PAUL COOK says it is probably too early to celebrate two promotions in successive seasons but he is aiming high for his new club Southport.
The 38-year-old left his job as first team coach with Accrington Stanley this week to take over the manager's role at the Nationwide Conference side.
Cook, who joined Stanley in June 2003 and retired from playing last season as the Reds returned to the Football League, has made no secret of his desire to move into management and the Reds have always said they wouldn't stand in the midfielder's way.
"It was a great opportunity and it is a privilege to be manager of Southport," said Cook, whose league clubs include Wolves, Burnley, Stockport and Coventry.
"It is something I have always wanted to do. I didn't think it would come so early but you have got to seize the chance when you can. It was something of a surprise when I was offered it as I didn't know who else was in for the job but I am just delighted."
The Haig Avenue outfit did finish 19th last season but Cook is aiming for bigger things - and hopes they can copy Stanley's lead.
"We need a year or two of consolidation and I don't envisage us being at the bottom end of the table. I would like to establish Southport as a Conference side but always be pushing to do better and do the best we can.
"Hopefully we can emulate what has happened at Accrington.
"Everyone at Accrington has been absolutely brillliant with me. I couldn't have got where I am without Eric Whalley, John Coleman and Jimmy Bell. Despite what some fans thought, I never wanted John Coleman's job at Accrington. I wanted to be a manager but John is my friend and I would never have taken his job.
"I have learnt a lot under him. I have watched him deal with contracts and watched how he has dealt with players who are in and out of the team. That as all been so important and relevant experience."
He continued: "I finished my playing career on a high, playing a part in getting Accrington into the Football League and this job has now come at the right time.
"I'm the right age and have so much energy to put into it. Hopefully I can be as good as I want to be.
"I know being a manager will be a bit of a culture shock.I won't just be able to go in and get a cup of tea and relax at training - I have got a lot more responsibility and all I can do is promise to do my best.
"I will spend the next couple of weeks talking to the Southport players and making some decisions and there will be some comings and goings because of our switch to full-time status this summer. Some of the lads won't want to give up their full-time jobs. So it will be a difficult few weeks but hopefully I will come through it and things will get better."
Cook, Southport's first full-time boss since they went out of the league in 1978, admitted he loved his time with Stanley but one match sticks out for him.
"My favourite game was when we beat Bournemouth on penalties in the FA Cup. I was still playing then and it is always special when you are playing.
"It had everything, it was live on Sky, we won on penalties against a league club and it was a great achievement for the club. I think it was the time when Accrington Stanley came back into everyone's minds and probably funded the chance to go full-time the season after.
"We had a magic couple of years, with that cup run and then winning the league. It has been a great time to be an Accrington Stanley supporter and I hope I can make that happen at Southport.
"I want the supporters here to be proud of the team that we build.
"We have to run before we can walk. It's a big job but I have the full backing of the chairman. I'll make a few mistakes but I'll do my best, work hard and give 110 per cent effort."
Cook went for an interview with Southport with glowing references. Former Stanley player Liam Watson, who stood down as manager of the Sandgrounders because of their switch to full-time status, sung Cook's praises. Watson this week became manager of UniBond side Burscough.
And Stanley chairman Eric Whalley said: "Paul will be a good manager. His contacts are second to none and he has the enthusiasm to make a good go of it. It could be a stepping stone to bigger things for him. I couldn't praise him highly enough."
The Stanley chairman said he doesn't expect to replace Cook on the coaching staff.
"I don't know how much John and Jimmy will miss Paul but I think we have enough coaches with John, Jimmy, Andy Dibble and our new youth coach Phil Hackney," he said.