Belfast Telegraph

Cork keen to cement first-team spot

Jack Cork would like to begin contract negotiations with Southampton, although his main concern right now is establishing himself in Ronald Koeman's starting line-up.

The popular 25-year-old is in his second spell at St Mary's, having spent time on loan at the club in 2008 before joining from Chelsea permanently three years later.

Part of the side promoted to the Barclays Premier League, Cork has continued to impress despite Saints regularly bringing in new players in his position.

However, speculation about the midfielder's future mounted this summer as he entered the final year of his contract, with Crystal Palace strongly linked.

No such move came to fruition and Cork would be open to signing a new deal at St Mary's , although establishing himself as a first-team regular is the main target.

"There has not been anything said, I've not said anything yet," he said. "I would like to see how many games I can play, see if I can do well, and see what happens after that.

"Obviously [leaving at the end of your deal] does cross people's minds, but this is a club I have been at for four years.

"Everyone is settled here and obviously it is nice to feel like you are wanted somewhere, so it would be nice [to talk about a new deal] but we'll see what happens.

"I just want to keep playing. I wasn't sure how the season was going to go from the start and if I can just keep staying in and around the squad, then let's see what happens after that."

Cork made his first start of the season in Saturday's 4-0 defeat of Newcastle, scoring his first league goal for the club in a win kicked off by a Graziano Pelle brace.

The Italian was one of six summer signings in the starting line-up and has started life at St Mary's impressively, with his scoring ratio - four in three matches in all competitions - and attributes leading to comparisons with fans' favourite Rickie Lambert.

"He looks like he should be in a D&G catalogue, doesn't he?" Cork said, with a laugh.

"He is a great lad and I am really happy he is scoring goals because he has worked hard in training and worked hard since he has been here. Hopefully it will pay off for him.

"You can see the same kind of strengths they've got. They're both good at holding it up, both have good feet and are decent in front of goal, have a good record in front of goal.

"You can see the similarities and why people are comparing him to Rickie, but obviously Rickie did well here and it is quite a big thing to try and live up to.

"I think he would prefer just to be doing his own thing and try to make his own name."

Another summer acquisition was Cork's close friend Ryan Bertrand.

The pair came through the Chelsea youth system together, went on loan to Bournemouth at the same time and represented England youth teams, as well as the Great Britain side at London 2012.

Surprisingly, though, Bertrand only called Cork for advice after joining on a season-long loan from Chelsea.

"He just turned up," Cork said. The first thing I saw was a picture on the internet and then he rang me and said 'where should I stay?' I was like 'what are you talking about?'

"It was funny. He is a great lad and he will help the team. He is one of my best friends in football."

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