Steve Evans said he was confident that Lewis Cook would choose to remain at Elland Road this summer after the Leeds United midfielder turned in a sublime performance in front of the watching Eddie Howe last night.
Howe was in the stands as Cook followed up his Football League young-player-of-the-year award by running the second half of United’s 2-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Bournemouth’s Howe tried without success to sign Cook in January but he was back at Elland Road just 48 hours after 19-year-old Cook claimed the Football League’s prestigious prize at a ceremony in Manchester.
The England youth international’s reputation is rapidly rising and his display helped Leeds and Evans secure a third successive league win last night through second-half goals from Sol Bamba and Toumani Diagouraga.
Cook spoke about his future on Monday, saying promotion to the Premier League with Leeds was still “the dream”, and Evans said: “Why would you want to go to any club that can’t give you what Leeds United give you?
“This is a club the boy grew up in love with and it can’t get any better for him.
“What happens off the field is not my department, that’s for others, but I love the kid. I know what it means to him to be playing here.
“He’s the most gracious young man you could hope to meet.
“He gets young player of the year and he’s in my office almost in tears, thanking me for the improvement we’ve given him in six months. He’s got so much natural ability that he’s going to improve anyway.”
A blistering 20-yard finish from Bamba and Diagouraga’s strike four minutes later moved Leeds up to 11th in the Championship, firmly on course for Evans’ target of a top-10 finish.
His future as head coach remains the subject of speculation with his contract set to run out in June but he drew appreciative applause from the crowd yesterday and insisted again that he was ready to mount a promotion bid next term.
Leeds and their owner, Massimo Cellino, began laying the ground for one yesterday by announcing that they would refund a percentage of season tickets bought for the 2016-17 campaign if the club failed to finish in the play-off positions.
Evans said: “The season ticket offer is an incredible gesture from the owner. He doesn’t want to be paying that money, does he? He wants to be in the play-offs and I keep saying that this is a play-off manager you’re looking at.”