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Collingwood hails Cook influence
Durham captain Paul Collingwood saluted head coach Geoff Cook as he celebrated his side's LV= County Championship title triumph.
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.
The 61-year-old 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.
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Big-name players including Michael Di Venuto and Ian Blackwell have left the club this year and last and been replaced by a crop of largely homegrown talent.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 also played county cricket 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."
Collingwood added: "To captain a set of north-east youngsters who've come through the academy and for them to put the performances in that they have all year is brilliant to see.
"It's incredible, it's a really satisfying and proud moment."
One of those academy products, opener Mark Stoneman struck the winning runs as his unbeaten 35 took him within 14 runs of the magical landmark of 1,000 for the championship season.
Stoneman put on 57 with his young opening partner Keaton Jennings after play finally got under way following the loss of the third morning to rain.
Jennings (21) and Scott Borthwick (nought) fell with the victory target of 69 in sight but Will Smith - one of only two players, along with wicketkeeper Phil Mustard, involved when all three titles were sealed - joined Stoneman as the latter finished the job.
Stoneman said afterwards: "On a personal note, it's been nice to have made a contribution to this campaign.
"The previous two championships, I was almost a passenger in a side of greats.
"To make a large contribution to a side of younger players, those that weren't fancied so much and were touted for relegation, is a massive thing."