CHERRIES star Steve Cook has revealed how a loan spell at Mansfield Town left him out of pocket.

Cook cut his teeth in non-league during temporary stays with the Stags, Havant & Waterlooville, Eastleigh and Eastbourne Borough when he was on the books at Brighton.

A bargain £175,000 buy, the Hastings-born defender has played a pivotal role in Cherries' rise to the Premier League since signing permanently in January 2012.

In an interview with the Premier League to mark national non-league day, Cook recalled how his time at Mansfield was character-building, challenging and expensive.

The 27-year-old said: "It was a strange period. It was very expensive for me to play because I was travelling to Nottingham two or three times a week. I was losing money, really, because I wasn't on fantastic money at the time.

"But in any walk of life and any job, you have to sacrifice before you make it to the top, so it's no different to many people in the world.

"In football, people think it's all fast cars and great nights out. But when you dig deeper, a lot of players in non-league now are probably doing similar."

Discussing his spell with Eastbourne, Cook said: "At the time, I probably only really enjoyed a few of the spells, especially at Eastbourne Borough. It was close to where I lived and we were winning at the time, so that was nice.

"The other experiences I had were enjoyable, don't get me wrong, but it was more of a learning curve."

Cook was handed his first-team debut at Brighton by Gus Poyet following his spell in the Conference with Mansfield: "The last one at Mansfield, I probably looked at it and wondered where my career was going to go, so that was probably my most recent memory of non-league football.

"But, I look back now and it has done me the world of good. Without them, I probably wouldn't be sitting here because you don't really want to go back because of the travelling I had to do.

"Luckily, I got an opportunity from Poyet and I was more than ready to take it."