Neale Cooper

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.

Neale Cooper
Personal information
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
Playing position Midfielder
Youth career
1978–1979 King Street
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1979–1986 Aberdeen 220 (10)
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

Playing career

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.[2] 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.[3]

In the summer of 1986, he signed for Aston Villa.[2] Cooper made only twenty league appearances in the next two years, partly because of injuries.[2] In the 1988–89 season, he transferred to Rangers but injuries restricted him to only seventeen league appearances.[2] Cooper returned to Aberdeen in 1990, but he was unable to make a first team appearance due to ongoing fitness issues.[2]

In 1991, Cooper signed for Reading, where he linked up with his former Aberdeen teammate Mark McGhee.[2] Cooper made seven league appearances in a brief stint with Reading, before he moved to Dunfermline Athletic.[2] At Dunfermline he was able to play regularly, helping them win promotion in 1995/96.[2] In 1996, he moved into management with Ross County.[2]

Managerial career

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".[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.[5]

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.[6] Peterhead struggled in the following season, however, and Cooper left the club in March 2011 with them sitting bottom of the Second Division table.[6]

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.[7] Neale brought numerous talented young players into the Hartlepool first team with seven teenagers from the club's academy making their debuts.[8] After a 3–2 defeat on the final day to league champions Charlton Athletic,[9] 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.[10] He is still held in very high regard by Hartlepool fans.[11]

On 23 November 2012, Cooper was appointed assistant manager of SPL side Ross County alongside Derek Adams.[12] Cooper left Ross County at the end of the 2013–14 season.[13]

Managerial statistics

As of 24 October 2012[14]
Team From To Record
G W D L Win %
Ross County 1 July 1996 11 November 2002 299 130 89 80 043.48
Hartlepool United 26 June 2003 4 May 2005 110 48 26 36 043.64
Gillingham 21 May 2005 15 November 2005 22 7 5 10 031.82
Peterhead 10 January 2008 22 March 2011 143 50 39 54 034.97
Hartlepool United 28 December 2011 24 October 2012 40 7 14 19 017.50
Total 614 242 173 199 039.41

Personal life

Cooper had a son, Alex, who represented Liverpool youth academy, after a £100,000 move from Ross County in December 2007.[15] 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.[16]

In November 2017, Cooper was one of four inductees into the Aberdeen Hall of Fame.[17]


On 28 May 2018 it was reported that Cooper was in a critical condition after being found collapsed in the stairwell of flats in Aberdeen.[18] He died later that day, aged 54.[18]

A Celebration of Neale's life was held at Aberdeen's ground Pittodrie Stadium on 8 June.[19] The evening was attended by Neale's family, former team mates and fans and saw over 4,000 people attend.[20]

In June, his former club Hartlepool announced that they would be renaming a stand in his honour. The Neale Cooper Stand was officially unveiled in a pre-season game against Sunderland in July.[21]


As a player


Scottish League Cup 1988 winner (1)

Dunfermline Athletic

As a manager

Ross County


  1. ^ "Scotland U21 Player Neale Cooper Details". Fitba Stats. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mackie, James (2010). Fergie's Proteges. Xlibris Corporation. p. 54–61. ISBN 978-1-4535-6730-2.
  3. ^ "Obituary: Neale Cooper, talented footballer who somehow never won a Scotland cap". The Scotsman. 1 June 2018. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Neale Cooper gets Hartlepool United job". BBC Sport. BBC. 28 December 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  5. ^ "Gillingham manager Cooper resigns". BBC Sport. 15 November 2005. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Peterhead part with manager Cooper and line up Sheran". BBC Sport. BBC. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  7. ^ "Hartlepool 2-0 Rochdale". BBC Sport. BBC. 30 May 2018. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  8. ^ Ashdown, John (9 May 2012). "League One 2011-12: the bloggers' end-of-season report". the Guardian. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  9. ^ "Charlton 3-2 Hartlepool". BBC Sport. BBC. 5 May 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  10. ^ "Neale Cooper resigns as Hartlepool United first-team coach". BBC Sport. BBC. 24 October 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  11. ^ "Fans sad to see Cooper go". Hartlepool Mail. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Neale Cooper returns to Ross County as club's assistant manager". STV Sport. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  13. ^ "Ross County: Neale Cooper exits as assistant manager". BBC Sport. BBC. 12 May 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  14. ^ "Neale Cooper". Soccerbase. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  15. ^ Liverpool Sign Young Winger, accessed 19 June 2009.
  16. ^ Alex Cooper at Soccerbase
  17. ^ "2017 AFC Hall of Fame". Aberdeen F.C. 11 November 2017. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  18. ^ a b "Ex-footballer Neale Cooper dies after collapsing". BBC News. BBC. 28 May 2018. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  19. ^ "CELEBRATION OF THE LIFE OF NEALE COOPER". Aberdeen FC. 4 June 2018.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ "Neale Cooper stand unveiled on emotional day at Pools". Hartlepool Mail. 14 July 2018.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g "Neale Cooper: his football career". Aberdeen F.C. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  23. ^ Hart, Ross (28 May 2018). "Former Par Cooper passes away". Dunfermline Press.
  24. ^ "Neale Cooper". League Managers Association. Retrieved 1 June 2018.

External links

1981–82 Scottish Cup

The 1981–82 Scottish Cup was the 97th staging of Scotland's most prestigious football knockout competition. The Cup was won by Aberdeen who defeated Rangers in the final.

1982 Scottish Cup Final

The 1982 Scottish Cup Final was played on 22 May 1982 at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Aberdeen and Rangers contested the match; the final of the 107th Scottish Cup. Aberdeen won 4–1, after extra time goals from McGhee, Strachan and Cooper. This marked the first cup win for a team outwith the Old Firm for over 10 years. That team also being Aberdeen in 1970.

1983 Scottish Cup Final

The 1983 Scottish Cup Final was played on 21 May 1983 at Hampden Park in Glasgow and was the final of the 108th Scottish Cup. Aberdeen and Rangers contested the match, Aberdeen won the match 1–0, thanks to Eric Black's extra time goal. Aberdeen had already won the Cup Winners' Cup ten days earlier, making the Scottish Cup their second trophy of the season.

1984 Scottish Cup Final

The 1984 Scottish Cup Final was played on 19 May 1984 at Hampden Park in Glasgow and was the final of the 109th Scottish Cup. The previous year's winners and defending champions in the match were Aberdeen who had beaten Rangers in the 1983 final. Aberdeen had beaten Dundee 2–0 in their semi-final to reach the final whereas Celtic had beaten St Mirren 2–1. The holder's Aberdeen and Celtic contested the match, Aberdeen won the match 2–1, their goals were scored by Eric Black and Mark McGhee. This marked three consecutive Scottish Cup wins for Aberdeen.

1985 Scottish League Cup Final

The 1985 Scottish League Cup Final was played on 27 October 1985, at Hampden Park in Glasgow and was the final of the 40th Scottish League Cup competition. The final was contested by Aberdeen and Hibernian. Aberdeen won the match 3–0 thanks to goals by Eric Black (2) and Billy Stark, giving Alex Ferguson his only Scottish League Cup trophy win.

1986 Scottish Cup Final

The 1986 Scottish Cup Final was played on 10 May 1986 at Hampden Park in Glasgow and was the final of the 111th Scottish Cup. The previous winners were Celtic, who had beaten Dundee United in the 1985 final, but they were knocked out by Hibernian at the quarter-final stage. The Final was contested by Aberdeen and Heart of Midlothian. Aberdeen won the match 3–0, with goals from John Hewitt and Billy Stark.

1988 Scottish League Cup Final

The 1988 Scottish League Cup Final was played on 23 October 1988 at Hampden Park in Glasgow and was the final of the 43rd Scottish League Cup. The final was contested by Aberdeen and Rangers and was the second of three consecutive finals between the two clubs.

Rangers won the match 3–2 thanks to goals from Ally McCoist and Ian Ferguson.

1988–89 Rangers F.C. season

The 1988–89 season was the 109th season of competitive football by Rangers.

1991–92 Reading F.C. season

During the 1991–92 English football season, Reading F.C. competed in the Football League Third Division, FA Cup, League Cup and League Trophy. It was their first season with Mark McGhee as their player-manager and they finished in 12th place in the league. They also reached Round 3 of the FA Cup, Round 1 of the League Cup and the Southern Primarily Group of the League Trophy.

2011–12 Football League One

The 2011–12 Football League One (referred to as the Npower Football League One for sponsorship reasons) was the eighth season of the league under its current title and nineteenth season under its current league division format.

Derek Adams

Derek Watt Adams (born 25 June 1975) is a Scottish football manager and former player. He has been the manager of Football League One club Plymouth Argyle since 2015. Adams played professionally for six different clubs, including Ross County and Motherwell, where he made over 100 league appearances for both teams.

Adams became manager of Ross County in 2007, winning promotion from the Scottish Second Division in his first season, before reaching the Scottish Cup Final two years later. He joined Hibernian as assistant manager in 2010 before returning to Ross County the following year, where he won the Scottish First Division and was voted PFA Scotland Manager of the Year for the 2011–12 season. Having left County in 2014, Adams became manager of Plymouth Argyle in June 2015.

Hugh Robertson (footballer, born 1975)

Hugh Scott Robertson (born 19 March 1975 in Aberdeen) is a Scottish former professional football player.

Jack Baldwin (footballer)

Jack Baldwin (born 30 June 1993) is an English professional footballer who plays as a defender for League One club Sunderland.

Jack Wilkinson (footballer, born 1985)

Jack Lloyd Wilkinson (born 12 September 1985) is an English footballer who played in the Football League for Hartlepool United.

Wilkinson managed to break into the reserve team at Hartlepool United and went out on loan to Scarborough, Whitby and Bishop Auckland in order to gain match practice. Jack who was the first of the two to break in the first team when he was rewarded by manager Neale Cooper for his performances. In 2003, Jack made his first team debut against his former loanee club Whitby in the FA Cup. Jack went on to make a total of 2 starts and 2 substitute appearances for the first team, scoring twice. Unfortunately in 2004, Jack picked up an injury and was out for three months. During this time Jack was over-taken in the pecking order for strikers and this led to him being released from the club in May, 2006.

After being released by Hartlepool, Wilkinson had a trial with York City.

Ken Hodcroft

Ken Hodcroft is the managing director of Increased Oil Recovery and is the former chairman of Hartlepool United F.C. (HUFC).

List of Hartlepool United F.C. managers

Hartlepool United Football Club is an English association football club based in Hartlepool, North East England and currently play in League One. Fred Priest, who led the team to second in the North Eastern League in the 1909–10 season, was elected as the club's first manager in August 1908. The club was managed by Cecil Potter when it was named as a founder member of the Football League Third Division North for the 1921–22 season, in which the team finished in 4th position. The club went throughout the period of 1940–43 without a manager due to the Second World War but appointed Fred Westgarth in August 1943. Under the management of Angus McLean, the club won promotion to Division Three from Division Four after finishing in third place in the 1967–68 season.The 1990–91 season saw promotion gained under the management originally of Cyril Knowles and later Alan Murray. Mike Newell led the team to promotion to Division Two in the 2002–03, after the season had initially been started by Chris Turner and also included the caretakership of Colin West. After relegation to League Two in 2006, former Northern Ireland international Danny Wilson managed the team as they subsequently won promotion back to League One, finishing in second place. Wilson was sacked in December 2008, with the team in the bottom half of the table.

Michael Barron

Michael James Barron (born 22 December 1974 in Chester-le-Street) is a football coach and a former professional footballer. He retired from playing in May 2008. His last job in football was assistant manager and reserve team manager at Hartlepool United F.C.

Ross County F.C.

Ross County Football Club is a Scottish professional football club based in Dingwall, Highland. They play all of their home matches at Victoria Park in Dingwall. The club currently play in the Scottish Championship, after being relegated from the Scottish Premiership in the 2017–18 season. Prior to the 1994–95 season they played in the Highland Football League, a competition they won three times. They have also won the Scottish First Division, Second Division, Third Division (once each) and Challenge Cup twice. In 2010, they reached the Scottish Cup Final and in 2016, they won the Scottish League Cup. Nicknamed The Staggies, County's colours are dark blue, red and white.

Victoria Park (Hartlepool)

Victoria Park also known as the Super 6 Stadium for sponsorship reasons is a football ground in Hartlepool, County Durham, England, which is the home of National League club Hartlepool United.

The four sides of the ground are known as the Town End Terrace (official capacity 1,775), the Niramax Stand (official capacity 1,617 seated and 1,832 terraced standing), the Cyril Knowles Stand (official capacity 1,599) and the Rink End (official capacity 1,033). The Town End Terrace is a standing area behind the south goal, and usually the most vocal area of the ground. The Neale Cooper Stand (formerly the Niramax Stand is an all seating stand with a terraced paddock at the west side of the ground. The Cyril Knowles Stand is a modern all-seater stand to the east of the ground. The Rink End is also an all-seater stand containing 1,033 seats, some with an obscured view of the pitch due to supporting pillars. The Rink End is at the north end of the ground and houses only away fans.

The stadium was previously known as the Northern Gas and Power stadium between August 2016 and June 2017.

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