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EXCLUSIVE: With ex-Manchester United midfielder Terry Cooke recently caught up with former Manchester United midfielder Terry Cooke. The English-born Cooke is currently back in Denver, where he spent about four years, playing in America's Major League Soccer with the Colorado Rapids as he plans the next step in his career.

More recently though, Cooke spent time in Australia with A-League club North Queensland Fury and is hoping he can return down under to continue playing in the fledgling competition, even if it is elsewhere but Townsville.

"I really enjoyed my time in Australia, I am hoping to return for the upcoming season," Cooke told "I thought that I did well when I played for the Fury and so hopefully teams over there will realize what I am capable of. "There was a great team spirit at the Fury and all the lads were great. I am still in touch with a few of them. The A-League is only a young league and there are some good young players but I think that they need some more experienced players over there that will help the league become stronger as well as helping the young players develop.

"I think that I have a lot to offer. The style of football is very similar to the English game in the respect that it is direct and physical which adds excitement to the game."

Cooke said it was tough to compare the last two leagues he had played in purely because MLS has had more time to grow.

"Previously I had been playing in MLS for the last five years, it's hard to compare the two leagues," he added. "MLS has been going longer and is a bit more established, there are more teams and purpose-built soccer stadiums. I actually enjoyed playing more in the A-League, even though I made a good name for myself playing in America. The style of play in A-League is more appealing to me."

Cooke's career has seen him play with a few of the biggest clubs in England - namely Manchester United and Manchester City - and he has fond memories of growing up in the system.

"I started my playing career at Man United and I feel really blessed to have played for such a great club," Cooke added further. "Learning my trade alongside greats like Bryan Robson, Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Paul Parker, Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel. Growing up playing football with (Ryan) Giggs, (Paul) Scholes, (David) Beckham, the Nevilles (Gary & Phil) just to name a few. I could not have asked for a better experience, it was an important part of my life and helped me develop as a player.

"I had some great times playing at Manchester City. The most memorable being the play-off final where I scored in a penalty shoot out at Wembley. We gained promotion. When I moved to Manchester City I was only the third player in history to move between the two clubs, the others being Dennis Law and Brian Kidd. Now Carlos Tevez is the fourth so I guess you could say I'm in great company!"

Playing in the MLS gave Cooke the chance to go head to head with his old teammate David Beckham who was with the LA Galaxy at the time and he said it was not unusual to come up against told friends wherever you are in the world.

"Football is such a small world, even playing in America I have come across old team mates like Beckham and Jovan Kirovski," he continued. "Whilst I was in Australia it was good to catch up with Danny Tiatto, Andy Todd, Grant Brebner, and Simon Colosimo."

Cooke's time with the Fury enabled him to work with one of the game's biggest names - Robbie Fowler - which he said was a pure pleasure.

"I have played with some great strikers throughout my career, obviously Robbie Fowler is one of the greats and working with him even for a short time and getting to know him a little bit was an absolute pleasure."

But back to the man in question who is keen to continue an extensive playing career which commenced in 1994 and is still going strong - all he needs is to find the right club and to maintain his fitness.

"I realize now more than when I was younger the importance of keeping fit and looking after myself," Cooke said. "This off-season I have been keeping in good shape (by) running, swimming and also I have been coaching kids and also helping out with a university team. I think it's really important to stay in good shape and look after myself with diet and exercise. "Many players are playing for longer now; I think that Ryan Giggs is a great example. For me personally it's important to set a good standard of fitness for myself and maintain it during the off-season. The Fury are lucky to have such a great fitness coach in Alan McCall. I learned lots of stuff from him and he actually thought I was in great shape, in fact when I first turned up he thought I was in my twenties! I am confident I have a few good seasons left in me."

As for what the future holds, Cooke says he is remaining patient and keeping his options open.

"I am in regular contact with my agent Lou Sticca," he says. "It seems this off-season is a bit slow at the moment regarding players moving in the A-League as there is still a long time to go before the season starts. "There may also be possibilities for me to play in China, as it is I have to keep my options open. I have already proved that I am able to transition to a different league and quickly adapt. I want to get back playing as quickly as possible."

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Andrew Slevison
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