IN THE SPOTLIGHT . . . with Jack Cork

13th December 2016
In The Spotlight

Jack Cork still chuckles about the footage of son Arlo, who has just turned three, trying his hand at playing in goal.

The video, posted on social media in the summer, shows dad rolling the gentlest of shots towards the yard-wide goalmouth which Arlo is guarding.
Cork junior does not move as the ball trickles past him and into the net.
A second or two later, he dives spectacularly in the opposite direction.
"He is okay at football," Cork says through a smile.
"He is a bit clumsy though - he falls over a lot. And he is a terrible goalkeeper!"
No doubt Arlo will improve given time.
After all, football runs in the family.
Arlo's grandfather Alan was one of Wimbledon's great players - he turned out for the Dons in all four divisions and won the FA Cup with the Crazy Gang - and also had stints playing for the likes of Sheffield United and Fulham.
When his days as a striker came to an end, Alan turned to coaching.
He began life in the dugout at Fulham, where he was coach under Micky Adams, and in 1997, the duo moved to Swansea.
Famously, Adams's Vetch Field reign lasted only a fortnight, but his assistant stayed on to manage the Swans for the majority of 1997-98.
His team laboured at the bottom end of Division Three, but Alan impressed with his endeavour as well as his eye for a player.
He was replaced in the summer of 1998 by John Hollins, with the Swans board of the time seeking a manager with more experience, but not before he had signed Nick Cusack, Matthew Bound, Jason Smith, Julian Alsop and Martin Thomas, players who would have a big hand in the club's promotion from the bottom tier in 1999-2000.
"Dad enjoyed it when he was here," says Jack, who did not live in Swansea as a kid but would visit his father.
"It didn't work out in the end, but he speaks well of the club and the area. He is pleased to come back here now and see the places where he used to spend time.
"He will stay for a few days. He will spend some time with the grandkids and he likes to see the beaches. Then of course he will watch the game. It feels like a little holiday for him I think."
After Swansea, Cork managed Cardiff City - he was in charge when they chalked up a famous FA Cup win over Leeds United - and then Leicester, where he worked once again under Adams.
There were further stints at Bolton Wanderers and then back at Sheffield United before Cork took his current role, working as a scout for the Football Association.
He keeps a keen eye on Jack's progress, of course, and is useful for a chat after Swans games.
"If you play well, dad will tell you it's not good enough," his son says.
"But if you play badly, he will take the sting out of it for you.
"He is always honest with me. That helps, getting honest views on the game."
No doubt dad approves of Cork's move to his old stamping ground.
Importantly, the midfielder's young family are enjoying life in South West Wales.   
"We have settled really well and we are happy here," Cork says.
"The kids have started nursery and school. It is nice to see them growing up and making friends here.
"It was my little boy's third birthday party the other day. A few of the other players came along with their kids. It was nice to see them all together."
On the pitch, meantime, Cork takes satisfaction from the way things have gone since he arrived for a bargain fee from Southampton in January 2015.
He had become frustrated with life at St Mary's because he did not get regular football often enough.
Saints would have been happy to keep hold of Cork, but he wanted to move because he was keen to play more games.
Since Garry Monk brought him to SA1, he has done exactly that.
"That was one of the main reasons why I signed for Swansea," Cork says. "I wanted to play more regularly and thankfully that's happened.
"I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given here and I have enjoyed every minute of being part of this squad."
At times Cork has had to sit on the bench - he has been left out of the starting side at times during Bob Bradley's reign - but for the most part, he has been a go-to man since he came to Swansea.
And he is exactly the type of solid professional any manager would want his squad.
The fact that Cork was happy to drop down and play for the Swans' development squad last month just to maintain match sharpness tells you that.
So too does his view on being omitted for Bradley's starting side.
"That happens in football," Cork says. "We have a squad, we have got good players here. Sometimes you need to rotate and get some fresh legs in.
"When that happens I will always work hard to get back into the team. Hopefully I can stay there by helping the team get results."
Cork's attitude goes some way towards explaining why he has captained the Swans when Leon Britton has not been around this season.
Another factor is that he is a dependable performer who can be relied upon to put in a shift each week, even when the going is tough for his team.
"It's been really good to captain the team, I have really enjoyed doing it," Cork says.
"Britts is the captain of the club, but when he is not there it is always good to get the job. I like taking on the role - I enjoy having the responsibility.
"I have not captained teams much since I was young, playing in youth teams and reserve teams, but I do enjoy it and it's a great honour for me.
"It is nice to be asked to be captain because it suggests people trust you to do a job. Hopefully I can do that whenever I am called upon.
"I always give my best on the pitch and work hard, and hopefully people can see that."
Bradley recognises Cork's commitment to the cause, hence he singled out the former Chelsea youngster for praise after that dramatic win over Crystal Palace last month.
Cork's freakish own goal drew the scores level at 3-3, but he did not crumble. Even after Christian Benteke put Palace in front, in fact, Cork's head remained up.
And come the final whistle, his own goal was forgotten.
"I tried to stop a cross by getting something on it, but the ball flicked off my head and ended up being a 30-yard header in the top corner!" Cork says with a grin.
"I wasn't laughing at the time - it was a horrible feeling - but luckily we can laugh about it now.
"I have played in a couple of 4-3s before and had plenty of last-minute goals, but never before have I played in a game where there was a goal every five minutes from 70-odd minutes onwards.
"It was crazy. It swung one way, then the other, then the other, then the other.
"I am just glad that we were able to pull together when they went 4-3 up and come back again.
"The relief after the game was massive. It would have been a really big blow if we had ended up losing."
If this season is to become more enjoyable, Cork stresses, then the Palace victory - and the Sunderland win which followed - must just be the start of happier times at home.
The Eagles success was the Swans' first Liberty victory of 2016-17, yet it was the seventh home league game of this campaign.
It must be said that there were some tough fixtures in the Swans' backyard in the early months of the season - Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United all visited by the start of November.
Palace was the start of a run of home matches where more was required for Bradley's side.
They won that game, just, and then delivered against Sunderland.
"I felt the home win had been coming before Palace and I think we have been unfortunate in some games this season," Cork suggests.
"But it was nice to get that first win out of the way and hopefully that can set us up for the games coming up.
"This is a big month for us. We are playing against teams who are around us in the table or are in the bottom half, both at home and away.
"They are going to be six-point games and it's down to us to make sure we get something from them. These are games which give us a chance to push up the table.
"It is important that we take that chance."