Students at Ark William Parker Academy were thrilled when Premier League footballer Steve Cook paid a surprise visit.
The AFC Bournemouth defender, a former William Parker pupil, has been paying particular interest to the academy’s year eight football team, which has recently reached the last 16 in the ESFA National Cup.
Cook relived memories of his very own national cup triumph with William Parker in 2004 when the academy won a final played at Stamford Bridge, home of Premier League leaders Chelsea.
He spoke to students from the sixth form football academy, the year eight football team, and year 10 GCSE and BTEC students about his own journey in the game.
Cook started out at Brighton & Hove Albion and spent time on loan at several non-league clubs before being signed by Bournemouth at the start of 2012 following a loan spell with the club.
The 25-year-old has been a key figure in Bournemouth’s remarkable rise from League One to an established Premier League outfit.
This season he has made more clearances and more headed clearances than any other player in the top flight, and made the Match of the Day goal of the month shortlist for December with his tremendous strike against Liverpool.
Cook, who was again at the heart of the Cherries’ back line against Watford last weekend, spoke clearly to the William Parker pupils about the ‘perseverance’ he had to show and the ‘faith’ in his own ability to ultimately ‘achieve’ what he has - three key words from the school’s ethos.
The year eight boys, who will face All Hallows Catholic School from Farnham for a place in the quarter-finals of a national competition entered by more than 700 schools, were particularly excited and inspired by his visit.
They asked him many questions, ranging from his favourite ground to play at to the best player he has ever come up against. They were particularly intrigued about his school footballing memories.
Cook said: “It was fantastic coming back to school, seeing the boys and some of the old staff. I have great memories of being at Parker and I wish the current year eight team every bit of luck in the National Cup.”
Earlier in the year, the Ark William Parker team was thrilled to receive a Premier League kit from Cook, who nominated the school through the Premier League Players Kit Scheme.
William Parker coach Jimmy Elford, a former England futsal international, said: “We are delighted to have received the kit from Steve. We follow his successes at Bournemouth with pride and it’s great to have him think of us. The boys were amazed to see Steve retweet the photo of the team wearing the kit.”
Cook is one of two former William Parker students currently playing in the top flight. The other is Everton midfielder Gareth Barry, who has made more Premier League appearances than anybody apart from Manchester United icon Ryan Giggs.
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