A Swan for Europe
Published 10/05/2015 | 10:41
Swansea midfielder Jack Cork finally feels wanted - and now he aims to pay back former club Southampton by taking seventh spot and a place in Europe from them.
Cork swapped the south coast of England for south Wales three months ago in a deal worth around £3million when Southampton were flying high and set for a top seven place at worst.
But Southampton suffered a fourth defeat in six games on Saturday, and Swansea head to Arsenal on Monday night knowing victory at the Emirates Stadium would take them to within one point of the Saints with two games remaining.
Seventh place would be enough for Europa League qualification should Arsenal beat Aston Villa in the FA Cup final on May 30 and, although Swansea manager Garry Monk has expressed reservations about the demands of playing in Europe, Cork has no such concerns.
"I would love to play in Europe," Cork said.
"Some people at the club might have different views after being in the Europa League last season as I know it was a bit stressful with a game on Thursday, flying back and then maybe flying somewhere else with a game on Sunday.
"But I've never played European football and it would be a good challenge.
"I would relish that and if we did do it I think we've got the squad to cope with it."
Swansea's European ambitions still appear slim with the trip to Arsenal, the Barclays Premier League's form team, preceding next weekend's visit from Manchester City and a final day game at Crystal Palace.
But 25-year-old Cork has special reason for hoping Swansea get as close to Southampton as possible after deciding to cut his ties with the Saints in January, even though he had been offered a new contract to stay at St Mary's.
The England Under-21 international made 115 league appearances in three-and-a-half years but he was asked to play further forward by Saints manager Ronald Koeman this season with Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama filling the holding midfield positions.
He has settled in superbly at Swansea and played every game in his preferred defensive midfield role since joining the club.
"Some people said it would be a step backwards but it wasn't really about that for me," Cork said.
"It was about someone wanting me a bit more as it felt I wasn't really valued at Southampton.
"It was the right time to move and it was a great chance for me to come to a club that plays good football.
"We have done well and I've played all the games since I've been here, so it does feel that I'm valued a bit more."
Cork has painful memories of his last appearance at Arsenal, when an ankle injury sustained there in December playing for Southampton put him out of action for six weeks and virtually brought the curtain down on his time at St Mary's.
"That was annoying as I was sort of getting back into the team," Cork said.
"I got back fit and was involved in a couple of games but that coincided with the time my contract needed sorting.
"I had been speaking to the manager (Koeman) and he couldn't guarantee certain things, we got a bit stuck and then the Swansea opportunity came.
"We've had some good results against big teams, including getting the double against Manchester United, and Arsenal is another big game for us.
"We don't want to finish on a sour note in the last three games and it would be lovely if we could just nip in there and get seventh."