The business on...Geoff Cooper, Chief executive, Travis Perkins

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He doesn't look like a builder

Well observed. Mr Cooper may run a builders' merchant (Travis Perkins also owns DIY chain Wickes), but he's an accountant by trade – Bob the beancounter, you might say.

Handy with the figures though?

Indeed. Understandably, Travis Perkins had a tough time during the housing market downturn, but its performance has picked up this year. So much so that Mr Cooper said yesterday he could begin paying dividends to shareholders again.

Let's hope it's not a false dawn.

Well, clearly, Travis Perkins' fortunes are housing dependent and there is no shortage of analysts predicting another gloomy period in the months and years to come.

Disappointments ahead then?

Maybe. Still, Mr Cooper is used to it – he's a devoted Spurs supporter.

That's a low blow.

Sorry. But on the subject of footie, we can't help wondering if Mr Cooper ever thinks about how life might have turned out had he made different choices. He took the job at Travis Perkins in 2005 despite being a favourite to succeed Mark Palios as chief executive of the Football Association.

Really, what happened?

Well, Mr Cooper was on a shortlist of four for the FA post but pulled out of the running when he was offered the chief executive's post at Travis Perkins. Brian Barwick got the job instead and appointed Fabio Capello as England manager.

Wasn't that an odd decision?

Well, Capello was a widely respected club manager...

No, by the accountant.

Ah, see what you meant. Well, Mr Cooper's lengthy career in business, first at Arthur Andersen and then in senior roles at Somerfield and UniChem, had seen him tipped for a top chief executive's role and it was clearly an ambition to run a large company. Anyway, heading a builder's merchant during a housing depression must be an easier job than getting a decent performance out of Capello's mob.