year for Bognor, partnering both Keaton Wood and Ethan Robb in spells at centre half. The defender is now eager to develop his leadership qualities next season, as he feels the added organisation could help shut opponents out.

"I’m not the loudest person on the pitch but I think when I give information, the players listen to me. Talking from the back is always something I’m trying to get better at because it’s a really important part of being a good centre half. If it helps the team, then I’m happy to play that role," added Cook.

The Rocks begin their pre-season with three away friendlies against Littlehampton, Havant & Waterlooville and Horndean, before returning home to host Pompey at Nyewood Lane in late July.

Get the latest from the Lane in the Bognor Observer - every Thursday