Cork: I'm learning from the best
4th April 2015
In modern day football, the defensive midfielder has become an important position in most teams. The Spanish have them, the Italians have them and so do the Dutch and the Germans.
Think about English football, and how many can you name? There aren't many that spring to mind.
There is a dearth of deep-lying midfielders in British football; players that keep play ticking over, provide cover for the defence, as well as balance and stability for the team.
But despite the lack of them, Swansea new boy Jack Cork feels he's learning from one of the best the Premier League has seen in recent years.
"I've learned things from Leon (Britton) even before I came here - I've played against him and I've watched him play," Cork tells Jack Magazine in an exclusive interview at Swansea's Fairwood Training Ground.
"He plays the position really well. Leon has great awareness, a really good first touch and he rarely ever gives the ball away.
"In my opinion, he's been one of the best in the league in his position over the past few years. To be working with someone like him is brilliant."
Since Cork's move from Southampton in January, the 25-year-old has performed his role at the base of Swansea's midfield pretty well himself.
Having started all seven Premier League matches for the Swans since putting pen-to-paper on a three-and-a-half-year deal, the midfielder has made an impressive start to life in SA1.
Consistently breaking up opposition attacks before helping to launch assaults of Swansea's own, Cork has also helped provide protection for Garry Monk's side, who have now kept 11 clean sheets in the top flight this season.
Most notably, his impeccable handling of Manchester United's big Belgian Marouane Fellaini in the Swans' historic 2-1 victory over the Red Devils at the Liberty Stadium was arguably his finest performance to date.
For Cork, there has been no such thing as a "bedding in" period. Transferring clubs in the winter window can prove difficult for some players, but the Chelsea youth product has made it appear seamless.
"Whenever you go somewhere new it's always a bit of a challenge, but everyone has been really good with me," admits Cork. "Hopefully people think I've done well in my first few games.
"It can be hard moving in January because people want to see instant results, and you haven't got a pre-season to prepare yourself.
"Fortunately, it hasn't been too bad for me. The club is similar to Southampton, and the quality of the lads has helped me a lot too.
"It's nice to receive praise from fans on Twitter, but I try not to read too much into it. It's important to just keep working hard and keep showing what I can do to the fans."
Having began his career at Chelsea, where he captained the Blues' youth and reserve sides, Cork gained first-team experience out on loan at Bournemouth, Scunthorpe United, Watford, Coventry City, Burnley and Southampton, before joining the Saints on a permanent basis in 2011.
During his three-year stay at St. Mary's, Cork has enjoyed continued success - much like what has been witnessed at Swansea in recent years.
The 25-year-old helped Southampton achieve promotion to the Premier League, survive their first season back in the top flight, push on to finish eighth in the league last season, before helping them fight for a place in the European qualification positions this campaign.
But despite a successful spell on the southern coast, Cork feels it was the correct decision to seek pastures new.
"It was the right time for me to come here," insists the midfielder, who represented Great Britain at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
"This season was about playing as many games as I can, to come and feel part of a team again.
"Even if I'm not involved every week, I wanted to be more involved than I felt it was starting to get at Southampton.
"It's been great to play regularly again. We have a strong squad here, so there is a lot of competition for places.
"If you're not performing, there is always going to be someone there who can take your place. I've got to keep playing well and training hard to make sure I stay in the team.
"Whenever you get too comfortable, that's when things start to go downhill. That's what has been drilled into me ever since I was a youth player."
Despite moving to South Wales on a permanent basis earlier this year, Cork already had a family link to Swansea, of course.
His father, Alan, managed the Swans in 1997-1998. And although Cork Sr. may have only lasted the one campaign in the Swansea hot seat, he did sign players such as Nick Cusack, Matthew Bound and Julian Alsop, who would help the club win promotion to Division Three a couple of years later.
The younger Cork might have been of tender age at the time of his father's tenure as Swans boss, but he does have memories of the area. In particular, there was one especially snappy moment that springs to mind.
"I remember bits of being here as a boy," reflects Cork. "I was quite young, but I remember my dad was living in Mumbles.
"My brother and I would go and visit him, and we would go down to the beach.
"One of my big memories from being here as a boy was when my brother picked up what he thought was a stone - a big one - and he suddenly started running around screaming. It turns out it was a crab!
"My dad is coming down for the Hull game, and whenever he comes to Swansea, he always says 'watch out for the crabs!'
"It didn't go too well for him here, but we had some nice memories."
Swansea finished 20th in the season of Cork's father's departure. Seventeen years on, and it's an entirely different scenario the Swans find themselves in.
On target for their best-ever Premier League finish, the fairytale story has been well documented, and Cork doesn't foresee it coming to an end anytime soon.
"We've set a target to finish above our record points total in the Premier League, but I think we can definitely look at Europe as a target next season," insists Cork.
"With the strength of the squad we have here and the youth that we have, there's no reason why we can't have a go next season.
"We will look to have a good pre-season and really kick on."
For now, the focus remains on finishing this season on a high. Currently on 43 points following their 1-0 win at Aston Villa last time out, the Swans require just another five to surpass their record total in the Premier League.
And with the help of Swansea's new midfield maestro, another victory today would see Monk's men move a step closer to popping champagne corks come the season's end.