Jack Cork is relishing the opportunity to play against the club he grew up with in the FA Cup.
Cork spent over a decade of his formative years within the Blues set up, and although he never made a competitive first team appearance with the club, he holds fond memories of his former parent side whom he departed six times on loan from in five seasons of trying to establish himself at Stamford Bridge.
“I’m just looking forward to playing against them really as I never got the opportunity to play with them whilst I was there,” he told Saints Player ahead of Saturday’s third round tie at St Mary’s.
“I’d love to play,” states Jack, who has been an ever-present since returning to the Saints side from injury back in November.
“It’s a shame it’s not at Stamford Bridge, but certainly over the last four-five years I’ve looked at the draw and said please, please, but more often than not I would have been cup-tied anyway. I’d love to be involved this time around, and hopefully the gaffer will pick me.”
Chelsea’s loss was very much Saints’ gain when Cork made the permanent switch away from West London in 2011 but the midfielder bears no grudges over his departure from the Blues.
“Everyone moves onto different things at some stage,” he reflects. “I loved being there, but I never really got an opportunity, though if it wasn’t for all the changes I probably wouldn’t have ended up going on loan to the clubs that I did for the experience I got.
“Although it was frustrating for me at the time it was a great opportunity to train with such great players and good coaches. I guess I still have a point to prove as I never got an opportunity, but at the same time I wouldn’t have got a loan spell and had the chance to learn other things.
“I was only really involved (at Chelsea) when pre-season came around, but one of the main things that sticks in my head was Didier Drogba pulling me aside and giving me advice of how to play against him and bigger players, so just having people around like that who have done so much in the game was great and has been invaluable to me.
“(José) Mourinho was manager with Brendan Rodgers coaching there too so to have them as well as John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole etc. just to get advice off every now and again was great. They’re players you can look up to as great professionals so it was good to be in and around them.”
With Rafael Benitez making the FA Cup one of his priorities as interim Chelsea boss, Jack knows his former club will be keen to defend their trophy, which the midfielder believes adds more pressure on to the Blues.
“I think they’ll be out to prove a point,” Cork says. “Some people are convinced they played a weakened side against QPR, but whichever side they put out it’s never going to be a weak team so hopefully we could take advantage if they’re on the start of a bad run.
“We could look at it either way, but there’s not much pressure on us really. A cup run would be great and it could help our league form, but the league is our main priority at the minute, and that will be our main focus.
“It’ll be a good game and we’ll give it our all.”