THERE is never a good time to pick up an injury as a footballer.

But for Lewis Cook, rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in December last year felt like particularly wretched luck.

Not only was the midfielder enjoying a lengthy run in the Cherries side, making his eighth start in nine Premier League fixtures, but he was also gearing up to captain England under-21s at the European Championship just a few months later.

But all that was kicked to the kerb when Cook’s season was prematurely ended as he was forced to go under the knife and begin an expected nine-month rehabilitation after disaster struck against Huddersfield.

Now almost eight months in, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the 22-year-old having returned to outdoor training, including being involved in some sessions with the main squad during the club’s recent trip to La Manga.

Thinking back to the days immediately after he suffered the injury against the Terriers, Cook told the Daily Echo: “It’s really hard, you can’t really do much.

“There’s not much bend in your knee so you’re hobbling around, just sat on the sofa on the ice machine. But it’s all worth it now looking back where I came from seven months ago to where I am now.

“It’s been a long journey but hopefully it’s coming to the end.”

He added: “I think when you get a serious injury like that it’s really hard to deal with.

“Obviously a few of the lads here have had similar ones. They’ve helped me massively, their experiences and their support.

“It’s been tough. There have been ups and downs, there have been some hard days, but some good days and I’m back on the pitch now, doing what I love so it’s enjoyable.

“I did my ankle in the first season I was here, but that was only 12 weeks (out) so this is my first serious, serious injury.

“But I’m looking to bounce back from it and see how it goes.”

As soon as the diagnosis became clear for Cook, it was apparent he would have to sit out the under-21s summer tournament in Italy and San Marino.

Cook captained the England under-20s to World Cup glory in 2017 and was likely to play a key role for Aidy Boothroyd’s Young Lions.

But the former Leeds man was forced to watch on from afar as England went home after the group stage without winning a match.

“That’s one of the hardest bits with a long-term injury, watching the games,” said Cook.

“Obviously you want the team to do really, really well.

“You’ve got all your support for them, but you’d love to be on the pitch as well playing. So yes, it was hard, but the lads gave it everything I think.

“I went to the camp before they went to the finals, saw them for a few days, which was nice.

“I watched every game. It was unfortunate really. I think sometimes in football you need a bit of luck.

“I know we’ve definitely got the capabilities to win a tournament like that. It just didn’t click in the games.”

During his time away from the pitch, Cook did have cause for celebration after getting engaged to long-time girlfriend Loretta in Italy earlier this year.

“That was a nice moment,” he recalls.

“Obviously you can do things when you’ve got a long-term injury that you wouldn’t be able to do normally, like Christmas at home or you can go away sometimes for a few breaks, which helped massively. So I tried to take advantage of that.

“We haven’t really put a date on it (the wedding) yet, but I don’t think it’ll be too long.”

Before that, Cook’s first date to set is the one on his return to the Cherries first team.

But he admits that also is still to be decided.

“There’s no rush for me,” said Cook.

“I’m going to take my time and come back when I’m 100 per cent instead of coming back when I’m not.

“When I’m back, hopefully I’ll be back for good.

“We’re going to take the full nine months I think and then however long it takes.

“But I feel like I’m in a good place now and I feel good.”