Where are they now? From promotion joy to the death of a club for Cook

If you track the life of Mitch Cook, it can be seen to follow a certain pattern.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 10th February 2016, 2:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th February 2016, 2:35 pm
Where are they now? with Mitch Cook
Where are they now? with Mitch Cook

Some of Cook’s first steps were possibly taken on a football field and more than half a century later, the game is still firmly embedded in his psyche.

Things have now come a full circle, though those 54 years have seen some mountainous highs and heartbreaking lows.

“I work in the school now on the Barrowcliff estate, the estate I grew up on,” he said.

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Mitch Cook and his fellow Scarborough FC players celebrate promotion to the Football League

“I know the kids, I know their parents and I know their grandparents, they haven’t changed.

“When I was a 14-year-old kid on the estate I was fortunate enough to be invited down to training by the legend that is Colin Appleton.

“Nowadays a 14-year-old would go training with Scarborough Athletic under-14s, but I was training with the first team, so it was a case of sink or swim.

“The Bowmans, Steve Gosling and a few others went down and we were just able to do it.

Mitch Cook and his fellow Scarborough FC players celebrate promotion to the Football League

“At the time I was training with players who I only dreamed of playing with. People like Harry Dunn, Harry A Dunn, Jeff Barmby, Johnny Woodall, names that can roll off any Boro fan’s tongue.

“I went from jumping on a bus from Barrowcliff to watch the team, to playing for them.

“Scarborough FC were a successful club at the time. They went down to Wembley four times and we went down to watch each of those games.

“I saw so many players as a fan, but my favourite was Neil Sellars. He had his socks rolled down, his shorts pulled up so he was all legs, but he was unbelievably talented.

“I was lucky enough to play and train with Neil. As a footballer he could do most things, so I learned plenty from him.”

Cook played over 200 games in his first spell at the club, but it was his second spell between 1986 and 1989 that yielded the most success.

He said: “As a player my favourite time has to be the Neil Warnock days.

“I made my debut under manager John Cottam, which was great. But the success that we had under Neil was unbelievable and I’ll be surprised if it is ever repeated.

“I made friends, friends that I still have and ones that I talk to 30 years on.

“The best mate I made in the game is Steve Richards. The good thing now is the fact that you can text and Whatsapp, which helps you to stay in touch.

“From that championship winning team, we meet up once a year, which is brilliant.

“But Steve is Godfather to my children, we talk all the time and that will continue because we are great mates.”

Despite spending over a decade of his career away from the club, playing for teams like Middlesbrough, Blackpool and Hartlepool, Cook was always going to return home.

“I’d like to say I left because I was good. Other people may have an opinion on that, but teams from the upper echelons came in for me,” Cook added.

“Managers from various different clubs came in for me because they thought I was doing well, and during my time I went on to gain a number of promotions.

“I always had that pull to come back though and that pull was Scarborough. That will never change.

“I was given rewards for moving away though. I had 11 years as a full-time pro, played at Wembley twice and played for Sam Allardyce and Brian Little, as well as Neil (Warnock), all of whom went on to manage in the Premier League.

Cook’s main highlights come from a Scarborough career that was marked by the club gaining promotion to the Football League and also the thrilling runs in the League Cup.

He said: “There were so many great games, but the ones you tend to pick out are the ones where you personally did particularly well.

“You have to look at the game against Scunthorpe when I had to play in goal.

“Then there was the Portsmouth and Southampton games in the League Cup. I have a programme at home that said I was the top-scorer in the competition, having scored in every round.

“We had many memorable games. There was that cup run and then there was Sutton away when we won the league and I scored the second that went on to seal promotion.

“I had that luck, or knack, of scoring important goals.

“There was the one at Fratton Park - a last minute penalty against Portsmouth in a two-legged tie.

“Alan Ball, who was their manager and a World Cup winner, said that they’d be coming up to Scarborough and putting us in our place in the return leg.

“We won that game 3-1 in the end and I scored one of my favourite goals.

“Neil Thompson broke down the left, Stewart Mell went in on the keeper and the ball broke to me on the edge of the box.

“I managed to chip it over three players and then another on the goal-line to score.

“It may have been a bit cheeky, but I bowed in front of Alan Ball - it just seemed like the right thing to do.

“When I scored the goal against Sutton I just ran straight to my Mum, who was in the crowd.

“She gave me the opportunity to watch when I was a kid, she ran Minor League sides I played in and she sat in the back of the car for every away trip, so it again seemed like the right thing to do.”

From those highs, the darkness of Scarborough FC’s liquidation in 2006 hit Cook hard.

“I still look now at other clubs, who were in a worse state than us that are still going, I still wonder why Scarborough FC folded,” he said.

“Other clubs who folded at the time, like Halifax, are still playing at their grounds, which again doesn’t seem fair.

“To see it turn out as it did was as devastating as the joy that we felt in the happy times.”

Cook understands the frustration felt by the fans after the club’s demise, but he is baffled by the animosity towards the likes of Malcolm Reynolds and Ian Scobbie, who tried to save Scarborough FC from its death.

He said: “Any of the chairmen that I knew during my time at Scarborough were trying their very best for the football club.

“It makes it hard for me to take when people, who didn’t know what was going on at the time, say different.

“I saw these chairmen put their neck on the line for the club when they didn’t need to. They lost financially and emotionally because of that.

“They put their time and effort in with very little reward and still the club went where the club went. To receive bad press for this is wrong.”

During the final few years of the club, Cook took on a number of roles, from coach and football in the community officer, to working behind the bar.

He was then hurt not to be asked to be involved when Scarborough Athletic came like a phoenix from the flames.

“These were the times when my playing career finished. I wanted to be a coach and I was delighted to be asked to be involved,” Cook said.

“When I was asked not to be involved with coaching by some managers, I was gutted but I understood why.

“My only aim was to try and do the best for Scarborough football. That was what I wanted to do and that is what I will always want.

“I’d been at the club 12 years on a full-time basis when it folded in 2007. Working in the football in the community, on the school of excellence and in the latter years a number of other roles like behind the bar in the clubhouse because it was seen as a way to save money. I was only too willing to do that.

“When the club finished I was as gutted as anyone, but I was also disappointed not to be involved in the future.

“I’ve never asked why I wasn’t invited to be involved and I’ve never been told.

“Scarborough Athletic is the main football club in the town now and if I was asked to be involved, then I’d love to.

“When Scarborough Town was formed it was to push young kids on in the town to give them a chance. Now Scarborough Athletic are doing exactly that.

“Maybe Hugh Bellamy and the Scarborough Town situation was five years ahead of its time.

“I think the potential is there for Scarborough Athletic to continue to push forwards.

“I think it will be difficult to achieve what the old club did, but you’d love to see them at the top level of non-league football.

“I’d be delighted if my grandson could follow the path I followed. That would be a dream for me.”