Tucked away inside a safe at his parents’ family home sits Lewis Cook’s World Cup winner’s medal and his most treasured possession.
During England’s summer of glory last year, the Bournemouth midfielder became the first Englishman since Bobby Moore to lift a World Cup.
It was the Under 20 title rather than the Jules Rimet, but it is still his nation’s most significant international silverware since 1966.
Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook sat down with Sportsmail for an exclusive interview
Cook says he is at Bournemouth to learn because that is the only way he will improve
The 21-year-old is impressive on the ball and doesn’t shy away from showing what he can do
Cook was captain of a side that defeated teams such as Argentina, Mexico and Italy before eventually beating Venezuela in the final. He allows himself a moment of warm reflection.
‘My parents live in Yorkshire and they keep the medal in a safe,’ says the 21-year-old midfielder. ‘It is not on display. I don’t think it will sink in for a few years and maybe not until I’ve stopped playing.
‘It was an amazing day. We watched pre-match videos at the hotel from Gareth Southgate and Steven Gerrard. Then I gave the pre-match talk on the pitch in the huddle.
England won the Under-20 World Cup after beating Venezuela in last year’s final
‘My message was simple, “Play our own game, the biggest game of our lives, fight for England but, above all, enjoy yourself”.
‘To win it . . . it is crazy to be mentioned in the same sentence as Bobby Moore. It means I have achieved something significant. It is hard to put into words what it feels like to lift a trophy for England.
‘My family — parents, grandparents, my girlfriend . . . unfortunately not my dog — came out to South Korea. But really, it just makes me hungry for more. I always aim as high as possible, but I am nowhere near that yet. I need to keep improving.’
At Bournemouth this season, Cook has certainly improved. He moved to the south coast in a £6million deal (rising to £10m) from boyhood club Leeds United in the summer of 2016.
Cook has started games for Bournemouth this season as he has continued his development
He admits how he has had to learn to manage his time and even start cooking for himself
Yet Cook made only six Premier League appearances in his first season. He admits he needed to learn how to manage his time and cook for himself after moving down alone as a 19-year-old.
Cook is good at adapting. He says: ‘As a kid, I often played above my age group. I was 14 playing for the Under 18s at Leeds and 15 playing men’s football in the reserve team.
‘I remember there were two buses setting off at the same time — one to play Liverpool for the Under 18s and another to play TNS for the reserves. I walked on to the Liverpool bus and the coach, Neil Redfearn, told me to go and play for the reserves. It was a good introduction to men’s football.
‘I then went and played away at Bridlington, a non-League Yorkshire team. It was just big men trying to snap me! It was good experience.
Cook is good at adapting and has developed accordingly as he has grown older
He remembers time when he would come up against bigger players who tried to snap him
‘I had over 80 appearances under my belt in the Championship at Leeds as a teenager before signing for Bournemouth and it helps. We experience the other side of football. Not all pitches are perfect, sometimes it is rough and tumble.’
This season, Cook’s influence has grown in central midfield and he has been integral to Bournemouth’s recent revival, including a 2-1 home win over Arsenal and the 3-0 victory at Chelsea. He has settled into a dynamic midfield position and his progress has already been noted by Gareth Southgate, who called up Cook to the senior squad for the friendly against Brazil in November.
‘Last year was a big learning curve. If I wasn’t learning, I’d have been frustrated. At Leeds, I didn’t have a set position, I was attacking or sitting. Now I am getting the basics right, too.
‘I study videos of people like Paul Scholes — his range of passing and timing in the box — and then the leadership of Steven Gerrard.
‘I am also a midfielder who wants to run with the ball, carry it with purpose. Luka Modric and Isco are the best at that and they’re who I’m really watching now.
Cook is the first Englishman to lift a World Cup trophy since Bobby Moore in 1966
‘I feel I can really compete. Arsenal and Chelsea were two massive games and we won both. Nights like that are what we live for and you don’t forget them. It’s what football is about.’
Cook’s opportunities are starting to be mirrored by his Under 20 World Cup-winning team-mates. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Jonjoe Kenny have become regulars at Everton, Kieran Dowell and Josh Onomah are excelling on loans at Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa and Ainsley Maitland-Niles is emerging at Arsenal.
Others, such as Dominic Solanke at Liverpool, have found chances harder to come by. Time will tell if England’s Under 17 World Cup winners are given their own breaks.
Cook was on the bench for England’s friendly with Brazil in November last year at Wembley
Cook is keen that a generation of such potential is not wasted: ‘Everyone in our squad was gifted and did really well. They all need a chance. It’s important and I’m sure they will take their chances.’
Bournemouth’s run has carried the club towards the relative safety of mid-table and a five-point cushion above the relegation zone.
After a two-week break, they start their run-in against Newcastle United on Saturday. Now on 31 points, how many wins do they need? He grins: ‘Win every game, then we will be all right.’
Another international break awaits at the end of March. Central midfield options are light for Southgate and he may be tempted to hand a younger man a wildcard. So is Cook dreaming of another World Cup?
‘It’s hard to think as I have only just been thrown in. It would be a massive achievement, once-in-a-lifetime, but I am hungry for these chances.’