The 23-year-old midfielder was stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to force his way into the Stamford Bridge first team since breaking through their academy ranks in 2006.
Shipped out on loan far and wide, from Bournemouth to Burnley, the England Under-21 international has finally found home under Nigel Adkins ’ wing at St Mary’s.
He was the only member of Adkins’ squad who played every game of the Saints’ second successive promotion push last season.
And after making it into Stuart Pearce’s Team GB squad for London 2012, the Carshalton-born star – who won England under-21 caps under Pearce’s management – can hardly believe his luck.
“It’s been a great season for me,” said Cork, who hopes to figure in Team GB’s warm-up friendly against Brazil in Middlesbrough tonight.
“It was a tough choice about what to do – whether to leave Chelsea or not and where would be the right place.
“But to have a successful season at Southampton and get promoted and then to top it off with an Olympic call was a great year and one I’ll never forget.
“I’m really looking forward to the Games. I hope we can have a successful team – I don’t think we’d be here to just be a part of the Games, we’re here to achieve something as well.
“That’s what the manager shares as well and hopefully we can do something good.”
Cork has been with the squad for a week, training alongside the likes of Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs and the Southampton ace revealed the experience has been everything he expected.
“It has been immense,” he added.
“We have had a great week and it couldn’t have gone any better really.
We needed to train hard and gel as quickly as possible and we have done just that.
“It has been amazing, not just for me, but for everyone else as well.”