JACK Cork accepts his time is up at Chelsea.
And he can think of no better place to further his career than Turf Moor.
The England Under 21 international midfielder has spent the last season and a half on loan with Burnley, and made a huge impression.
So much so, one fan at Sunday’s Player of the Year awards, asked for his autograph before revealing he had tied Cork to a contract! “A fan got me to sign for £5-20 a week! He hid that bit and put a line of dots and I signed it and he said he was going to take it to the chairman!”
On a serious note though, while Cork feels it is the right time to move on from Stamford Bridge and would love to ply his trade in the Premier League, he admits he just wants to play regular football where he is appreciated: “I really like it here and I’ve said that from the day I came here.
“Everyone’s been really friendly to me.
“If anyone was to come in for me, Burnley would be right up there as the club that would most interest me.
“I’m settled already and my girlfriend’s settled here and I do like it as a place.
“It’s near Manchester, it’s a good place and a friendly club and I’ve met a lot of good people here. I have to sit down and decide what I’m going to do in the summer.
“But I just want to play football really. If someone comes in from above and says you’re going to sit on the bench and maybe play here and there, it’s hard because it’s Premier League football, but playing every game is what I want to be doing.
“At Burnley I’ve been doing that and I’ve really enjoyed it, so if I can come back here and help to try to push again for promotion, I’m happy to do that.”
Cork would have no problem taking a step back to take a step forward and improve himself, and he said: “A lot of people have done that. Chris Eagles did that and a few other players.
“Ever since I signed at Chelsea I knew it was going to be frustrating for me to try to break in because there are such big names there, and I have found it hard.
“Playing with the best players week in week out is one of the best things you can do to help develop and I had the best coaching.
“Going out on loan I gained a lot and it was a good expe rience that I wouldn’t have had if I’d stayed there playing reserve team football.”
And after the disappointment of missing out on the play-offs, he would like to return and complete some unfinished business: “I like everyone here, they’ve been good to me and I don’t want to let anyone down.
“I’ve had a good couple of years here and I want to try to help the club push on.
“We’ve got so much flair and ability, it’s a shame that we haven’t achieved what we potentially could have this season.
“It’s a bit of a downer us not achieving anything.
“We’ve had a lot of good performances this season and hopefully we can take that into next year.”
He anticipates it being a tough challenge to achieve the goal of promotion, however: “The teams coming down this year look like they’re going to be strong, as are the teams coming up from League 1.
“Some people have said it’s going to be a bit of a harder league so we’ll have to work even harder.
“That’s one of the things the manager wants to work at - our work-rate and our effort. What he’s instilled into us at the end of this year we want to take into next season.
“In the first half against Cardiff on Saturday we played really well and put in a really good performance. It shows we can play some good football and perform well and maybe next year we can prove a point.”
If the club could secure Cork on a permanent deal, it would go down as one of the best pieces of business Eddie Howe could do - along with keeping Chris McCann at the club.
We got a tantalising glimpse of the pairing in the final four games of the season, and Cork enjoyed finally getting to play alongside the Dubliner: “Chris is a really talented player. The year Burnley went up he was a massive part in that team.
“He’s come back in and showed exactly what we’ve missed.
“To have someone like that who’s a really nice guy and a genuine talented person is only good for the club. He’s a massive influence on everyone.”
Cork returned to Chelsea on Tuesday, but not empty-handed, receiving the Goal of the Season accolade at Sunday’s awards from chief executive Paul Fletcher for his headed winner at Preston.