|Full name||David Cooper|
|Date of birth||25 February 1956|
|Place of birth||Hamilton, Scotland|
|Date of death||23 March 1995(aged 39)|
|Place of death||Glasgow, Scotland|
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Born in Hamilton, Cooper played as a youth for local side Hamilton Avondale, whilst also working as an apprentice printer for the club's owners. His talents were noticed by numerous top-flight clubs both in Scotland and England. Cooper chose to sign for Clydebank in 1974, beginning his career as a professional footballer. Cooper continued to show potential at Clydebank, finishing as the club's top scorer in his second full season at Kilbowie Park.
Cooper signed for Rangers in June 1977 for a fee of £100,000 at the age of 21. The next 12 years would see him become a Rangers stalwart, playing 540 games and winning numerous trophies with the Ibrox club, including the Scottish Premier Division in 1977–78, 1986–87 and 1988–89. In August 1989, Tommy McLean signed Cooper for Motherwell for a fee of £50,000. He played over 150 times for the Steelmen and was part of the team that won the 1991 Scottish Cup Final against Dundee United. Cooper also represented the Scotland national football team from 1979 to 1990, in which he was capped 22 times and scored 6 goals. During this time, he represented Scotland at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, making two appearances for the national team at the tournament.
In his later career, Cooper returned to Clydebank in the capacity of a player/assistant coach. He intended to retire as a player at the end of the 1995 season, however on 22 March 1995 he suffered a brain haemorrhage at Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld whilst filming a youth coaching television programme. He died the following day at the age of 39.
Cooper was born in Hamilton, Scotland, on 25 February 1956 to John Cooper (1918–1998) and Jean Cooper (1926–2012). The Cooper family lived in a flat in Brankholm Brae, in the Hillhouse estate in Hamilton.
He attended Beckford Street Primary in Hamilton before moving on to Udston Primary. As captain of the team, he played at left-half (the equivalent of left midfield in contemporary footballing terms) and at inside left (roughly equivalent to a modern-day deep-lying striker).
Cooper later attended St. John's Grammar School (now Hamilton Grammar School) and went on to play for local juvenile team Udston United. Cooper was a Rangers supporter in his youth and attended matches at Ibrox with his father and brother. His brother, John, was a youth team player in the English Football League with Hull City, but failed to secure a career as a professional footballer.
Cooper himself later moved on to Hamilton Avondale, where he played with the Under-16 team, before progressing to the Under-18 team. At that time he was working as an apprentice printer with the brothers who ran Hamilton Avondale. His first International recognition came when he represented his country at Under-18 level against the other Home Nations.
Clydebank director Jack Steedman (who was well aware of Cooper's capabilities) signed the youngster on 16 May 1974. Years later, Steedman admitted: "I raided the Bankies' club safe and took the silver from the gaming machines in the social club and transferred it into pound notes. I took £300 worth of beer-stained notes, drove to the printing works in Hamilton where he worked and convinced him to sign for the club. In forty years of football, it was the best thing I ever did."
Cooper made his debut for Clydebank against Airdrieonians in the Scottish League Cup. The game took place on 10 August 1974; Airdrie won 4–0. His full debut was also against Airdrie and again in the League Cup, on Wednesday 28 August, but again Airdrie won, this time by 2–1. This game was his first appearance at New Kilbowie Park.
Cooper's Scottish League debut came in the Second Division, in the last season before League re-construction, on Saturday 31 August 1974. He first played on the winning side for the Bankies on 30 November, when they beat Cowdenbeath at Kilbowie 2–1. His first goal for the team came two games later when, again at Kilbowie, he scored the third goal in the 4–1 defeat of Alloa Athletic. Cooper ended the season with 29 starts, 2 as a sub, and scored 5 goals.
In the 1975–76 season, Cooper was one of four ever-presents. He finished top of the Clydebank goalscoring list with 13 in the League, three of which were penalties. His first hat-trick in senior football included two penalties at Alloa Athletic, where Clydebank won 3–1. Cooper played in all of Clydebank's 49 games that season, scoring 22 goals and seeing the club promoted to the First Division.
At the age of 21, Cooper was sold to Rangers for £100,000 on 8 June 1977, receiving a signing on fee of £10,000, and on a wage of £150 per week.
Cooper appeared in 52 of Rangers' 53 matches in the 1977–78 season, as Jock Wallace's side won the domestic treble. His first league goal for Rangers came against St Mirren at Love Street on 17 September 1977 in a 3–3 draw (his last goal came almost exactly eleven years later, also against St Mirren). His first Ibrox goal for the club came a fortnight later in a 4–1 win against Clydebank. He scored his second in the same match – direct from a corner kick. He scored eight goals in total in his first season at Rangers.
The following season, Cooper made 49 appearances and scored ten goals as Rangers won both domestic cup competitions. On 4 August 1979, Cooper scored a memorable solo goal against Celtic in the 1979 Drybrough Cup Final at Hampden Park. A crossed ball in from Alex MacDonald met Cooper at the edge of the box, where he went on to "keepie up" the ball over Roddie MacDonald, Murdo MacLeod, Tom McAdam and Alan Sneddon before slotting the ball past onrushing Celtic goalkeeper Peter Latchford. The goal was voted the greatest ever Rangers goal by Rangers fans and listed by The Guardian's Rob Smyth as the second greatest ever solo goal, after Diego Maradona's Goal of the Century. Sandy Jardine, who had scored a spectacular second goal for Rangers during the match, admitted his goal had been overshadowed by Cooper's. “I scored one of my best goals that day,” said Jardine, “and it hardly got a mention.”
The 1979–80 season was the first of only three seasons during his time at Ibrox that the club failed to win a trophy. In 1980, Brighton's Alan Mullery reportedly put in a bid for both Cooper and Rangers teammate Gordon Smith; Smith moved on, Cooper stayed.
The following season (1980–81), Cooper started fewer than half of the scheduled league games. He was, however, part of the starting line-up for the Scottish Cup final replay against Dundee United which Rangers won. This was his last Scottish Cup winners medal for the Ibrox side.
In the 1981–82 season, Cooper started his 21st consecutive League Cup tie for Rangers as they won through to the Final. His only goal in the Ibrox side's 11 ties came in the Final. Cooper played in all but six league fixtures as Rangers attained third place.
In the 1982–83 season, Cooper scored his first hat-trick for Rangers (in a sectional League Cup tie against Kilmarnock) and his first and only European goal, against Borussia Dortmund at Ibrox, in the UEFA Cup. It was his most prolific goalscoring season for the club, scoring 12 goals in all competitions.
Cooper scored eight Scottish Premier Division goals in the 1986–87 season, when Rangers won their first league title for nine years.
Cooper won League Cup medals in 1983–84, 1984–85, 1986–87 and 1987–88. He scored the winning goal from the penalty spot in 1986–87 against Celtic. The following season he scored a free-kick, Rangers's first goal, in a 3–3 draw against Aberdeen. Rangers won 5–3 on penalties, Cooper claiming a seventh winner's medal.
On 9 August 1988, Cooper's testimonial match against Girondins de Bordeaux saw over 43,000 spectators watch Rangers win 3–2 with Terry Butcher, Kevin Drinkell and Ally McCoist netting for Rangers. Cooper finished his Rangers career with 75 goals in 540 appearances. When asked to describe the highlight of his time at Rangers, he simply responded "I played for the team I loved."
Following the Souness Revolution at Ibrox and an influx of high-profile signings, Cooper's presence in the Rangers first team began to decrease. Broadcaster Tam Cowan stated: "He (Souness) was bringing in guys like Mark Walters, exciting talent out on the wing from down south. But Davie, because he loved the game so much, just wanted to go somewhere where he could play first team football." Souness later admitted his mistake in allowing Cooper to leave for Motherwell, saying: "I regret the fact I didn’t say no to him at that time. He went on to play brilliantly at the highest level for another three years."
After 12 years at Ibrox, Cooper signed for Motherwell, then managed by former teammate Tommy McLean in August 1989 for a fee of £50,000. His debut for the club came at Rugby Park in a midweek Scottish League Cup tie against Kilmarnock on 15 August 1989. Motherwell won the match 4-1, with Cooper assisting in three of the four goals scored. He scored his first goal for the North Lanarkshire side the following month, in a 3-0 win against Dundee at Fir Park on 30 September 1989.
Cooper spent nearly five years with Motherwell, going on to play over 150 times for the Steelmen. Perhaps his most notable achievement during his Motherwell spell was contributing to the club winning its first major trophy in 39 years: The 1990–91 Scottish Cup against Dundee United, in which Motherwell won 4–3 after extra-time in the final. The following day, Cooper and his teammates paraded the streets of Motherwell on an open top bus, with thousands of fans gathering to celebrate the club's success.
Return to ClydebankEdit
While with Motherwell, Cooper had been working in a coaching capacity with the reserve and youth sides. In December 1993 he returned to Clydebank as a player, but also to assist in coaching duties. In 1993–94 he played in a total of 20 games, including sixteen starts and four as a substitute. In 1994–95 he was almost an ever-present in the side until the start of February, when he played his last first team match against Hearts in a Scottish Cup third round replay at Tynecastle on 7 February 1995.
Cooper had scored his last goal in a Challenge Cup semi-final against Airdrie earlier that season, and his last appearance in a Clydebank jersey was in a reserve fixture at New Kilbowie on 21 February 1995 against Hamilton Academical.
Cooper made his international debut for Scotland under-21s in the 1976–77 season in a 0–0 draw versus the Czech Republic in Pilsen. He won another three caps that season, versus Wales, Switzerland and England.
His debut for the full Scotland national team came on 12 September 1979, in a 1–1 draw with Peru at Hampden Park. Cooper played for the national team again the following month in a 1–1 draw at home to Austria in the Euro 1980 qualifiers, but after that he wasn't capped again for over four years. Cooper returned to the national team on 28 February 1984, scoring against Wales in a 2–1 British Home Championship win, and he was on the scoresheet for Scotland again later in the year in a 6–1 friendly win over Yugoslavia.
Cooper became a regular in the Scotland team and prior to the 1986 World Cup, playing in 11 consecutive games. A key match was the last qualification group match, against Wales in September 1985, in which Scotland needed at least a draw would to keep their qualification hopes alive. Cooper began the match on the bench and Scotland struggled early on, as Mark Hughes scored for Wales in the 13th minute and goalkeeper Jim Leighton struggled with vison after losing a contact lens. Scotland manager Jock Stein replaced Gordon Strachan with Cooper in the 61st minute. With nine minutes remaining, Scotland were awarded a penalty kick that Cooper scored. As the game ended in a 1–1 draw, the Scotland team and around 12,000 travelling fans celebrated their survival in the competition. The achievement was completely overshadowed by the collapse and death of Jock Stein, who fell ill at the final whistle and died 30 minutes later.
Cooper also scored in a 2–0 win against Australia in the qualification play-off, and made two appearances in the finals in Mexico. Cooper scored his final two goals (from six in total) for Scotland on 12 November 1986 in a 3–0 home win against Luxembourg in a Euro 88 qualifier. He was capped twice for Scotland as a Motherwell player, and the last of his 22 caps was earned on 16 May 1990 in a friendly against Egypt at Pittodrie. An injury precluded him from being selected for the Scotland squad for the 1990 FIFA World Cup finals.
Cooper's final Scotland cap was auctioned by his friend John Semple in 2014. It was displayed at the Ideal Home Show in Glasgow's SECC before an auction at McTear's Auctioneers with an estimated value of around £8,000.
Cooper met his wife Christine through a connection with his brother John, who had been dating one of her colleagues. They married in Spring 1980 at Coatdyke Congregational Church in the town of Airdrie.
Cooper was often reluctant to speak to the press and only rarely participated in interviews. This led to him being nicknamed "The Moody Blue" due to his reserved nature, despite many of his colleagues and friends praising his personality. Journalist and friend Hugh Keevins said in an article on Cooper: ″He could be grumpy like any other human being in a stressful occupation, but I remember the ready smile and the winning personality.″
One particularly close friend was Ally McCoist, who said in newspaper tribute to Cooper: ″I still regard myself as being blessed to have gained the chance to live and work and share football memories with Davie, whether at Ibrox or when we were in Scotland squads or just chewing the fat about the game we loved.″ McCoist and Derek Johnstone visited Cooper in hospital shortly before his death.
In the lead-up to his retirement, Cooper got involved in coaching roles both with his club and in local communities. He began presenting a coaching television series for youngsters called 'Shoot' for Scottish Television, along with former Celtic, Arsenal, Aberdeen and Scotland player Charlie Nicholas and former Sheffield Wednesday player Tommy Craig. Cooper collapsed after suffering a brain haemorrhage on the morning of Wednesday 22 March 1995 at Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld during a recording session for an episode.
He was taken to University Hospital Monklands, where a CT Scan confirmed a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Cooper was transferred to the Institute for Neurological Sciences at Glasgow's Southern General Hospital, where consultant neurosurgeon Professor Garth Cruikshank took charge of the case. His condition deteriorated during the night. In his announcement to the media, Cruikshank stated that Cooper would not have been aware at any point of what was going on. In the early hours of the following morning on the 23 March 1995, Cooper's life support machine was turned off and he died at the age of 39.
His funeral took place at Hillhouse Parish Church, Hamilton, on 27 March 1995, and he was buried in the town's cemetery.
The news of Cooper's death was met with widespread sadness from across the country and the footballing world, much of which is still felt today. Supporters of Clydebank, Rangers and Motherwell left tributes outside their respective grounds. Jock Wallace Jr. (who had signed Cooper for Rangers in 1977) said: "My feelings go out to his family and loved ones, who will have to be strong through this ordeal." The (then) Scottish Football Association chief executive Jim Farry stated: "It is tragic that one with such skills and knowledge will no longer be able to impart them to young players."
It emerged that, after his retirement, Cooper had intended to share his footballing knowledge and skills with youngsters in creating a David Cooper Soccer School in conjunction with Clydebank. "It was our intention to take football to the children of the country" said Jack Steedman, whose club had helped Cooper develop his own skills throughout the early 1970s. Subsequently, a seven-a-side tournament for schoolchildren, The Davie Cooper Soccer Sevens, was named in his honour in 1995; it takes place annually in his hometown of Hamilton.
Cooper is remembered as one of the most significant players in the histories of Clydebank, Rangers and Motherwell football clubs. He was inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame in 2000, Clydebank's in 2008 and Motherwell's in 2020.
Dutch international Ruud Gullit played against Cooper in a friendly match for Feyenoord against Rangers, after which he called Cooper one of the greatest players he had ever seen. Gullit later named Cooper in his greatest XI in football magazine Four Four Two. 25 years after his sudden death, Gullit commented: "So, it's 25 years ago already, and we have to celebrate him. Davie Cooper forever."
After Cooper's death, Motherwell renamed Fir Park's North Stand in his honour. The 2005 Scottish League Cup Final between Rangers and Motherwell paid tribute to Cooper's memory. Ticket stubs had an image of him printed on them, and a percentage of the programme sales went towards establishing a centre for special needs children. On 16 November 2020, it was announced that Cooper was to be inducted into the Motherwell F.C. Hall of Fame.
In 1999, four years after Cooper's death, a statue of the player was erected in his honour at the Hamilton Palace Sports and Recreation Grounds. The bronze statue was created by artist Kenny Mackay and erected by South Lanarkshire Council. Former team-mate Ally McCoist and Rangers ambassador Mark Hateley laid a wreath at the statue in March 2020, 25 years after Cooper's death in memory of the player.
- Scores and results list Scotland's goal tally first.
|1||28 February 1984||Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland||Wales||1–0||2–1||British Home Championship|
|2||12 September 1984||Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland||Yugoslavia||1–0||6–1||Friendly match|
|3||10 September 1985||Ninian Park, Cardiff, Wales||Wales||1–1||1–1||1986 FIFA World Cup qualifying|
|4||20 November 1985||Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland||Australia||1–0||2–0||1986 FIFA World Cup play-off|
|5||12 November 1986||Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland||Luxembourg||1–0||3–0||UEFA Euro 1988 qualifying|
|6||12 November 1986||Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland||Luxembourg||2–0||3–0||UEFA Euro 1988 qualifying|
- Scottish Premier Division: 1977–78, 1986–87, 1988–89
- Scottish Cup: 1977–78, 1978–79, 1980–81
- Scottish League Cup: 1977–78, 1978–79, 1981–82, 1983–84, 1984–85, 1986–87, 1987–88
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- Scotland U21 player Cooper, Davie, FitbaStats
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- Davie Cooper at the Scottish Football Association