|Full name||Neale James Cooper|
|Date of birth||24 November 1963|
|Place of birth||Darjeeling, India|
|Current club||Ross County (assistant manager)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
Neale James Cooper (born 24 November 1963) is a Scottish former footballer and the current assistant manager of Scottish Premier League side Ross County. He has previously worked as a manager in England with Hartlepool United and Gillingham and in Scotland with Ross County and Peterhead.
Born in Darjeeling, India, Cooper attended Airyhall Primary School and Hazlehead Academy in Aberdeen and began his senior career with Aberdeen, the team he'd supported as a boy. A first-team regular from the beginning of the 1981–82 season, he starred in midfield for the Dons for five seasons in which he won two Premier Division Championships, four Scottish Cups, one League Cup, the 1983 European Cup Winners' Cup and the European Super Cup under the management of Alex Ferguson. Having initially moved into a flat in Aberdeen as a young player, Cooper was 'persuaded' by Ferguson to return to his mother's home to help ensure that Cooper was shielded from the obvious temptations arising from youthful independence. In the summer of 1986, he signed for Aston Villa but made only twenty league appearances in the next two years, partly because of injuries. In the 1988–89 season, he transferred to Rangers but injuries restricted him to only seventeen league appearances. In the summer of 1990, he re-joined Aberdeen but was never fit to play. Next season he signed for Reading but after only seven appearances moved to Dunfermline Athletic where he at last was able to play regularly. After three seasons in the First Division, he moved into management with Ross County
He guided the Staggies through two successful promotion campaigns before stepping down after a run of only one win in eleven games and joining Hartlepool United, who were newly promoted from the Third Division to the Second Division. Cooper took them to the play-offs in his first season where they lost to Bristol City in the semi-finals after two last-minute goals. In his second season, Cooper took Hartlepool within points to securing another play-off spot before leaving by mutual consent with one match remaining due to "personal and family issues". Hartlepool then went on to make the final of the play-offs, where they lost to Sheffield Wednesday. Three weeks after leaving Hartlepool, he took over the reins at Gillingham, who were in financial trouble and had lost the majority of their first team. Cooper resigned in November of that year after poor performances and an FA Cup defeat to Northern Premier League side Burscough.
In October 2006 Cooper returned to Scottish football with Second Division Peterhead, as he took on the role of first team coach under the management of Steve Paterson. When Paterson left Peterhead in early 2008, Cooper took over as manager. Peterhead narrowly missed out on the end of season playoffs for a place in the Scottish First Division in 2008 finishing 5th, however he guided the Blue Toon to fourth place the following season and a playoff against Airdrie United. Peterhead struggled in the following season, however, and Cooper left the club in March 2011 with them sitting bottom of the Second Division table.
On 28 December 2011, Cooper was reappointed as manager of League 1 club Hartlepool United. In Neale's third game as manager, Hartlepool managed to end their poor run of home form with a 2–0 win against Rochdale. Neale brought numerous talented young players into the Hartlepool first team with seven teenagers from the club's academy making their debuts. After a 3–2 defeat on the final day to league champions Charlton Athletic, he guided them to a 13th place finish in the 2011–2012 season, their highest league finish since he was last in charge at The Vic.
Cooper has a 20-year-old son, Alex, who represented Liverpool youth academy, after a £100,000 move from Ross County in December 2007. Alex spent the summer of 2006 at a training camp in Switzerland with Chelsea, and Jose Mourinho had reportedly tracked his development. He was released in the summer of 2011, and went on trial with Hartlepool United and Hull City, before returning to Ross County.
As a player
As a manager
- 1998–99: Scottish Division Three Champions – Ross County
- 1999–00: Scottish Division Two 3rd (promotion to Scottish Division One) – Ross County
- LMA Manager Profile
- "Neale Cooper gets Hartlepool United job". BBC Sport (BBC). 28 December 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
- "Peterhead part with manager Cooper and line up Sheran". BBC Sport (BBC). 22 March 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
- Hartlepool 2–0 Rochdale
- League One 2011–12 Bloggers' Report
- Charlton 3–2 Hartlepool
- Neale Cooper resigns as Hartlepool United first-team coach
- Fans sad to see Cooper go
- Neale Cooper returns to Ross County as club's assistant manager
- Liverpool Sign Young Winger, accessed 19 June 2009.