Davie Cooper: A profile
Davie Cooper of "Glasgow Rangers Fame" has been described as the most naturally gifted player in British Football since George Best. It is a reasonable and fitting tribute to a footballing genius who was Scotland's most entertaining player of the 80's and early 90's. In that time, the unpredictable Clydebank player had turned into an International Star.
This is the remarkable tale of a gifted footballer who, not only was simply the best, but was a complete professional football player.....in a world that included all the big names, the club he loved and the country he proudly represented.
Davie Cooper played alongside all the great names in Scotland's past,
from Dalglish to Nicholas. He was also in the middle of the Ibrox revolution
inspired by such as Graeme Souness and Terry Butcher. He also served under
some of the most outstanding managers of our time....Jock Stein, Jock
Wallace, Ally Macleod, John Greig, Alex Ferguson and Andy Roxburgh to
name but a few.
This is the ideal opportunity for me to say exactly what I think about Davie Cooper, or, as he's better known at Ibrox, Albert. The nickname stems from Coronation Street's Albert Tatlock who was always moaning and, believe me, that's what Coop does constantly. I can tell if he's going to have a good game when he reports and starts moaning. It's an encouraging sign.
More seriosly, though, any manager would be delighted to have a player of his ability, talent and skill in the team. Basically, I believe he is more naturally gifted than Kenny Dalglish. And I'm delighted to say that from all accounts he has played better in recent times than he has done at any other stage of his career. He has been a revelation and as far as I can tell the reason for this more consistent approach is simply that he is surrounded by better players. Lads like Terry Butcher, Chris Woods, and Graham Roberts are top class professionals and Davie has responded accordingly.
From being a big fish in a small pool he is now just one of many outstanding players and it has taken a lot of pressure off him. He is enjoying his football as a result and that is reflected in his performances which have been outstanding for me. Now he is hungry for success and our domestic triumphs in the Premier League and the Skol Cup last season have whetted his appetite for more.
I see no reason why he cannot continue to be a huge asset, a match-winner
in his own right, for Rangers Footbal Club for several more seasons. And
if that proves to be the case, as I expect it to, no one will be more
delighted than me.
He was at Kilbowie at the time and ironically it was when they were in the middle of a great series of Scottish Cup games against Rangers that Clydebank and one Davie Cooper Esq. were pushed firmly into the public eye.
Newspapers, radio stations and television crews all wanted to talk to
him because he had done quite well against the "Ibrox" side
but the truth of the matter was he was just too uptight about talking
in public to go and have a word with any of them. He was very quiet generally
and the last thing he needed was to make a fool of himself in front of
That characteristic went back a long, long way. All the way, if you like to 25th February 1956 when Davie arrived on the scene courtesy of Jean and John Cooper. He was his parent's second child. They had had John Junior three years previously but it didn't take long for them to realise that John and Davie were complete opposites. John was a right little tearaway who was always getting into mischief whereas Davie would never do anything wrong. As he grew older he would hardly go out of the house to play and admitted he was more or less a mummy's boy.
At that time the family were in a flat at 4 Barrack Street in Hamilton where his dad was working at the Lanarkshire Steel Works in nearby Motherwell. His mum too, worked after he was old enough to go to the local Beckford Street Primary School which his brother John attended as well.
Around then tey all moved to another flat at 25 Brankholm Brae in Hillhouse which is also in Hamilton and where the family stayed for 20-odd years. That meant a change to Udston Primary but there was no change in Davie Cooper. He was still quiet, content to mess about the house playing with toy cars and, basically, doing no harm to anyone.
But then his brother John stepped in when he was nine and obviously decided to get the young Davie out and about and involve him in the game of football which had never held any interest to him before.
John in fact had to drag Davie out of the house to play and he would
stick between two posts -- or more often than not between the jackets
-- when he and his pals were a man short, Davie never kidded himself,
that they wanted him for his ability. They simply wanted a body and his
was the nearest and most available so he became an instant goalkeeper.
Davie started off at left-half for his school team. Actually it was left-half
in the first half and inside-left in the second half.! He was also captain
at the time which he treated as a great honour. By then, strangely in
view of his previous reluctance to get involved, he couldn't get enough
football. It was like a drug. He was playing football every minute he
could and very litlle interupted him and his football.
That's when his mum had to start dragging him indoors to have his tea and then warning him not to rush back out in case he got indegestion. Davie, however always rushed it and always got indegestion. The other interuption he hated was nightfall.
He hated the darkness, he knew it had to come around but a nine year-old-daft football player didn't understand. Thankfully his school football wasn't affected by that problem and they had a great team at Udston.
One season they went all the way unbeaten and picked up the Shinwell Cup after beating Low Waters Primary 4-2 in the final at Hamilton Accies' Douglas Park. Davie scored agoal in that match and always remembered Billy Holmes,brother of Morton's Jim, being in the opposition that day.
They won the Leaugue shield as well and there was another tournament they would have won too but the organisers wouldn't let them into it. They said, as Davie recalled, that their entry form arrived too late -- but they knew they only wanted to give another team a chance! Davie didn't know why they were so good, although they did have acouple of big lads playing for them and at that level, that always helped.
On the very rare occasion Davie wasn't playing he really enjoyed going to watch..........Rangers.
They were the only team he went to see, and Davie and his dad would walk
down to Burnbank to get a lift to Ibrox with a man called -- would you
believe -- John Stein. Davie also used to get on the Lariot Rangers Supporters
Club bus which left from the pup where his mum sometimes worked, so altogether
he managed to get to quite a few games.
Time, indeed, to move on to St. John's Grammer. Not to put too fine a point on it. Davie Cooper, hated school. Davie always thought that might have been to do with the fact that St. John's was a disaster football-wise.
Nobody seemed to bother and he didn't think there was an organised team until he got into about the third year. That was no good for Davie, but happily Bill and Rose McKenzie came to his rescue.
They decided to start up a team called Udston United and it's not too
melodramatic to say if they hadn't Davie, would probably have stopped
He would also organise raffles and the like to raise funds and Davie with one or two of the other lads would get the job of selling the tickets. Saturday mornings were all he lived for and by now the game was becoming an obsession.
He would play in all weather, in all conditions, and if he wasn't playing for Udston he would still be banging a ball about. By himself if necessary. Football was his only thought.
All of which didn't exactly help his academic career but he reckoned
he was always a lost cause in that direction. Davie Cooper wasn't particularly
proud of that but he couldn't help it. He was only interested in football.
now he was playing for Hamilton Avondale, a local team run by brothers
Stuart and Alan Noble and were to be Davie's next mentors.
He was in their Under-16 side and then their Under-18 team and in both cases was one of the youngest players. That says something for Davie Coopers ability at that time. Someone must have thought he had a bit of talent anyway for soon he was picking up his first representative honours for Scotland. He was chosen for the Scottish Ameteur League side and the Youth (Under-18) team.
Davie Cooper reckoned they were great days and the League side won the
Black Trophy by beating Ayrshire 1-0. He also played all three home internationals
against England, Northern Ireland and Wales for the Youth side.
One game they played in Ashgill and there were a few scouts there. It
was Grand National Day and they were winning easily. Davie could remember
taking time out to find out from his mum and dad John, who were watching,
exactly how the big race had gone. Then as always, he liked a flutter
on the horses. But even that slight wavering of concentration didn't seem
to put the scouts off because they continued to call Stuart, Alan and
dad at regular intervals.
As it was there was plenty of Scottish interest as well and Davie had a trial with Clyde, and he scored a goal in a reserve match. Then Shawfield manager Stan Anderson immediately ofered Davie £4 a week, but while he was flattered he didn't exactly beat a return path to his door.
Motherwell, managed by Ian St. John, were also quite enthusiastic about signing Davie Cooper and the Saint made him an offer. He reckoned Davie could be farmed out to a junior side because he thought Davie needed building up? Davie Cooper had watched brother John play junior football and if that's what was needed to build Davie up then it was thanks no thanks. John Cooper used to get kicked up and down the park and that wasn't for Davie.
Clydebank were right in there and they made Davie a more inviting offer that did not include junior football, though the travelling did put Davie off. Davie new Clydebank wasn't far, but remember he was working in Hamilton and that would have caused a few problems.
So it went on and most clubs were credited with having an interest of
some sort in Davie Cooper. That included Rangers but Davie looked at them
and thought they had so many players he would never get a game.
Davie Cooper was a very home-loving individual and found it very difficult
to find a team that firstly he thought he would enjoy and, more importantly,
was local. So, at 18 years old, Davie Cooper chucked football. He packed
it in without so much as a second thought. Stuart and Alan Noble nearly
had apoplexy. Obviously they thought Davie was ready to throw reasonable
talent down the drain and they weren't impressed. So unimpressed were
they in fact , that they actually contacted a club on Davie's behalf even
if he didn't know about it at the time !
They new Davie better than most because he was still working for them. Davie Cooper had "graduated" from being an apprentice printer and all that entails, such as making the tea and sorting the big fire that kept everyone warm in the printer works. t that time Davie was actually making tickets and pamphlets and really quite enjoying it all. But, and Davie was always greatful to them for it, they believed Davie Cooper was destined for greater things.
So while Davie was grafting away in the Almada Street works, Stuart and Alan Noble were sorting out Davie's future by putting in a call to Clydebank and, more specifically, Jack Steedman.
Now Jack, as Davie was to discover, was a very persuasive man who wouldn't take no for an answer when he wanted something. After all Davie had already tried a "no" once before, but with Stuart and Alan's encouragement Jack came back to try again, even although remember Davie Cooper wasn't actively involved in football at the time.
Noyhing daunted Jack Steedman appeared outside the printing works one
day in his big Jaguar --and Davie was quite impressed. Jack being Jack,
didn't mess about and laid it on the line for Davie. When Davie was faced
with the kind of enthusiasm, that Jack showed it was difficult for Davie
not to feel wanted and deep down Davie new he was desperate to play football
Clydebank were a good group of lads working under coach Bill Munro -- then as in later years there was no manager -- and Davie Cooper thoroughly enjoyed himself most of the time. Davie said most of the time, because simply getting to Clydebank was, as he had suspected, a bit of a nightmare.
He was still working for the Nobles in Hamilton so when he left there
he had to get a train to Glasgow where he picked up a bag of chips --
the ideal meal before a training session!-- then he ran round to Queen
Street Station where he caught another train that got him into Singer
Station about ten minutes before Clydebank were due to start training.
But training is a neccessary evil and all they did for a while was run round the Kilbowie track. That was bad enough but those of you who read this and know the ground will realise you had to pass the Social Club en route and every lap Davie and the lads would look up and see the guys inside sipping their pints. Davie reckoned that must be the definition of frustration. But it was all worth it in the end because as Davie had anticipated he didn't have to wait long for his first-team chance. That duly came and if Davie's debut wasn't exactly memorable there were some marvellous moments in that first season.
Clydebank did quite well in the Scottish Cup for instance, and his first
big game was against Dunfermline in that tournament. Clydebank won 2-1
and a First Division scalp was under the belt of the little Second Division
side. More importantly, though, was what was in store for the winners
of that game -- a fourth-round tie against Celtic. Jock Stein, then manager
of the Parkhead side, had watched the match and Clydebank had given him
much food for thought.
So it was on to Parkhead and Davie's first look at the ground. To be
brutally frank Davie didn't think much of it then and didn't think much
of it in later years. The pitch was one he never really felt comfortable
playing on at any time and that, plus his dislike of Celtic anyway, gave
him a strange feeling. Davie was nervous for a start and that was not
like Davie but it was a big occasion and he wasn't exactly used to them.
Clydebank had a great Second Division Race for promotion, with Raith
Rovers and Alloa leading the charge and it was no surprise when it virtually
went all the way before Clydebank took one of the spots. Clydebank clinched
it, after 50 years of waiting by the local fans, with a 2-0 victory over
Forfar at Kilbowie. Nothing much happened in the first half of that historic
game but Davie opened the scoring with a penalty just after half time
and then McCallan ended the waiting and worrying by adding a second near
Rangers, though were to be an awe-inspiring prospect, for they had won the Treble the previous year and Under Jock Wallace were always a hard side for any class of opposition. So off they went into the Lion's den and it didn't take Davie long to find out the hard facts of life at the top.
The first game was at Ibrox and two minutes into the match Davie learned
the ground rules according to John Greig. The man who later became Davie's
gaffer took exactly 120 seconds to let him know he was around.
There was more good news, Davie had been chosen by Ally MacLeod in the senior Scotland squad for the Home Internationals and the fact-finding tour to South America that was to be preparation for the following year's World Cup in Argentina. It was the stuff dreams were made of but Davie's day quickly turned into a nightmare that same evening.
Davie was in The Lariat pub in Hamilton along with his dad John, Bill and Rose McKenzie and Christine, and they were all celebrating Davie's call up to the full international squad when John was called to the 'phone'. He came back to tell them that Davie's mum's friend Mrs Paterson had been knocked down by a car as the two of them were returning from a night's bingo in Burnbank. Naturally, they 'phoned' Hairmyres Hospital to find out how she was and they were told it was in fact a Mrs Cooper who had been involved in the accident.
Everyone was devastated and as always happens the hospital wouldn't give
out any information about how serious the matter was. So, without any
further ado, they all rushed from the pub to the hospital in what was
without question the longest and quietest journey of Davie's life.
The first Davie new of it all was when Jock Wallace phoned him at home to say he wanted to come out and talk personalk terms. He called back to say it would be better for him if Davie went to Ibrox. When he got to Ibrox and went up those famous stairs, he had weighed everything up and decided he didn't want to take the chance of turning down Rangers for a second time.
When he strolled in to the Blue Room he was confronted by three of the biggest names in Rangers history, Willie Waddell, Jock Wallace and Willie Thornton. It was a formidable combination.
Initially Rangers offered him a signing-on fee of £5,000, but it didn't take much negotiating for him to get it doubled to £10,000. The basic wage was around £150 and there were bonuses per point. After the signing ther was the usual media scramble and during it Big Jock Wallace said some very nice things about him.
He said Davie was "the most exciting prospect in Scottish football, with tremendous ability, great skill, flair and can get a goal as well. Basically, Cooper has it in him to become a real personality player and I can't wait to see him in a Rangers jersey".
He won three Championships (1977-78, 1986-87 and 1988-89) and three Scottish Cups 2-1 against Aberdeen in 1978, 3-2 in a second replay against Hibernian in 1979 and 4-1 against Dundee United in the replayed 1981 final.
He won 24 caps for Scotland and played in the World Cup in Mexico in 1986.
His first season at Ibrox was a great one for Cooper. He played his part as Rangers won the Treble.
Life wasn’t always rosy at the club he loved, however, most notably under John Greig’s managerial tenure when he often found himself at odds with his former team-mate and out of the side.
It was during this period he earned the sobriquet ‘The Moody Blue’, in reference both to the unpredictability of his performance levels and his reluctance to speak to the media.
He was revitalised by Jock Wallace’s return to Rangers in 1983, then flourished spectacularly amidst the seismic changes brought about by the arrival of Graeme Souness as manager three years later. Terry Butcher, who became one of Davie’s closest friends, recalls being spellbound by the winger’s heavenly left foot during his first few training sessions at Rangers.
"He was second to none in terms of delivery of the ball," says Butcher, "and I’d rate him better than David Beckham in terms of free-kicks and corners. He was a magnificent talent and a wonderful character. He could moan for Scotland, right enough, but was basically a lovely lad. I still miss him terribly."
Graeme Souness said he couldn't believe how good he was when he inherited him as manager at Rangers. "If I wasn't so selfish, I would be telling the big clubs in Italy about him," he confessed. "But why would I hunt a talent like that out the door?"
Davie scored some great goal in his career but his finest strike of all in the Drybrough Cup Final against Celtic on August 4 1979.
He received the ball on his chest with his back to goal on the edge of the box and seemingly nowhere to go. Cooper flicked it in the air four times with his left foot taking him past four Celtic defenders and put it in the net. It was voted the Greatest Ever Rangers Goal in a worldwide poll by fans.
By season 1988-89 he had stopped being an automatic choice and went to Motherwell in search of regular first team football in August 1989 for £50,000.
He also displayed his talent as a television pundit and also contributing a column to The Scottish Footballer magazine.
True to his talent, Cooper helped Motherwell to win the Scottish Cup, defeating Dundee United 4-3 in the 1991 Final.
Cooper was planning to end his career back at Clydebank, but on March 22 1995 he collapsed and died of a brain haemorrhage the folllowing day. He was only 39.
The tragedy stunned Scottish football fans everywhere, especially at Rangers. Flowers and scarves adorned the gates at the Copland Road end of Ibrox in his memory.
He had played 540 games for Rangers and left an indelible mark.
Former Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh once said of him: "Football is not about robots or boring tactics. It's about excitement, emotion and individual flair and imagination as shown by Davie Cooper."
It is an appropriate epitaph for a man who brought a touch of magic to the beautiful game.
Cooper get's cup final tribute
The March 23rd 2005 CIS Cup final between Rangers and Motherwell will pay tribute to the memory of Davie Cooper, who played for both clubs and who died 10 years ago.
Cooper died of a brain haemorrhage at the age of 39 after a wonderful career.
His picture will appear on tickets for the final and a percentage of programme sales will go towards the establishment of a centre for special-needs children.
"It is only appropriate that we pay tribute to his talent," said Scottish Football League secretary Peter Donald.
"Davie Cooper was a superb ambassador for Scottish football.
"We have a tradition of producing skilful wingers and he was up there with the very best. He played in eight League Cup Finals, winning seven times.
"On the 10th anniversary of his death, it is apt that we recognise the special contribution he made to both finalists during his career."
Cooper spent the bulk of his career with Rangers, having begun it at Clydebank, but is also fondly remembered by fans of Motherwell, where he played in the latter part of his career.
He was part of Motherwell's 1991 Scottish Cup winning team.