Collingwood praises influence of Northamptonshire legend Cook

Durham captain Paul Collingwood (right) holds the trophy as Graham Onions kisses it after winning the LV= County Championship Division One at the Emirates Durham ICG, Chester-Le-Street. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday September 19, 2013. See PA story CRICKET Durham. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Durham captain Paul Collingwood (right) holds the trophy as Graham Onions kisses it after winning the LV= County Championship Division One at the Emirates Durham ICG, Chester-Le-Street. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday September 19, 2013. See PA story CRICKET Durham. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
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Durham captain Paul Collingwood saluted head coach Geoff Cook as he celebrated his side’s LV= County Championship title triumph.

The 61-year-old former Northamptonshire captain suffered a heart attack in June but returned to his duties in August and has now seen his side finish top of the pile for the third time in six years.

A comfortable eight-wicket win over Nottinghamshire at Chester-le-Street put the seal on Durham’s third title success, a remarkable achievement having only been granted first-class status 21 years ago.

Cook was their opening batsman and captain back then and succeeded Martyn Moxon as coach in 2007.

Collingwood said: “For him to still be around - thankfully - to have seen this team win three Championships in 21 years is great.

“There’s a lot of good players out there, past and present, who haven’t won a Championship medal so for him to have overseen three of those now is credit to him.

“It’s just great to see him around again now and fighting back fit.”

The modest Cook was desperate not to be the centre of attention, insisting: “It’s all about Durham.”

Asked about his return to the club, he said simply: “After it happened, I was home for a week and I just felt absolutely fine.

“The medical people were definite that there was no damage to my heart and as long as my strength got okay then I could touch base again, and that’s where we are.”

Cook’s health issues added to an already troubled backdrop to the campaign, with financial restrictions limiting the resources available to the north east outfit.

Big-name players including Michael Di Venuto and Ian Blackwell have left the club this year and last and been replaced by a crop of largely homegrown talent.

And Cook, who had a 19-year first-class career for Northamptonshire and six Tests and seven one-day internationals for England, said of the title win: “It’s a delight.

“The first one was very special but it was a very special team full of international cricketers.

“This one was the other end of the scale, they’ve had to rely on discipline and teamwork without having any really outstanding players.

“Sometimes you have to do little bits to manufacture team spirit but this year we’ve found ourselves with the majority of the lads coming through from the academy, so they’ve already got a lot of Durham in their blood.

“You might say (Graham) Onions is the outstanding player, he’s got the (66) wickets and given the conditions he has, he’s exploited them brilliantly.”