RESOLUTE Steve Cook revealed how he had played through the pain barrier for Cherries – despite being told his season was over.

The experienced centre-back featured in the final five games of the season after spending six nights in hospital on a drip due to an abscess on his groin.

On his return to the starting XI, he donned the captain’s armband and helped Eddie Howe’s side secure an emphatic 5-0 victory against former club Brighton.

The 28-year-old then played every minute of the past four matches as Cherries secured a 14th-placed finish.

Discussing the end to the season on a personal level, Cook told the Daily Echo: “I have been playing with pain for the past five games.

“I did get told my season was over, so to have squeezed those games in was nice but it has been through a lot of painkillers and a lot of managing myself.

“I need to regroup, strengthen, stay fit, enjoy some time off and be ready for next season.”

The Hastings-born star featured in every top-flight fixture in 2018-19 until he was sidelined for seven matches in February, March and April.

However, with injuries continuing to pile up, he slotted straight into the heart of the defence for the win at the Amex.

Asked how tough it had been to compete without being at full fitness, Cook said: “It is difficult. I don’t really want to be sat on sidelines no matter what, if I am injured or not.

“It was a no brainer really (to play). It was very difficult because I wasn’t moving freely during many games since I was able to come back but credit to the medical staff – they got me through the games.

“Hopefully, I have been able to contribute and now I can get myself back to 100 per cent fit and perform better.”

While Cherries netted a club-record number of goals for a Premier League season in their fourth top-flight campaign, the Dorset club also conceded their highest total since promotion from the Championship in 2014-15.

Assessing the defensive record, Cook said: “It’s embarrassing. We have spoken about it. I don’t know what to say really. It’s pretty atrocious. It is something we have to try to improve on because season after season we are talking about the same thing. The only positive is we are scoring a lot of goals.

“I don’t think it is down to how we play. I think it is individuals switching off, myself and the whole team, we have got to learn to manage games better.

“I don’t know how many times we conceded five goals in the season but maybe we have to bite the bullet and become more solid and just see games through.

“Saying that, we have never done that. We like to fight fire with fire and we have just got to be better at it.”