|Full name||Neale James Cooper|
|Date of birth||24 November 1963|
|Place of birth||Darjeeling, West Bengal, India|
|Date of death||28 May 2018(aged 54)|
|Place of death||Aberdeen, Scotland|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Neale James Cooper (24 November 1963 – 28 May 2018) was a Scottish football player and coach. Cooper played as a midfielder during the 1980s and 1990s, most prominently for the Aberdeen team managed by Alex Ferguson. He later played for Aston Villa, Rangers, Reading, Dunfermline Athletic and Ross County. Cooper then became a coach, and 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 had 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. Cooper 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. Cooper returned to Aberdeen in 1990, but he was unable to make a first team appearance due to ongoing fitness issues.
In 1991, Cooper signed for Reading, where he linked up with his former Aberdeen teammate Mark McGhee. Cooper made seven league appearances in a brief stint with Reading, before he moved to Dunfermline Athletic. At Dunfermline he was able to play regularly, helping them win promotion in 1995/96. In 1996, 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. Hartlepool finished in sixth, their highest ever league finish. Cooper took them to the play-offs in his first season where they lost to Bristol City in the semi-finals after two late 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. Cooper resigned in November of that year after poor performances in the league 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. Cooper 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. After a poor run of form at the start of the 2012–13 season, Cooper resigned as Hartlepool boss in late October. He is still held in high regard by Hartlepool fans.
- As of 24 October 2012
|Ross County||1 July 1996||11 November 2002||299||130||89||80||43.48|
|Hartlepool United||26 June 2003||4 May 2005||110||48||26||36||43.64|
|Gillingham||21 May 2005||15 November 2005||22||7||5||10||31.82|
|Peterhead||10 January 2008||22 March 2011||143||50||39||54||34.97|
|Hartlepool United||28 December 2011||24 October 2012||40||7||14||19||17.50|
Cooper's son, Alex, played in 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 by Liverpool in 2011 and has since played first team football for several clubs, mainly in Scotland.
In November 2017, Cooper was one of four inductees into the Aberdeen Hall of Fame.
A public memorial event and celebration of Cooper's life was held at Aberdeen's ground Pittodrie Stadium on 8 June 2018. The evening was attended by Neale Cooper's family, former team mates and fans and saw over 4,000 people attend.
As a player
- Scottish league champion (2): 1983–84, 1984–85
- Scottish Cup winner (4): 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986
- Scottish League Cup winner (1): 1986
- European Cup Winners Cup winner (1): 1983
- European Super Cup winner (1): 1983
Scottish League Cup 1988 winner (1)
- Dunfermline Athletic
As a manager
- Ross County
- "Scotland U21 Player Neale Cooper Details". Fitba Stats. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
- Mackie, James (2010). Fergie's Proteges. Xlibris Corporation. p. 54–61. ISBN 978-1-4535-6730-2.[self-published source]
- "Obituary: Neale Cooper, talented footballer who somehow never won a Scotland cap". The Scotsman. 1 June 2018. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
- "Neale Cooper gets Hartlepool United job". BBC Sport. BBC. 28 December 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
- "Gillingham manager Cooper resigns". BBC Sport. 15 November 2005. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
- "Peterhead part with manager Cooper and line up Sheran". BBC Sport. BBC. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
- "Hartlepool 2-0 Rochdale". BBC Sport. BBC. 30 May 2018. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
- Ashdown, John (9 May 2012). "League One 2011-12: the bloggers' end-of-season report". the Guardian. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
- "Charlton 3-2 Hartlepool". BBC Sport. BBC. 5 May 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
- "Neale Cooper resigns as Hartlepool United first-team coach". BBC Sport. BBC. 24 October 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
- "Fans sad to see Cooper go". Hartlepool Mail. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
- "Neale Cooper returns to Ross County as club's assistant manager". STV Sport. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
- "Ross County: Neale Cooper exits as assistant manager". BBC Sport. BBC. 12 May 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
- "Neale Cooper". Soccerbase. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- Liverpool Sign Young Winger, accessed 19 June 2009.
- Alex Cooper at Soccerbase
- "2017 AFC Hall of Fame". Aberdeen F.C. 11 November 2017. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
- "Ex-footballer Neale Cooper dies after collapsing". BBC News. BBC. 28 May 2018. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
- "CELEBRATION OF THE LIFE OF NEALE COOPER". Aberdeen FC. 4 June 2018.
- "Family, team-mates and thousands of fans gather at Pittodrie Stadium to pay poignant tributes in memory of Gothenburg hero Neale Cooper". Press and Journal. 9 June 2018.
- "Neale Cooper stand unveiled on emotional day at Pools". Hartlepool Mail. 14 July 2018.
- "Neale Cooper: his football career". Aberdeen F.C. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
- Hart, Ross (28 May 2018). "Former Par Cooper passes away". Dunfermline Press.
- "Neale Cooper". League Managers Association. Retrieved 1 June 2018.