Football: Cooper keeps County in chase

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The Independent Online
NEALE COOPER might have borrowed a few lines from Alex Ferguson's book of kidology as he assessed the chances of his Ross County side causing another League Cup upset over Hearts tonight.

However the manager who presides over one of the country's only two 100 per cent records will be hoping for another phone call from his old mentor after the Highland club's visit to Tynecastle.

Ferguson was quick to offer his congratulations to one of his former Aberdeen stalwarts after County's memorable 2-0 victory over Dundee United in the last round of the competition. And now Cooper, a tough-tackling midfielder at Pittodrie in the 1980s, is ready to leave his own managerial impression as the Third Division leaders chase an improbable semi-final place.

"Tynecastle was a good ground for me when I was a player at Aberdeen and I am looking forward to going there again," he said. "It is a big game for the players and I will tell them to go out and enjoy the occasion. If we win it will be a huge boost to everyone but if we don't we can look back on a great cup run.

"Knowing Jim Jefferies [the Hearts manager], he won't allow his players to take us for granted after what we have done in the competition.

"But we are the underdogs again and the pressure is all on them. We certainly have the desire to do well and not let ourselves down."

Cooper will look to the in-form striker Derek Adams for further inspiration after his extra-time brace saw off Dundee United at Dingwall in the third round.

However, it may be the last time the former Burnley player turns out for the Highlanders, with a six-figure sum already offered for his services from Morton and several English clubs also keen.

Hearts' Jim Jefferies has been ensuring his Scottish Cup winners do not suffer from similar defections as they aim to sustain another challenge to the Old Firm in the coming months.

That goal received a major fillip yesterday when the new Scotland cap Neil McCann agreed to a two-year extension on his contract at Tynecastle, which was due to expire at the end of this season.

"One or two others have already done the same and it is great news for the club, because we want to keep this team together," Jefferies said.

"They can only get better and with one or two more additions to the squad there is no reason why they shouldn't do."