Neale Cooper

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For another similarly named Aberdeen FC player, see Neil Cooper (footballer).
Neale Cooper
Personal information
Full name Neale James Cooper
Date of birth (1963-11-24) 24 November 1963 (age 52)
Place of birth Darjeeling, India
Playing position Midfielder
Youth career
1978–1979 King Street
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1979–1986 Aberdeen 132 (6)
1986–1988 Aston Villa 20 (0)
1988–1990 Rangers 17 (1)
1990–1991 Aberdeen 0 (0)
1991 Reading 7 (0)
1991–1996 Dunfermline Athletic 101 (4)
1996–1998 Ross County 5 (0)
Total 282 (11)
National team
1981–1985 Scotland U21[1] 13 (0)
Teams managed
1996–2002 Ross County
2003–2005 Hartlepool United
2005 Gillingham
2008–2011 Peterhead
2011–2012 Hartlepool United

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Neale James Cooper (born 24 November 1963) is a Scottish football player and coach. He has previously worked as a manager in England with Hartlepool United and Gillingham and in Scotland with Ross County and Peterhead.[2]

Playing career[edit]

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.[3] 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.[3] Cooper made only twenty league appearances in the next two years, partly because of injuries.[3] In the 1988–89 season, he transferred to Rangers but injuries restricted him to only seventeen league appearances.[3] Cooper returned to Aberdeen in 1990, but he was unable to make a first team appearance due to ongoing fitness issues.[3]

In 1991, Cooper signed for Reading, where he linked up with his former Aberdeen teammate Mark McGhee.[3] Cooper made seven league appearances in a brief stint with Reading, before he moved to Dunfermline Athletic.[3] At Dunfermline he was able to play regularly, helping them win promotion in 1995/96.[3] In 1996 he moved into management with Ross County.[3]

Managerial career[edit]

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".[4] 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.[4] 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.[5] Peterhead struggled in the following season, however, and Cooper left the club in March 2011 with them sitting bottom of the Second Division table.[5]

On 28 December 2011, Cooper was reappointed as manager of League 1 club Hartlepool United.[4] In Neale's third game as manager, Hartlepool managed to end their poor run of home form with a 2–0 win against Rochdale.[6] Neale brought numerous talented young players into the Hartlepool first team with seven teenagers from the club's academy making their debuts.[7] After a 3–2 defeat on the final day to league champions Charlton Athletic,[8] 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, Neale resigned as Hartlepool boss in late October.[9] He is still held in high regard by Hartlepool fans.[10]

On 23 November 2012, Cooper was appointed assistant manager of SPL side Ross County alongside Derek Adams.[11] Cooper left Ross County at the end of the 2013–14 season.[12]

Managerial statistics[edit]

As of 24 October 2012[13]
Team From To Record
G W D L Win %
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
Total 614 242 173 199 39.41

Personal life[edit]

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.[14]


As a player[edit]

Dunfermline Athletic

As a manager[edit]

Ross County


External links[edit]