Howe believes Cook can play himself back into England contention

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has backed midfielder Lewis Cook to recapture top form and put himself in contention for another opportunity with England after his return from injury.

Cook made a welcome return from a serious knee injury with a first appearance since December 2018 in the 3-1 win over Everton.

Before suffering anterior cruciate ligament damage to his right knee, the 22-year-old had been in the picture for the senior squad, having earned a first cap in the friendly against Italy at Wembley.

Howe sees no reason why the midfielder should not set himself the target of again forcing his way into Gareth Southgate’s plans.

“Lewis is a very important player, someone we really like as a player and a person all the way through his rehab. From this injury he was very focused and driven to get back to his very best,” the Bournemouth manager said.

“When you see someone with that mindset, you only want good for them and Sunday was a really nice moment for him. A lot of hard work went into that performance.

“He has come back in really good shape and I was delighted for him.”

Howe told a press conference: “Before injury he was right in amongst it (with the England squad) and was doing very well for us.

“He is a big player for us and also I know very highly rated by England, with what he has achieved with them at the youth age groups, captaining (under-20) World Cup winning team (in 2017).

“He is very highly thought of, so if he gets a good run of form and stays fit, then I think he has got every chance (of an England recall ahead of Euro 2020).”

Bournemouth head to Southampton on Friday night and would move up into the top three with a victory.

Howe wants his players fully focused on delivering the required result against their south-coast neighbours.

“From our perspective we had a great start to the season last year and we want to build that momentum. We need to back the Everton win up against Southampton,” said Howe, who reported no fresh injury concerns.

“The more games we have (against Southampton), the more rivalries will increase.

“We have had some really good battles in the Premier League against Southampton, some successes, some disappointments, but that all adds to make the game what it is.

“We haven’t won a game yet at Southampton in the Premier League and we are desperate to do that as soon as we can.”

Howe added: “If we can build that (rivalry) in a positive way, then I am certainly for it.

“We are aware this game holds extra importance for our supporters, and everybody locally, so that has its own responsibility.

“But I think to say you are more motivated for one game than any another is wrong because for me you need to be at your best levels every week, that is certainly my mindset.”

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