LOOK out Jeff Mostyn! Cherries defender Steve Cook has his heart set on swapping his boots for boardroom attire.

At the age of 24 and with Premier League stardom at his feet, the Cherries defender is a few years away from donning a club tie, drinking tea and harking back to his playing days but when the time comes, there will be only one port of call – hometown club Hastings United.

For now, the Pilot Field will have to wait but as soon as the Us were paired with Poole – where Cook currently lives – in an FA Cup third qualifying round tie scheduled for Non League Day (tomorrow, 3pm), a lifelong passion was stirred.

“I was probably eight or nine at the time,” recalled Cook. “Hastings had a good side right on our doorstep so my dad used to take me along and as I got a bit older, I would go with my mates if I didn’t have a game.

“I think you could get in for a couple of quid so it was a good Saturday afternoon out for us. It was easy to get to and kept us out of trouble! I watched them for a long time.

“Years ago, when St Leonards had a team, I remember us watching the derby matches. Their ground, the Firs, was right above ours.

“It is still there but, sadly, derelict now. The club doesn’t exist anymore but those games used to be very good, proper derbies with a couple of thousand people. They were great to watch.

“A couple of years ago, Hastings got to the FA Cup third round and played Middlesbrough away. I went to watch the second-round tie (against Harrogate Town) and it was a sell out, they had about 5,000 there. The run was huge for the club.”

Over the years, Cook’s journey through the youth ranks at Brighton saw him make a number of friendships that would further strengthen his bond.

“There were more a few years ago but a couple of my friends still play there,” he added.

“I grew up with Josh Pelling, the goalkeeper. He’s a close friend and I was also at Brighton with (Hastings centre-half) Ollie Rowe who is a friend too.

“Their manager (Garry Wilson) was in charge of Eastbourne Borough when I was on loan there and I know quite a few people who are still at the club.”

With such connections at every level, does a future in the running of his old haunt beckon for Cook?

“It would always interest me,” he said. “In the past, money from things like FA Cup runs has maybe not been invested back into the team but there is a new owner in charge now which is good for them.

“If anything came about in the future I’d definitely be up for it. I have chatted with my mates about it in the past. Maybe it will happen one day.”

Perhaps it was folly to ask who Cook would be rooting for tomorrow. With a wry smile and a hint of chairman-like diplomacy, he replied: “It would nice for Hastings to progress.

“They have been doing well so far but I know Poole have a good side for their league and will be challenging for promotion to the National South this season.

“I would have thought Poole will be very much favourites to win. The pitch at Hastings is very good, it is massive as well so it should be a good, open game.

“If I am not in training that morning, I might make the trip back to see family and friends and add it in to the weekend. It is down to the gaffer but I hope to get there.”

  • Poole boss Tom Killick expects to have injured pair Lewis Lindsay and Richard Gillespie available for the trip to Sussex.

Steve Devlin is likely to shake off a knock picked up against Paulton Rovers on Tuesday but Jamie Gleeson misses out due to a torn chest muscle.

The winners will be one round from the competition proper and £7,500 better off.

Dolphins: (from) Hutchings, Tallack, Spetch, Walker, Whisken, Pettefer, Burbidge, Devlin, Dickson, Gillespie, Roberts, Brooks, Moore, Connell, Lindsay, T Holmes.