When Noberto Solano, the former Newcastle winger contacted Mark Cook about moving to Peru, he thought it was a joke at first. Solano, recently appointed manager of Peruvian side Universitario who have won the Primera Division 25 times, reached out to the one time Newcastle youngster in an effort to solve his goalkeeper problems. The former Peruvian internationalist remembered Cook as a youngster in the youth team at Newcastle when Solano was there as a player in 2007 and watched him develop, later playing with him again at Hartlepool United as Solano wrapped up his career. Cook, now 23, left Hartlepool to join Blue Square Bet North League team, Harrogate Town in 2010 and it looked like his career was on a downward spiral until Solano came to the rescue.
Offering him a chance to move to Peru to play for giants Universitario as one of only three foreign players permitted in the team, Cook knew it was too good to turn down so accepted. Moving with his wife to the capital Lima, Cook took to the city straight away becoming an icon to the fans which has resulted in him being swamped by them, lining up for autographs or photos with him wherever he goes. Cook has adapted well to the team and his new surroundings but is struggling with the language and is rarely seen without his spanish phrase book in his hand. But Solano has taken the youngster under his wing, and frequently treated Cook and his wife to dinner both out at restaurants and at his home. He understands how difficult it is to come to a new country with a new language as he was in the same position when he switched from Boca Juniors in Argentina to the frozen north of England with Newcastle in 1998.
However Solano believes Cook will adapt over time and is pleased for his new signing:
“He is still only a young lad in goalkeeping terms. He was unable to get his chance at Hartlepool and was at Newcastle beneath some great keepers like Shay Given and Steve Harper. It is a really good opportunity for him in Peru.”
Regardless of how this adventure turns out for Mark Cook, he will still go down in the record books as being the first English player to grace the Peruvian league which is something he can hold onto for the rest of his career. And who knows, if all works out well for Cook, it could lead to a return to the English Premiership with one of the top sides or even an England call up. But for Cook, he is focusing on only one thing at the moment – proving to Solano that he was right for giving him his big chance and that he can be a success in Peru.