Young Lion looks back on England career as he aims for top flight bow.
Following his rise through the international ranks over the last five years or so, Young Lion Jack Cork is now hoping he can go on to prove his worth at the highest level, after joining Premier League club Burnley on loan from Chelsea earlier this week.
First team chances at Stamford Bridge have been understandably limited for the midfielder, but after racking up over 100 games in the Championship with the likes of Scunthorpe United, Southampton, Watford and Coventry City in recent seasons, the 20-year-old believes he is now ready to make the next step up.
“I’ve played for three years in the Championship now with a few different clubs and got some good experience along the way,” he told TheFA.com.
“But this will hopefully be another step for me and I can do well here at Burnley and impress a few people. I think I’ve done well enough to earn an opportunity to try and make an impression in the Premier League.”
Having played for England at U16, U17, U19, U20 and Under-21 level, Cork’s career progression has been impressively steady. In his first loan spell away from Stamford Bridge, he was named as Scunthorpe’s Young Player Of The Year in the 2007-08 season, before going on to impress with Southampton and Watford in the following campaign and then featuring for Coventry City in the first half of this season.
Cork feels those experiences have helped to round him as a player over the last three years and he’s now confident of making an impression in the top flight at Turf Moor.
“It’s obviously been tough for me to break through at Chelsea, but when I’ve been out on loan, things have gone really well,” he explained.
“Hopefully I can help us get some good results over the next few months and we can do well.
“I’ve only been here for three days and the training’s been really good and the lads have all helped me settle in.
“I knew a few of them before I came here, people like Danny Fox and Martin Paterson and it’s easier like that, as the more clubs you’ve been to, the more people you start to know.
“There are some very good players here though, so I know it’s not going to be easy to get into the team and that is my first aim.”
As the son of former Wimbledon and Sheffield United striker Alan Cork, Jack has never been too far from football in his life and after excelling as a schoolboy in his native Surrey, it wasn’t long before he was on the books as a youngster at Chelsea.
His form for the junior and Academy teams there saw him rewarded with a call-up to the England U16 squad in 2004 and he hasn’t been far away from the international scene ever since, which the player himself believes has been instrumental in his development so far.
“Playing for England is a massive privilege, whatever age you are, and I especially remember the U16s and my first call-up,” he said.
“That was really special and really exciting and it’s still the same every year now. with different games and different competitions. It has all really helped me, as a person, and in my progress as a player.”
Over the years, Cork has featured in a variety of games for England against the best young players from Europe and beyond, and it is the learning process gained from those matches which still remains in his thoughts today and can only help him in his future career.
“There is a totally different mentality of football at international level,” he explained.
“A lot of it is competition based and knock-out, so you find there is a different pressure and you have to win games against some very good teams at a young age.
“It is totally different to club football, especially when you’re with the U17s and U19s, At that age, the focus is on development with your club and It’s the same with England too, but when the European Championship qualifiers come around, the pressure to win games is there.
“Playing for England makes it even harder, as everyone always wants to beat us that little bit more but it is a really good experience and I enjoyed it when I was younger.”
Out of all his international experience though, the main highlight for Cork was in 2008 when he captained the U19 squad for the UEFA European U19 Championship Finals in Czech Republic.
After successfully emerging through two qualifying groups in the build-up to the Finals, that campaign remains Cork’s favourite with England, despite just missing out on a place in the semi-final by goal difference.
“I think my best England memory was with the U19s, when we had quite a good season,” he revealed. “We got through all of the qualifying games with some good results and reached the Finals.
“Unfortunately, we never really performed there though and we had some good players that year too, so it was ultimately a disappointment.
“It was also a massive privilege to captain the team in the Finals, as I never expected to be made captain. It was something I really enjoyed doing and was something that I took great pride in.”
Cork has now worked his way into Stuart Pearce’s Under-21 squad and has picked up three caps, all as a substitute, so far but with the prospect of Premier League football at Burnley, he is hoping to better that in the next few months.
“Hopefully, I can start to push on in the Under-21s now,” he said.
“I haven’t started an Under-21 game yet, but if I can do well at Burnley then hopefully it will help me to get in the side.
“There are some very good players there and it won’t be easy to get in, but I hope it will give me a very good chance.”England Under-21s are next in action against Greece at the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster on Wednesday 3 March. For more details on the game, click here, or for details on how to get tickets, click here.