FC Halifax Town: “It’s only just the beginning” - Cooke determined to make the grade at The Shay
Jamie Cooke says he is determined to prove he is good enough to make the grade at FC Halifax Town.
The 19-year-old joined The Shaymen this summer before being sent out on loan to FC United of Manchester, where he has scored once in six appearances so far this season.
Cooke was at Fleetwood when he was younger before dropping into non-league with Colne when he was released.
“I didn’t get offered a pro there (at Fleetwood),” he said, “and from that I was thinking of my pathway and deciding what route was best for me to take, so I decided to go into men’s football and signed with Colne under Nathan Rooney, who was my old Fleetwood under 18’s manager.
“He helped me push on and gave me the freedom to enjoy my football. That season was only 12 games or so but it was really enjoyable, I did quite well, gained a bit of interest, and luckily Halifax got in touch.
“I went over for pre-season and they liked me and offered me a contract.”
Cooke was 18 when he dropped into non-league, which he admits was a bit of a culture shock.
“It was completely different, not training full-time, playing men’s football, you’re playing for three points,” he said.
“In academy football it’s nothing like that, it’s not as competitive as men’s football, whereas you’ve got the fans there watching you, it’s completely different to academy football.
“I feel like that was the best decision I’ve ever made, to go into men’s football, because it really gives you that competitiveness back into you and a bit more hunger in games.
“The most important thing for me was playing football and enjoying my football, playing matches was the most important thing because I wouldn’t get spotted if I wasn’t playing.
“Nathan’s always looked after me and wanted me to do well. He’s always wanted me to keep pushing on and go as high as I can in the leagues, and I really appreciate all the help he’s given.”
The attacking midfielder says Halifax were determined in their pursuit of him.
“There was only Halifax who really kept at it,” he said.
“I had a few coming and going to watch games, but Halifax really stuck to it.
“It was at the end of the season at Colne that they told me they were interested, and they kept asking how I was doing, all through the off-season when we weren’t playing.
“Then they asked me to go into pre-season. They kept their interest, which I’m really appreciative about, because there were a few teams who kind of fizzled out.
“But they really showed an interest.
“They liked me as a player and a person, so it was great, I was really happy with how they did things.
“They’re great people and I’m really happy to be in that environment.
“Obviously it didn’t work out at Fleetwood and I wouldn’t change my pathway in any way, because I’m here now with Halifax.
“It is my first professional contract, and it is massive, but it’s only just the beginning. I’ve got to keep pushing and showing what I can do, proving myself to stay in the professional game.”
Cooke says he expects to be out on loan both halves of this season, with his time at FC United due to end in January, and hopes to be pushing for a first-team spot at Halifax next term.
“I feel like I could prove myself now, but with the lads we’ve got there like Warby (Matt Warburton) and Harvey Gilmour it’s tough because they’re great players and great lads,” he said.
“So I feel like the loan move is to build my experience because I’m only 19 and I’ve not played much in the men’s game, so it’s another opportunity to prove myself and show people I can play at those levels.
“I’m still training with Halifax on the days I’m not in with FC, and they’re constantly asking how it’s going, how I feel I’m doing,
“They’re getting the information through from the games of how I’ve played, the reports on me, things I need to work on, things I’ve done well, they’re getting my GPS stats to see how far I’ve been running, so they’re keeping really close contact with me, which is amazing.”
And when the time comes for him to make his professional debut with The Shaymen?
“It’ll be massive, for me and my family,” he said.
“I’ve worked extremely hard to try and get into that position, get into that first-team situation, so that moment would be absolutely amazing.”
Cooke says Town boss Pete Wild has told him that Halifax could end up being a stepping stone to bigger things for him.
“Pete said that before I signed, that he was massive on ‘this won’t be the be all and end all for you’, he’s massive on wanting to help his players through their road in football,” he said.
“Some managers wouldn’t do that or say things like that to you, and I think it’s great that he loves helping players and moves players on, because it makes his job easier and they do a great job at it because of the amount of players they’ve moved on.”
When asked what Town fans can expect from him when he does pull on the Halifax shirt, Cooke said: “I’d say exciting, going forward, driving with the ball, getting shots off, powerful and forward-thinking.
“Off the ball I work just as hard and want to win the ball back, hunger, desire, relentlessness.”
And on where he feels he can improve as a player, he said: “I want to improve on my speed and my physical game, a bit of agility and quickness over the first few yards.
“And decision-making in the final third, making sure I’m making those right decisions.”