Regan Charles-Cook has cited Malky Mackay as a big factor in him topping the Scottish Premiership scoring charts.
The 25-year-old South Londoner, who was born in Lewisham and lived in Forest Hill and Beckenham, has bagged 13 goals for Ross County.
And Charles-Cook is not allowing speculation over his future to distract from the Staggies’ push for a top-four finish that would see them clinch European football.
The former Charlton Athletic youngster is out of contract at the end of this season and had been linked with Hibernian in the January transfer window.
“I just try to block it out,” said Charles-Cook, when asked by the South London Press how he stays grounded despite hitting the headlines for his exploits north of the border. “I have targets this year for where I want to get to, that is my main priority.
“The club has targets too and they have given me the platform and opportunity. I won’t be satisfied until we both get where we need to be.
“The team targets and my targets, I’m going to keep those close to my chest, we like to keep stuff in-house.
“I’m a Ross County player now and that is all that matters to me.
“With the confidence I have right now I feel like there is so much more to come. The older I get the more experienced I get.
“The main thing is that I’m enjoying football right now and I want to keep on enjoying it. Football ain’t a long career and I want to make sure I’m happy and smiling – looking back with no regrets.
“Everything happens for a reason. Whatever is meant to be, is meant to be and whatever is not, is not.
“Ross County has put a smile back on my face. I’m enjoying it, like I did when I was young kid.”
Charles-Cook made the switch to the Dingwall-based club in July 2020 after leaving League One Gillingham on a free transfer.
He only scored twice in his first campaign with Ross County – both in the League Cup.
The Grenada international says that the appointment of Mackay, who took over in May 2021, as well as settling in Scotland helped him make a far greater impact this time around.
“I have a staff and a manager who believes in me and has given me an opportunity to play – the system gets the best out of me,” said Charles-Cook.
“It was hard last season. I’d never lived away from home and I literally couldn’t go back home at all – it was a different transition because we had Covid going on.
“I’m a big family person – I have five brothers and we are all very tight and together.
“So to not be able to go back in nine months is kind of crazy. It was football then home, not being able to go out at all. That made it so difficult. You couldn’t go out for a coffee because everywhere was locked down.
“The boys last season were good but this season feels even more of a family. We get the chance to enjoy each others’ company because we get to spend time outside football with them and that all helps.
“I feel a lot more settled and I feel this year I’ve grown into a man. It’s made me an independent person. I can cook a mean macaroni cheese now. Over Christmas I even cooked for some of the boys.
“I feel a lot fitter and stronger this year because of the run of games.”
Ross County are sixth in the table and only one point behind fourth-placed Hibs.
Mackay looked to be on the verge of succeeding Tony Pulis as Crystal Palace manager in August 2014 until text messages surfaced from during his time at Cardiff City which he admitted were “disrespectful to other cultures”. His last club job had been at Wigan Athletic in 2016.
“He is one of the most detailed managers I have ever worked with,” said Charles-Cook. “It’s all to improve us as a team and also as players individually. He makes sure that we have real belief in that dressing room.
“Where we have come from at the start of the season to now has been an absolute joy.
“Him and his staff work very hard every day and I know it takes a lot of time for them to get things together.
“He does debriefs and gameplans – the way he wants us to play – it’s one of the most planned environments I’ve been in.”
Charles-Cook’s uncle – James Cook – is a former European and British super-middleweight champion. He was awarded an MBE for his work with the young people in a deprived area of Hackney.
But Regan says he and his his brothers all went “straight down the football path”.
Older sibling Anthony, 32, is at Cray Wanderers and has also played locally for Welling, Dulwich, Bromley and Croydon Athletic. Goalkeeper Reice, 27, is on Bromley’s books after spells with Coventry and Swindon. Roman and Reuben are in Sutton’s academy while Jesse works in law.
Regan and Reice both started on Arsenal’s books, with the former opting to sign for Charlton in 2013.
He made nine first-team outings before turning down a one-year contract extension in the summer of 2018 to sign for the Gills.
“Charlton was a very good spell, I was there from a scholar until I was 21,” he said. “They did look after me well – Steve Avory and Jason Euell in the academy. But I needed to get first-team experience.”
The next challenge for Charles-Cook is Celtic at Parkhead on March 19.
“They are tough opponents but we go into every game with no fear,” he said. “Yeah, they are Celtic, but they only have 11 players on the pitch and we have 11 players too.
“We’re looking forward to it. We’ll go over where we could possibly hurt them.”
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