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Friday, April 18, 2008

Lee Cook on His Return to Loftus Road

Charlton Official Site - Cooking up a storm

Saturday will mark on loan Charlton star Lee Cook's first competitive return to boyhood club Queens Park Rangers since his switch to Fulham in the summer - but the wing wizard insists he is only focusing on helping the Addicks take all three points.

Cook spent nearly five years with Rangers before a £2.5m move to Premier League Fulham in the summer and his subsequent loan to SE7 in the January transfer window.

Yet as the Addicks bid to snatch sixth spot in the Championship and earn a place in the end-of-season play-offs, Cook will be putting his affection for Rangers aside this weekend.

He told the official website: "It will be nice to go back there and see people that I know. I'm really looking forward to the day, walking out onto the pitch and playing against the team.

"There's been a lot of changes since I left and everyone knows the financial backing that they've got there now. But I'm a Charlton player now and we'll put a strong side out and try to get the result."

Hammersmith-born Cook arrived at Fulham with a complicated knee injury and then picked up a hip problem in a comeback game for the club's reserves. That left the 25-year-old sidelined until Christmas, prompting his loan switch to The Valley in January.

Cook made his Addicks debut as a second-half substitute against Sheffield Wednesday and then started the next away game - the 5-3 defeat at Blackpool.

The ace then had to be content with cameo roles from the bench for the next few weeks as he battled it out with the likes of Jerome Thomas, Lloyd Sam, Darren Ambrose and - briefly - Scott Sinclair for a place on the left wing.

Cook finally regained his first-team place against Plymouth Argyle at Home Park but lasted just three minutes when he was the man to make way for Rob Elliot after Nicky Weaver was shown a red card for handling outside the box.

"That summed my luck up," said Cook. "As soon as it happened I thought I could be the one who was sacrificed. But the gaffer thankfully stuck with the same team the week after against Southampton and I got a full 90 minutes under my belt.

"I feel even better for the QPR game than how I did for Southampton. I guess I'm still a little bit rusty but come Saturday I'll be ready.

"It has been frustrating not playing regularly. When I first came here I wasn't fully fit and I knew it was going to take a while to get my fitness levels up. I didn't expect to play straight away but it was a case that minutes on the pitch were going to help me.

"So I've had to bide my time and thankfully over the last couple of weeks I've got in the side and hopefully I can play now until the end of the season.

"I've felt sharp for about six or seven weeks now, the gaffer has been pleased with me in training and hopefully I can see out the rest of the season injury free, work through the summer and then next season will be a big one for me."

Cook, who started his career at non-League Aylesbury United, earned the plaudits for his display against Southampton, whipping in some fine crosses from the left wing, despite having as many as three opponents up against him on occasion.

"It was a decent game," Cook stated. "It was disappointing we didn't win it but I thought the performance was ok, especially in the second half when we had three or four good chances.

"I was just happy to be part of the team and I felt I played well. Hopefully we can take the positives from that game into Saturday."

Charlton currently sit four points off the final play-off place and Cook concedes you don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out what the Addicks need to do over the next three games.

"We need to win the last three," he said. "I want to play at Wembley in front of 90,000 people, like the rest of the team, and we aren't giving up yet.

"Wolverhampton Wanderers got beaten in the week so that worked in our favour. They've still got a game in hand but they've got some tough fixtures. Crystal Palace have got some tough games too so we're still positive."

With Fulham's Premier League status hanging by a thread, Cook admits he is unsure as to what the future holds for him.

He added: "I've been following their results and they got an excellent win last week against Reading. I don't really know what will happen for me there though. At the end of the season, I'll assess everything and see where I am. But at the minute I'm at Charlton and I want to get into those play-offs." Charlton

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