THE first part of a two-part interview with Cornish professional footballer Cody Cooke, who recently finished a two-year spell with Scottish Premiership club St Mirren.

In this part, Cody looks back at his time with the Buddies.

Cornish footballer Cody Cooke says he is glad that he “ticked that box” of becoming a professional player.

Cooke, from Penryn, has spent the last two years flying the flag for the county as a full-time pro at Scottish club St Mirren but will be released from the club after furlough ends later this summer.

The former Truro City striker caught the eye of former Scotland and Everton defender Alan Stubbs, who was manager of St Mirren at the time, during his one-week spell at the V9 Academy in June 2018.

The academy was set up by Leicester City and England striker Jamie Vardy, was aimed at giving talented non-league players a platform to showcase their ability, after the 33-year-old Premier League winner own’s famous rise from the non-league game to the top tier.

Stubbs promptly offered Cooke a two-year contract at the Paisley club, with the former Penryn College pupil going on to make 27 appearances and score five goals across his two seasons.

Reflecting on his experience, Cody told the Packet: “A huge experience and learning curve and so many things I can take away from it. I’ve learnt a lot both on the pitch and about myself as a person, loads of different things really and it’s just a huge learning curve and one that I’ll cherish.

While his time at the club produced some incredible highs, a struggle for regular football, not helped by a long-term injury and playing under three different managers, left Cody knowing that his time was coming to an end this summer.

Although disappointed at being released, Cody admits that he knew his stay in Scotland was unlikely to be a long-term thing.

“I was always under the impression I was leaving anyway, so it wasn’t so much of a shock in terms of that,” he said.

“I’ve said previously that it was never a long-term plan in terms of me moving up and living in Scotland.

“It was hopefully going to be a stepping stone to something else or at some point I was always going to want to live a bit closer to home, and obviously the older you get the more you want to be in and around your family.”

'They’ve been brilliant off the pitch'

Cody’s final appearance for the club came on January 26 in a goalless draw at home to Aberdeen before the season was suspended on March 13, with the club putting most playing and non-playing staff on furlough under the Government’s Job Retention Scheme on April 7.

The scheme pays 80 per cent of salaries up to a monthly sum of £2,500, with the club announcing that it would make up any difference – a gesture that Cody felt was typical of how the club operates.

He said: “I’ve said previously that when the furlough stuff came around I would have been more surprised from the club if they had not tried to help out the players that were leaving, having dealt with them for the last couple of years.

“They’ve been brilliant off the pitch, the CEO and the chairman and everyone involved off the pitch are spot on.

“They’ve looked after me countless times with scans and injuries and different things that have happened behind the scenes, so it would have been a real shock and more unexpected if they hadn’t helped the boys out.”

Injuries are 'just one of those things'

The injuries that Cody refers to played a big part in his failure to hold down a place in the St Mirren team for an extended period.

One particularly nasty injury threatened to curtail his whole 2019/20 season when he ruptured knee ligaments in a Scottish League Cup draw with Albion Rovers in July of last year.

And while he managed to return to the side in early December, he had still missed around half of the campaign, but Cody insists that he has been in the game long enough to not let those injuries get him down.

“It’s just one of those things, I’ve experienced it enough now,” he said. “I’m not new to the game and not a kid anymore. I know what comes with day-in, day-out training and everything that goes along with it and it’s just one of those things that you’ve got to take on the chin and get on with it.

“It actually worked out that it wasn’t as bad as first feared and I ended up getting back around Christmas time, so it wasn’t the full season that I thought I was going to be out for.

“You grow from these things and you just move forward with it. There’s nothing you can do about it and I’ll just keep doing that in the future.”

Cody 'really proud' of hat-trick

There were some incredible highs in what was a turbulent two years on Paisley for Cody, with his finest moment coming on the final day of the 2018/19 season, when he scored a hat-trick in a 3-2 win at Dundee.

With St Mirren a goal down at the break, Cooke was summoned from the bench at half-time and went on to score a blistering second-half hat-trick to turn the match on its head and rescue victory for the Saints.

“[The hat-trick] probably is the main highlight,” he says. “To score a hat-trick in the SPL for anyone is a huge achievement and specifically for myself and what I’d gone through last year in terms of my first year up here and then being written off by loads of people.

“I ended up turning a lot of people’s opinions around and worked hard to get into my position and then finished off the season with the hat-trick.

“It was a huge achievement and one that I’m really proud of and one I’ll look back on fondly in years to come, I’m sure.”

Taking on the Old Firm

Cody also got to rub shoulders with some of the greatest names in Scottish and British football, including playing at the home of Celtic – who went on to secure a record-equalling ninth successive league title – and against a Rangers side managed by Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard.

“To play at Celtic Park and to play against Rangers, it was just a dream come true,” Cody said. “[There were] a lot of people who I had looked up to and seen playing for years in this league and then to finally rub shoulders and be involved in some of those nights and games that I was are again memories that I’ll look back on forever.”