Paul Cooper (footballer, born 1953)

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Not to be confused with Paul Cooper (footballer born 1957).
Paul Cooper
Personal information
Full name Paul David Cooper
Date of birth (1953-12-21) 21 December 1953 (age 63)
Place of birth Cannock, England
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)[1]
Playing position Goalkeeper
Youth career
Boney Hay Juniors
Cannock Athletic
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1971 Sutton Coldfield Town
1971–1974 Birmingham City 17 (0)
1974 Ipswich Town (loan) 1 (0)
1974–1987 Ipswich Town 446 (0)
1987–1989 Leicester City 56 (0)
1989–1990 Manchester City 15 (0)
1990–1991 Stockport County 22 (0)
Total 557 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Paul David Cooper (born 21 December 1953) is an English former professional association footballer who played as a goalkeeper. He made more than 500 appearances in the Football League, most of them for Ipswich Town, where he won the 1978 FA Cup and the 1981 UEFA Cup and also gained a reputation for saving penalties. With 575 appearances for Ipswich, he is ranked fourth in the club's all-time appearances list.[2]

Playing career[edit]

Birmingham City[edit]

Cooper was born in Cannock, Staffordshire;[3] his father ran a pub in Brierley Hill.[4] Initially a striker, he had trials at Shrewsbury Town before becoming a goalkeeper.[5] He played for Staffs County Boys, Boney Hay Juniors and Cannock Athletic and went on to join Sutton Coldfield Town,[6][7] who were playing in the Midland Combination. He signed for Second Division Birmingham City as an apprentice in June 1971, but was given a professional contract the following month.[6] After first team goalkeeper Dave Latchford broke his finger in a match against Bristol City, Cooper made his Birmingham debut on 8 January 1972 against Portsmouth.[8] Although he conceded three goals, Birmingham still won 6–3 and Cooper then kept five clean sheets in the next six matches.[8] Latchford was subsequently recalled during the Easter period,[4] but was dropped after losing form and Cooper brought back into the team for a crunch promotion match against Millwall on 8 April.[9] Cooper kept his place in the team for the club's FA Cup semi-final defeat the following weekend against Leeds United,[10] and played every match until the end of the season as Birmingham finished second, earning promotion to Division One. Cooper was only on the losing side in one match (the FA Cup semi-defeat) and kept seven clean sheets in his 12 league matches.[11]

Cooper started the 1972–73 season as first choice, but after conceding six goals in his first three matches, he lost his place to Mike Kelly.[6] At the start of the 1973–74 season Latchford was first choice again, but after conceding eight goals in four games, Cooper returned to the first team. However, he conceded seven goals in his two matches and was replaced by Latchford.[11] Birmingham then signed Leeds goalkeeper Gary Sprake for £100,000, a world record for a goalkeeper,[12] pushing Cooper further down the order. After failing to make another appearance, Ipswich manager Bobby Robson signed Cooper on loan in March 1974.[3]

Ipswich Town[edit]

Cooper initially played in the reserves, making his debut against Arsenal reserves on 16 March.[13] After four more matches in the reserves, he made his Ipswich first team debut on 20 April in a 3–2 defeat at Leeds United, Ipswich's penultimate game of the season.[13] First team goalkeeper Laurie Sivell returned for Ipswich's final league match of the season, but Cooper was signed on a permanent contract in June 1974 for a fee of £23,000.[3] Sivell continued as the club's main goalkeeper for the 1974–75 season, with Cooper making only two appearances in the league, one of which was against former club Birmingham.[14] He spent most of the season in the reserves, where he and the club's other reserve goalkeeper David McKellar played 20 matches each.[15]

The 1975–76 season saw Cooper make his breakthrough. After Ipswich lost their first league match 3–0 at home to Newcastle United, Cooper replaced Sivell in the team and went on to play in 40 of Ipswich's 42 league matches that season.[3] He made his debut in European football on 17 September 1975 as Ipswich won 2–1 at Feyenoord and continued as first choice goalkeeper in 1976–77, making 34 league appearances as Ipswich finished third in the league, with Sivell deputising for the remaining eight games.[16] At the end of the season Robson attempted to sign Tottenham goalkeeper Pat Jennings, but an injury to Trevor Whymark meant he was forced to sign an outfield player instead.[17] In 1977–78 Cooper played in 40 of the club's 42 league matches, and although Ipswich had their worst season in the league since 1970–71, finishing eighteenth, they reached the FA Cup final for the first time in their history. Cooper missed the league match a week before the final with a back injury and was replaced by Paul Overton, who, in his only appearance for Ipswich, conceded six goals as Town lost 6–1 to Aston Villa.[18] Cooper returned for the final and kept a clean sheet as Ipswich won 1–0, the club's first major honour since winning the First Division in 1961–62. At the time Cooper was developing a reputation for saving penalties; the following season he played in all but one of Ipswich's league games,[19] saving five of the seven penalties he faced.[18] He made 40 league appearances in 1979–80 (with Sivell playing in the other two games),[20] saving eight of out of ten penalties, the most ever saved by a goalkeeper in a season.[1][21] Cooper had studied the technique of the best penalty takers, analysing the likely direction and power of the shot.[22] At the time goalkeepers could not move their feet before the ball was struck, but he attempted to distract penalty takers by waving his arms and leaning to one side, a technique David James later copied.[23]

In 1980–81 Cooper made 61 appearances as Ipswich reached the League Cup fourth round, the semi-finals of the FA Cup and the final of the UEFA Cup, in which they defeated AZ Alkmaar 5–4 on aggregate to win the club's first European trophy. However, they missed out on the league title after losing seven of their last ten matches, something that Cooper has said is the only disappointment of his career.[24] At the end of the 1980–81 season Cooper was named Player of the Year by Ipswich supporters. During this time, Cooper was the only regular first team member at Ipswich not to play for his country,[22] although he was considered unlucky not to do so, facing competition from Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence.[2] In 1981 he was also one of several Ipswich players to appear in the film Escape to Victory, with Cooper used as a stand-in for Sylvester Stallone, whose character played in goal.[25] The following season saw Ipswich finish as league runners-up for a second consecutive season, although Cooper missed 10 league games, Sivell playing in nine and John Jackson making his only Ipswich appearance in the other.[26]

After Robson left to manage England in 1982, his assistant Bobby Ferguson took over as manager. Ipswich finished only ninth in 1982–83, with Cooper playing in 35 league matches and Sivell in the remaining seven.[27] He made 36 league appearances in 1983–84 as Ipswich finished twelfth; Sivell, in his final season at Ipswich,[28] played in the other six games.[29] Cooper played 36 league games again the following season, with Ipswich slumping to seventeenth as the 1981 team began to break up. Mark Grew, a £60,000 signing in March 1984, played the remaining six matches.[30] In 1985–86 Cooper was still first choice goalkeeper, with Grew going out on loan and Jon Hallworth standing in for Cooper in six league games.[30][31] Ipswich were relegated to Division Two at the end of the season, but Cooper stayed at the club and made 36 league appearances as the club qualified for the promotion playoffs in their first season in Division Two. Cooper saved a penalty in the first leg against Charlton as the match ended 0–0, but Ipswich lost 2–1 in the away leg. One of the last members of the Robson-era team still at the club, he left Ipswich on a free transfer in June 1987 and signed for Second Division Leicester City,[3] who were managed by former Ipswich teammate Bryan Hamilton.[24] Hallworth became Ipswich's first choice goalkeeper for the 1987–88 season.

Leicester City[edit]

Cooper made his Leicester debut on 12 September 1987 in a 2–1 defeat at Crystal Palace,[32] having replaced Ian Andrews in the team after Leicester lost four of their first five matches of the season. He went on to make 39 appearances in his first season for Leicester as they finished thirteenth in the division. The season saw him save his 59th penalty during a Full Members Cup match against Stoke City.[33] Although Martin Hodge was bought to replace him, injury meant that Cooper remained first choice goalkeeper for the first half of the 1988–89 season, playing until mid-January. However, when Hodge recovered, Cooper was allowed to leave; he did not play for Leicester again after a 2–1 win at home to Portsmouth on 14 January,[5] and subsequently signed for Second Division rivals Manchester City for £20,000 on the March 1989 transfer deadline day to serve as backup to Andy Dibble.[34]

Manchester City[edit]

Dibble suffered an injury in the next match,[34] meaning Cooper made his City debut in a 2–1 win against Stoke on 27 March.[35] He went on to make seven more appearances as the club finished as Second Division runners-up, earning promotion to the First Division.[36] Although Dibble was in goal for the first two matches of the following season,[37][38] he then suffered a back injury that kept him out for six weeks.[39] Cooper came into the team, but only kept his place for nine matches,[40] his final appearance for Manchester City and in the top division being a 4–0 defeat at Arsenal on 14 October 1989,[35] although he remained at the club until the following summer,[3] when they signed another goalkeeper, Tony Coton.[39]

Stockport County[edit]

Cooper joined Fourth Division Stockport County in August 1990,[3] and made his debut on 25 August against Halifax Town in a 0–0 draw. He played 25 more matches before making his final appearance on 2 February in a 1–0 defeat to Carlisle United,[41] after which he retired due to injury.[42]

Post-football[edit]

After retiring from football, Cooper worked for a company selling nuts and bolts.[43] He married his second wife, Sue, in 1991, with whom he had a daughter.[44] He did some scouting in north-west England for Ipswich manager and former teammate George Burley, before moving to Tenerife where he runs a golf business.[44] In 2014 he was inducted into the Ipswich Town Hall of Fame.[45]

Honours[edit]

  • FA Cup winner 1978
  • UEFA Cup winner 1981

Career statistics[edit]

Club Season Division League FA Cup League Cup Europe Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Birmingham City 1971–72 Second Division 12 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 19 0
1972–73 First Division 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 0
1973–74 First Division 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 0
Ipswich Town First Division 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
1974–75 First Division 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
1975–76 First Division 40 0 3 0 1 0 4 0 0 0 48 0
1976–77 First Division 34 0 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 38 0
1976–77 First Division 40 0 7 0 3 0 6 0 0 0 56 0
1978–79 First Division 41 0 5 0 1 0 6 0 1 0 54 0
1979–80 First Division 40 0 4 0 2 0 4 0 0 0 50 0
1980–81 First Division 38 0 7 0 5 0 11 0 0 0 61 0
1981–82 First Division 32 0 3 0 8 0 2 0 0 0 45 0
1982–83 First Division 35 0 2 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 39 0
1983–84 First Division 36 0 1 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 41 0
1984–85 First Division 36 0 4 0 9 0 0 0 0 0 49 0
1985–86 First Division 36 0 5 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 46 0
1986–87 Second Division 36 0 1 0 3 0 0 0 5 0 45 0
Leicester City 1987–88 Second Division 32 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 3 0 39 0
1988–89 Second Division 24 0 1 0 5 0 0 0 1 0 31 0
Manchester City Second Division 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 0
1989–90 First Division 7 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 9 0
Stockport County 1990–91 Fourth Division 22 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 27 0
Total 557 0 51 0 57 0 34 0 16 0 715 0
Source: Pride of Anglia, Neil Brown, Foxes Talk, Blue Moon, Go Go Go County

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b In praise of short(er) goalkeepers The Guardian, 20 May 2015
  2. ^ a b Ipswich's '78 FA Cup-winning team BBC Sport, 1 May 2008
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Paul Cooper Pride of Anglia
  4. ^ a b "Super-kid Cooper is favourite" Daily Express, 14 April 1972
  5. ^ a b Paul Cooper Foxes Talk
  6. ^ a b c Matthews, Tony (1995). Birmingham City: A Complete Record. Derby: Breedon Books. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-85983-010-9. 
  7. ^ Ramsbottom United v Sutton Coldfield Town programme Ramsbottom United, p16
  8. ^ a b "Dave Latchford set for recall" Daily Mirror, 25 January 1972
  9. ^ "Goodwin warns: This is our Cup Final", Daily Mirror, 8 April 1972
  10. ^ 15 April 1972 - Leeds United 3 Birmingham City 0 Mighty Whites
  11. ^ a b Matthews, pp. 207–209.
  12. ^ Gary Sprake dies aged 71: How former Leeds United goalkeeper became an Anfield legend The Telegraph, 19 October 2016
  13. ^ a b Games played by Paul Cooper in 1973-74 Pride of Anglia
  14. ^ Games played by Paul Cooper in 1974-75 Pride of Anglia
  15. ^ Season 1974-75 Football Combination Pride of Anglia
  16. ^ Season 1976-77 Division 1 Pride of Anglia
  17. ^ Pat looks back Tottenham Hotspur, 13 November 2002
  18. ^ a b Cooper's mascot came up trumps Ipswich Star, 28 March 2008
  19. ^ Season 1978-79 Division 1 Pride of Anglia
  20. ^ Season 1978-79 Division 1 Pride of Anglia
  21. ^ Quirky facts Goalkeepers are different
  22. ^ a b Dean Hayes (2006) The Who's Who of Ipswich Town Cromwell Press, pp41–42
  23. ^ Spot luck: Europe's top penalty-savers UEFA, 6 February 2015
  24. ^ a b Ipswich Town Hall of Fame: Paul Cooper reflects on the glory years Green 'Un, 21 March 2014
  25. ^ Escape to Victory: The Film’s Footballing Cast Revisited Inside Futbol, 22 September 2010
  26. ^ Season 1981-82 Division 1 Pride of Anglia
  27. ^ Season 1982-83 Division 1 Pride of Anglia
  28. ^ Laurie Sivell Pride of Anglia
  29. ^ Season 1983-84 Canon League Division One Pride of Anglia
  30. ^ a b Mark Grew Pride of Anglia
  31. ^ Season 1985-86 Canon League Division One Pride of Anglia
  32. ^ Crystal Palace 2 - 1 Leicester City Foxes Talk
  33. ^ Stoke City archive: Spot on! 28 years since the Potters’ first ever penalty shoot-out success Stoke Sentinel, 19 January 2016
  34. ^ a b "City wait for diagnosis of Dibble's injury". The Times. 27 March 1989. 
  35. ^ a b Paul Cooper Blue Moon
  36. ^ 1988-89 Blue Moon
  37. ^ Liverpool vs Manchester City Blue Moon
  38. ^ Manchester City vs Southampton Blue Moon
  39. ^ a b Andy Dibble Manchester City Info via the Alps
  40. ^ 1989-90 Blue Moon
  41. ^ Paul Cooper Go Go Go County
  42. ^ Paul Cooper Post War English & Scottish Football League A - Z Player's Transfer Database
  43. ^ Where Are They Now? Birmingham City’s Division 2 runners-up 1971/72 The Football League Paper, 15 January 2016
  44. ^ a b Paul loves life in Tenerife Ipswich Star, 28 Marcy 2009
  45. ^ Five honoured including John Lyall and Wembley winners Ipswich Town, 14 March 2014