TOP goal-scorer Andy Cook is one of the main men Paul Cox wants to keep at Barrow AFC next season.

The Holker Street hot-shot took his tally for the season to 20 on Saturday – 19 in the National League – when he netted the winner in a 1-0 victory at Aldershot.

It took his record to three goals in Barrow’s last five games as the team have stretched their unbeaten run to eight games and climbed to within touching distance of the top half of the table.

Cook has the chance to improve on that record still further as Barrow host play-off contenders Braintree Town tonight, with Cox full of praise for the former Grimsby Town striker, whose two-year deal expires at the end of this season.

“He’s been excellent,” said Cox of a player who is joint-seventh in the National League scoring charts – alongside one-time Barrow target Matt Rhead, of Lincoln City. “When I came in, I had a few chats with him. I wouldn’t say he was disillusioned, but he wasn’t playing with a smile on his face.

“Between myself, the coaching staff and the players, we’ve got him smiling again. The banter is there again in the dressing room and on the training ground and the kid is a dream to work with, he really is.

“We’ve come up against each other in the past, but this is the first time I have worked with him and it has been excellent. He’s not only a good player, but he’s a really good guy to work with.”

Cox is currently assessing which of the Barrow squad he wants to retain for next season, with a number of players fighting to impress the manager and earn a new deal.

But Cook is one man the Holker Street boss has no qualms about admitting he wants to remain part of the Bluebirds set-up for at least another year, though he realises his striker’s form means there is likely to be interest from elsewhere for the 25-year-old north-easterner.

“He’s absolutely one of the main players to keep on for next year,” said Cox. “Goal-scorers win you football matches.

“We’ve got to remember we are Barrow AFC and we’ve got to be realistic in terms of our wage structure.

“I know a lot of people have said that because we have Paul Casson at the club, there is a lot of money, but he is a very shrewd chairman and I’m going to be very careful with his money.

“As much as we have got Paul Casson, there are a lot of clubs not just with wealthy backers, but with extraordinary fan-bases and great histories and all these clubs are going to be looking for an Andy Cook.

“I’ve spoken to the lad and said we want to keep him and how much we enjoy working with him. Hopefully he is with us next season.”


Padraig Amond (Grimsby) 26

Dan Holman (Cheltenham) 25

Kristian Dennis (Macclesfield) 22

Daniel Wright (Cheltenham) 21

Moses Emmanuel (Bromley) 20

Ross Hannah (Chester) 20

Matt Rhead (Lincoln) 19

Andy Cook (Barrow) 19

Ricky Miller (Dover) 18

Stefan Payne (Dover) 17

James Norwood (Tranmere) 17