His has been a career that has been forged with Teesside grit, steel and determination, and has been played out across the north-east, as well as further afield, before winding up in Nottingham as the Head Coach of the Forest Women.
Having studied a BSc Hons degree in Sports & Exercise – Sports Studies at Teesside University, graduating a decade ago (there’s certainly both a sports sciences, and degrees connection, running throughout this women’s set-up), Teessider Andrew Cook has certainly brought some extensive experience with him to Nottingham.
There’s been roles at Middlesbrough and Darlington, Durham and Sunderland, to name a few, in his native north-east, as well as having held positions at both Arsenal and Oxford prior to taking on the Head Coach’s at Forest in July 2019.
Cook landing in Nottingham however, well that came in a similar fashion to his arriving in the heart of Oxfordshire, as well as in the nations’ capital.
“After applying (for the Forest job) I went over there and met up with a few people at the club,” began Andy.
“It was all a part of them sounding me out and, although it seemed like it was a long process, it was only a matter of four-to-six weeks but it came around the time of Martin O’Neill being sacked (from the men’s team, after less than six months in charge).”
Cook’s time with the Reds, close to eighteen months now, has found itself being hampered, throughout 2020, by the occurrence of an ongoing, global pandemic.
During what has been not one, but two lockdown’s this year, Cook, a married father of two, young children, has found himself working from home in Redcar, on the north-east coast, seven days a week. A sharp contrast from travelling to-and-from Nottingham for both training sessions, on a Tuesday and Thursday, and match-days; instead, both he and his experienced and trusted coaching team, are making use of the current situation as best they can.
“We still have to keep in touch with both the playing and the coaching staff,” explained Andy.
“It’s a brilliant club to work for and there’s so much that both can, and has to be done.
“What they sold to me (last year, in the interview) has come to fruition, both on, and off the pitch, and, prior to covid happening, we were having some really good success.
“Last and this season really, it’s felt like we’re going from strength-to-strength and we know that this is a marathon, not a sprint and we have the same aspirations moving forward.”
So, how have the Head Coach and his merry band of cohorts been handling the past eight months or so?
“We’ve been kind of making things up as we go along and working out what is, and isn’t, best for us all,” explained Andy.
“I didn’t even know that zoom existed until this year,” he laughed, “but, as a club, we just have to make sure that we are in the best position possible in order to move forward.
“After all, nobody has experienced anything like this before and it’s been great coming up with different ways, amongst us, to keep the morale on top form.”
Now, with an expectant Vitality Women’s FA Cup campaign still to come, this season has begun rather well, leading the FA Women’s National League North at one point. The victories have been good, a few losses that have maybe tough to take, and the draws, exciting – just ask Annabel McKechnie and Rosie Axten (2-2 with Hull City; 25 October).
“Apparently she’s (Axten) never missed a penalty, and she can hit them well,” insists Andy.
“But yes, overall, it’s been a good start to the season even if the last few (matches) have been tough, so it’s kind of nice to have this little break as well.
“We wanted to be in touching distance of the top two, but it’s about where you come at the end of the season that counts – I’m happy where we are though we could have done a little more.
“The derby win over Derby (2-0; 27 September; Charlotte Steggles and Rosie Axten) is always a great result to get, hard-fought battles across the park, and to get that counter-attack goal, that set up the perfect result for us.
“Whereas beating Loughborough (7-0; 11 October; Rosie Axten 2, Georgia Hewitt 2, Hayley James, Charlotte Greengrass, and Katie Middleton) in the way that we did, we know we have that kind of performance in our locker to be able to turn teams over, and it was pleasing to see it all come together.”
As club, coach, and, in all honesty, a united front from playing and coaching staff, the season’s aims are, understandably, promotion, alongside putting together a decent FA Cup run.
“Granted we have to put together different contingency plans for when we (hopefully) return next month,” concluded Andy, “but the aim remains that we finish this season as high as we possibly can.
“We’ll look towards winning the league, if possible, and to gain promotion with it, so we’re working towards, and preparing for, that outcome; it’s a question of if, not when.
“As for the FA Cup, we’re looking at progressing further than last season when we went out early, and then we’ll see what happens from there.”
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @Josh Dixon Andy Cook has done a fantastic job in his time in charge of Forest Women.