Cooper was born in Great Horton, Bradford, Yorkshire. He played club cricket for Bankfoot C.C. He developed his talent for swing and seam at brisk pace through Bankfoot's junior teams, before helping them win the Bradford League championship in 1972. Howard re-joined the club as captain in 1984, where they gained promotion and led the side and the bowling attack for a further two years in Division One.
Cooper was a right arm medium pace bowler, and tail end left-handed batsman. In 101 first-class matches, he took 233 wickets, with a best of 8-62, at an average of 28.02. He scored 1,191 runs, with a best score of 56, at an average of 14.34. He took 177 wickets at 23.63 in 142 one day games, with a career best of 6-14.