STEVE Cook vowed to take full advantage of his enforced mid-season break after emerging unscathed from his Cherries comeback.
The much-vaunted defender, sidelined since mid-December with a hamstring injury, played the full 90 minutes in Cherries’ resounding 4-1 win over Burton Albion in the FA Cup last night.
Despite his frustration over the lay-off, Cook admitted the rigours of starting every Championship fixture prior to his muscle complaint had taken its toll.
However, after some much needed rest and recuperation, the former Brighton star insisted he was ready for action once more and has targeted a starting place against Watford on Saturday.
Discussing his return, Cook told the Daily Echo: “I was buzzing to get back. I was out for about a month but it felt like a lot longer and I missed a lot of games. It was hard just sat there watching, even though the lads did really well over Christmas.
“Maybe it (the injury) was a blessing in disguise. I was feeling tired mentally and physically so, in the long run, that month out could benefit me but it was so frustrating at the time.
“Fortunately, we still picked up some very good results but having come through 90 minutes now, I hope to give the gaffer a bit of headache ahead this weekend.
“My legs feel a bit heavy and I will have to do some extra work to make sure I am fit enough for Saturday, but I feel good and I feel ready.”
Goals from Brett Pitman (2), Tommy Elphick and Ryan Fraser beat the Brewers to secure Cherries a plum tie with Liverpool as well as a bumper pay day with the fourth-round clash set for live coverage on ITV.
And Liverpool fan Cook was quick to praise the patience of the Dean Court crowd as Cherries sealed their dream date with the Premier League giants.
Cook added: “I thought the crowd were very good, they stuck with us even when it was getting a little bit frustrating for them.
“It was always going to be difficult for us with so much at stake. Burton sat behind the ball and the conditions got worse as the match went on.
“Sometimes, teams sit back and pay us a bit of respect by not coming at us but the result proves we can create chances and punish teams even when they are keeping things tight.
“Credit to the supporters, they got behind us, played their part and have got a tie that five years ago, the club would have never thought possible.
“Their backing made a massive difference. It was a banana skin for us and I thought we should have killed off the game in the first half but we got through it in the end.”