Obituary: Davie Cooper

No one who saw Davie Cooper in action at the peak of his career can doubt he was one of the most gifted football players Scotland has ever seen. The former Clydebank, Rangers and Motherwell player had a balletic grace when he embarked upon one of his runs teasing opponents with that elegant left foot, and his precision at set-pieces produced vital goals. Cooper kept himself fit throughout his career and there was no hint of the tragedy that was to come on Wednesday when he suffered a brain haemorrhage while filming a training video.

Davie Cooper started his playing career at humble Clydebank in 1974, lured by a signing-on fee of £200 which had been raised by emptying the slot machines in the social club. But his genius was given an appropriate platform when he joined Rangers three years later (for a fee of £100,000) and immediately he helped them win the domestic treble.

He was to collect three league titles at Ibrox as well as three Scottish Cup and seven League Cup winner's medals. His ferociously struck free- kick against Aberdeen in the League Cup final of 1987 is remembered by many as one of his best goals.

He moved to Motherwell in 1989 (for a fee of £50,000 - one of the great ironies of Cooper was that for all his brilliance he did not command huge transfer fees) with whom he won a Scottish cup winner's medal two years later.

For a player of his enormous talent, 22 Scotland caps represented a meagre return, yet he scored vital goals for his country, none more so than the penalty which secured a draw against Wales in 1985 to take Scotland into a play-off and eventual qualification for the 1986 World Cup finals.

On that night Cooper and his Scotland team-mates experienced tragedy in football with the death of the manager, Jock Stein. ``It wasn't the best penalty I ever took, but to be honest everything about the night has been totally ruined,'' he said at the time.

He moved to Clydebank on a free transfer in 1994 as player coach. He had been set to retire at the end of the season after 20 years in the game.

As a person he was liked and respected by all who came into contact with him, and a future in coaching or the media seemed likely. Graeme Souness, his former manager at Rangers, rated Cooper a more naturally gifted player than Kenny Dalglish, and was convinced he could have achieved world-wide fame if he had moved to Italian football.

Cooper's skills transcended the great Glasgow divide of Rangers-Celtic rivalry as even the Celtic supporters recognised a great talent.

The real tragedy of the death of Davie Cooper is that at the age of 39 he was still playing the game. He wasn't a legend of yesteryear finishing his days as an old man. Cooper was revered for the player and person he was in the present. That is what makes his untimely death hard to accept.

David McKinney

David Cooper, footballer: born Hamilton 25 February 1956; died Glasgow 23 March 1995.

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