RETURNING star Lewis Cook revealed how agreeing a new contract at Cherries gave him “peace of mind” while he battled his latest injury nightmare.

The former Leeds United star made his return from a second serious knee injury for Cherries’ under-21s, in the Premier League Cup on Wednesday.

Cook played 45 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Arsenal – his first competitive appearance since sustaining the injury during a Championship clash at Preston in March.

The England international signed a fresh three-year contract with the Dorset club last month, keeping him at Vitality Stadium until at least the summer of 2024.

Speaking about the new deal following his injury return, the York-born ace told the Daily Echo: “Being injured and the club showing faith in me – I appreciate that. It’s just peace of mind, really.

“I could just crack on with my rehab and getting back to playing games. It was good.

“I feel like I have got a lot to give still. I feel like I can still improve the team – they are doing really well at the moment, that’s the main thing.

“It’s a nice feeling and I am just looking forward to getting going.”

Having got through a half in front of the watchful eye of boss Scott Parker and his staff from the stands on Wednesday, Cook admitted he was keen to up his minutes on the pitch.

He added: “It’s a bit of a different one to when I first came back last time from my first knee injury. This time it’s felt just more of a stepping stone, I’ve not put too much pressure on myself.

“It was just 45 minutes of getting out on the pitch, enjoying myself and feeling good. My knee felt fine and I think that’s the main thing really.

“It was always the plan (to play 45 minutes). I wanted to play longer but they tried to hold me back – it’s probably the right decision, playing 45. I really enjoyed it.

“I think you’ve got to be wary with these. I want to play as soon as possible but I think I’ve just got to up my minutes.

“I did 45 on Wednesday, then maybe 60, then up to 90 and hopefully I can be in contention to be in the team.

“The first time I had doubt in my mind but I felt like when I got back, I got back to playing to my best just before I did it again.

“I know I can get there and it’s a process – you’ve got to trust it. I fully back it, so it’s just positive energy and I’m just delighted to be back there.

“It’s a long old road but I am just glad to be getting to the end finish line now, that’s the main thing.”

Cook has played 120 games for Cherries since arriving from Leeds five years ago.

He suffered his first ACL rupture in a Premier League clash with Huddersfield Town at Vitality Stadium in December 2018.

The midfielder added: “The whole feeling of this injury time has been a little bit easier. I’m not saying it’s been easy at all, it’s been very, very difficult, especially in the early days.

“But I kind of knew what was happening, the pains I was feeling and the end goal - I was always going to reach it.

“This is part of reaching that end goal and I am just delighted to be back out there and being back on a football pitch – you can’t beat it really.”