DAVID Brooks says fit-again Steve Cook was a “massive miss” during his two-month absence from the Cherries side.

Cook returned to action as captain for Saturday’s 5-0 success at Brighton, having missed the seven previous matches due to a complicated groin injury, during which time Cherries recorded just one win.

The defender was left in hospital, struggling to walk after an injection to treat the problem got infected, but he made an assured return to the heart of the Cherries defence which kept a clean sheet against the Seagulls.

Brooks told the Daily Echo: “I think Steve Cook has been a massive miss.

“Meps (Chris Mepham) and Nath (Nathan Ake) have been fantastic, but I think Cookie is a natural born leader.

“It was nice to have him back on the grass and even in training throughout the week he’s a great leader and a great voice to have around the dressing room.”

Cherries return to Vitality Stadium on Saturday to take on Fulham (3pm).

The Cottagers’ relegation has already been confirmed, but Brooks is taking nothing for granted.

He said: “I think no matter what your situation is, everyone goes onto the pitch to win the game of football.

“It’s going to be no different this week. We can’t predict it’s going to be an easy game.

“We’re going into it knowing that if we play like we can, then obviously we’ll get the win.”