Nottingham Forest completed the signing of Steve Cook from Bournemouth earlier this week. The 30-year-old checked in on a free transfer after rejecting the advances of QPR.
Head coach Steve Cooper had made no secret of his desire to sign a defender. His claim was that he wanted a permanent addition to his back-line and in Cook, he’s got his man.
The experienced performer bolsters the defensive unit at just the right time. Forest are in contention for a top-six place but can ill-afford any more slip-ups.
Cook has been there and got the t-shirt when it comes to the Championship. He helped Bournemouth win promotion to the division and made 168 appearances in the Premier League for the Cherries.
We confess, however, that we don’t know too much about Cook. One man who does though is The Athletic’s Peter Rutzler.
He covered Bournemouth for a single year when Cook was a mainstay in the team. As the ink was drying on Cook’s Forest contract, we asked the former Cherries correspondent what we can expect from the stalwart.
Nottingham Forest News (NFN): What are Cook’s main strengths?
Peter Rutzler (PR): Cook is a brave and commanding central defender. He is not afraid to put his body on the line for the cause and is effective in the air and going to ground for duels. He’s more of a traditional central defender, but after 10 years mainly playing under Eddie Howe, he is also adept at using the ball with his feet. Howe’s sides liked to play out from the back and would often send their full-backs flying forwards, leaving the central defenders exposed. Cook then is used to playing in a front foot set-up, and above all, has plenty of experience, both in terms of promotions and in the Premier League too. His leadership qualities will be an asset.
NFN: Is there anything that Cook typically struggles with?
PR: Cook is a very good option at Championship level so it would be hard to pinpoint any glaring weaknesses, particularly as he remains in his prime. If anything, it may be pace as he is not the quickest across the pitch, but he’s not worryingly slow. In the Premier League, Bournemouth conceded a lot of goals, averaging more than 60 per season and that was mainly due to their attacking philosophy. Cook benefitted greatly from partnering with Nathan Ake, a classic ball-playing defender now strutting his stuff at Manchester City. While Ake struggled in the air, Cook made up for that, and then on the flipside, Ake would cover and sweep for Cook, who was not as quick.
NFN: One question a lot of Forest fans are asking…why have we managed to get him on a free?
PR: Cook had fallen down the pecking order at Bournemouth under Scott Parker, mainly due to competition in the form of Lloyd Kelly, Chris Mepham and summer arrival Gary Cahill. Opportunities were few and far between and naturally, Cook had become frustrated. I imagine too that Bournemouth are likely to have wanted to reduce their wage bill, and Cook has been at the club for some time. His departure though does seem amicable, with the club set to honour his testimonial after passing 10 years with the south coast club this month.
NFN: Steve Cooper typically utilises a back three. Will that suit Cook?
PR: Cook has mainly played in a back four at Bournemouth, with Howe preferring a variation of a 4-4-2 and since his departure, his successors have followed suit with a back four. Cook though has featured in a back three at times, and of the three central defensive positions, he would probably better suit the middle role. A three could suit him, as it offers cover in behind and he is used to the demands of being a ball-playing defender.
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NFN: Was Cook a popular member of the squad at Bournemouth?
PR: Cook was a big presence in the Bournemouth dressing room for most of the past decade and the group that initially got Bournemouth promoted seven years ago were very tight-knit. He remained that way as a more experienced player as the group slowly evolved, leading what would become a younger squad. This past year, he has not featured as regularly but he remains a strong character, known for speaking honestly and would always front up when the going gets tough.
NFN: Will he be a hit at Forest?
PR: He immediately injects experience into the Forest backline and I’m sure he will have a point to prove after struggling for game time at Bournemouth. He should adapt quickly to a new club, and fans may warm to his plain talking. He should be a good addition.