Cook stands by his Rovers remarks
Paul Cook insists he stands by his comments at the weekend that Wigan Athletic's promotion push had been given added incentive by a desire to get the better of Blackburn.
The Latics boss has made numerous mentions in recent weeks of comments emanating from Ewood Park after Rovers had taken over leadership of League One due to Wigan’s FA Cup run.
His latest outburst came in the immediate aftermath of Wigan securing promotion at Fleetwood on Saturday.
And while going out of his way to be hugely complimentary of Rovers, a team he clearly admires, he stands by his remarks 100 per cent.
“I made some comments at the weekend about Blackburn, and I wasn’t being negative to them in any way, shape or form,” Cook explained.
“I really wasn’t, because they’ve had an absolutely outstanding season.
“They’ve had something like one defeat since last October, so that shows you how powerful and good they are as a team.
“But it also shows you how powerful and good we’ve been as a team.
“It was something that gave me a little bit of a hump... when everyone seemed to be commenting on us.
“We don’t comment on them in terms of what they’re doing – we respect them.
“From my point of view, when we’re in the middle of a cup run, it would have been nice for people to say: ‘Wigan are doing well in the FA Cup, rather than ‘the games will catch up with them’.
“The games haven’t caught up with us to date.”
Cook also readily admitted the ‘war of words’ had been used as a motivating factor in Latics regaining control at the top by winning their games in hand.
“It does drive me on that sort of thing, yeah, yeah, yeah,” he recognised.
“Don’t forget, we were top of the league, and the only reason we suddenly weren’t top of the league was because of our involvement in the FA Cup.
“Blackburn were getting a lot of kudos out of that – and that was valid.
“I’ve got so much respect for Blackburn, and this can’t be taken the wrong way.
“They’re an outstanding club with an outstanding team who have had an outstanding year.
“But so have we... and I think maybe they should have showed us a little bit more respect.
“Listen, that’s all part of football, and I’m not trying to build up a rivalry that’s not there.
“People will tell you that if I lose, I’m okay... and that’s the truth.
“But at the same time I will fight fiercely to win!”
Meanwhile, if Cook looks distracted at the Memorial Stadium tonight, it’s probably for good reason.
Because almost 200 miles away from Bristol Rovers’ home ground, his beloved Liverpool will be taking on Roma at Anfield in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final.
But where would he rather be come 7.45pm?
“I like Darrell Clarke (Bristol Rovers manager) a lot, but I can’t tell him I like him as much as that because I don’t!” Cook laughed.
“I like Liverpool more than Darrell Clarke. So I’d be lying!
“But I’m sure we’ll know the score right through. So if you see a mood swing during the game, it might be that.
“On a serious note, we’re delighted to be at Bristol Rovers, it’s another big game for us, and we can’t wait to get going.”
Key to Liverpool’s hopes tonight will be Egyptian king Mo Salah – a team-mate at international level of Sam Morsy – who picked up the PFA Player of the Year award on Sunday night.
“He’s had an unbelievable season,” enthused Cook. “For us, particularly myself and Anthony Barry (first-team coach), who’s a massive Liverpool fan, to see Liverpool doing what they’re doing, with the Champions League, and us being promoted, it’s like watching two teams unravel in front of you.
“I can guarantee to Wigan fans that we are focused on Wigan a little bit more than Liverpool.
“But Liverpool are doing great and we wish them so much success in the next couple of weeks.”
And as Cook prepares to put together his wishlist for summer recruitment, would the name of Salah be featuring?
“You never know!” the Latics boss smiled. “Our chairman was in quite good form on Saturday night, so I don’t know about that.”