FA Cup countdown: Winning in the name of the father
After breaking his leg against Stoke in 1972, the England and Leeds great Terry Cooper was never quite the same. In this year's FA Cup third round, his son Mark hopes to lay the ghosts of that day to rest with Tamworth
Tuesday 03 January 2006
"Worth a fortune on eBay," jests Mark Cooper as the Tamworth player-manager lists treasured mementoes from the career of his father, Terry, the classic overlapping left-back for England, whom Pele rated good enough to play in the greatest Brazil team. "Not that we'd ever sell them."
There's the gold and green shirt worn by Carlos Alberto, Brazil's captain, and exchanged with Cooper Snr after the epic tussle during the 1970 World Cup; the white West German top swapped with Jurgen Grabowski after the holders' numbing exit; plus some of the 20 international caps won by the Leeds defender.
Then there are the photos. They include one that gives the younger Cooper an additional, personal incentive for doing everything in his power to help Tamworth, second from bottom in the Nationwide Conference, to pull off an FA Cup upset at Stoke City, vying to break into the Coca-Cola Championship play-off places, in an all-Staffordshire third-round tie on Saturday. Dating from 1972, it shows Leeds players gathered round the stricken Terry after a challenge by Stoke's Jackie Marsh snapped his leg with the FA Cup semi-final a week away. He was on crutches for the victory over Arsenal at Wembley and his comeback took two tortuous years.
As Mark admits, "Dad was never quite the same". Just how good he had been can be gauged from the revelation that Juventus tried to buy him after the World Cup. "Don Revie [the Leeds manager] said, 'Why would you want to go there?' He told him he'd get him another £10 a week if he re-signed. Dad eventually said: 'Go on then'."
The injury occurred at the Victoria Ground, since bulldozed from the Potteries landscape. The derelict site lies across the A500 from the Britannia Stadium, where Stoke and Tamworth will tangle.
Mark was a bewildered toddler when dad hobbled home with a leg in plaster. Now 36, he is too astute to talk of seeking revenge. Yet he concedes that victory over Stoke for his assorted electricians, plumbers, builders and students would "certainly lay a few ghosts to rest".
It was not so much the fracture as how it was treated that impacted on the Cooper family. "Dad had a metal plate inserted and they put the screws in the wrong way round," explains Mark. "The bones grew apart instead of together, and eventually he needed a bone graft from his back."
While Terry fought back to win a fleeting England recall, Mark's most vivid early memories are from Bristol City. "I wasn't old enough to see his peak - though I've got videos of the great Leeds side with Billy Bremner, my Uncle Norman [Hunter] and the rest - but I watched him play in midfield as City player-manager. You could actually hear him laughing when opponents couldn't get the ball off him. Not mocking them, just enjoying himself.
"He had switched over from Bristol Rovers, which was unusual. At school I used to get chased all over the place by Rovers fans. It was a good grounding for me.
"I also grew up with the pressure of people saying, 'You'll never be as good as your dad', but I learnt not to let it bother me. I was very proud of him. Still am. I show my seven-year-old the videos. He can't believe that's Granddad bombing up the left wing. But I decided I was going to be as good a player as I could; do my best, whatever level I reached."
As a promising 14-year- old striker Mark was hospitalised with osteomyelitis and could not walk for six months. Later he built a respectable career as a midfielder. His eight clubs included Birmingham City and Exeter, both managed by his father. "I got the nepotism thing thrown at me, but if he was handing out any bollockings, I got 'em! Even if I was 40 yards from a goal, he'd shout, 'Why the fuck weren't you there?'"
Cooper Jnr has dished out a few rollickings himself lately. As a part-time team in a largely full-time league, working on a budget one-sixth the size of some rivals, Tamworth have struggled to score goals and win games. "After we lost 3-0 at Crawley in early December, I said I wasn't putting up with it and would be getting in new players in January."
But in the FA Cup, Tamworth triumphed at Bournemouth and Hartlepool, which Cooper describes as "like Walsall winning at Chelsea". Hearteningly, but also infuriatingly, they have proved they can raise their game for big occasions. "At Crawley we were like a pub side. At Hartlepool a week earlier we looked like a League One team."
"We did extra training before the Cup ties. For Bournemouth we used the facilities at Southampton, where Dad is chief scout. Matt Le Tissier, an old team-mate of my assistant, Richard Dryden, joined in and was the best player on the park. We tried to sign him, but he's happy doing his punditry on Sky.
"Before Hartlepool, we prepared at Middlesbrough's training complex - I know Steve McClaren from Bristol City - and that paid off, too."
Some 3,000 supporters are expected to travel to Stoke, a 40-mile journey Cooper made over Christmas to watch Tamworth's opponents outplay but lose to Leeds, of all clubs. He is encouraged by their opponents' modest home record and by the possible absence of their record signing, the Guinea striker Sambegou Bangoura, on duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.
"People have been saying what a good draw it is, and how we've got a chance," he says. "To me, it looks a bridge too far, though if you think of shocks like Colchester beating Leeds [in 1971], it shows what's possible if everything goes right - or wrong - on the day."
A small boy in Yorkshire was more accustomed to his father returning home a victor. "He was a hero to us kids but he never shoved it under our noses. There were no caps or medals in display cases and we were never allowed to say, 'My dad's Terry Cooper'. Now I want to be a success in my own right - and I'm young enough and keen enough to do it."
Dad used to play a bit: Sons who have followed their fathers into football
* Alex Ferguson (Manchester United manager) - Darren Ferguson (now Wrexham midfielder)
* Ian Wright (Arsenal legend) - Shaun Wright-Phillips (now Chelsea winger) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (Manchester City)
* Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool great) - Paul Dalglish (now Livingston forward)
* Ian Mellor (former Manchester City player) - Neil Mellor (Liverpool reserves)
* Brian Clough (Nottingham Forest manager) - Nigel Clough (now Burton Albion manager)
* Frank Lampard Snr (former West Ham defender) - Frank Lampard Jnr (Chelsea midfielder)
* Harry Redknapp (Portsmouth coach - Jamie Redknapp (TV pundit)
* Terry Owen (ex-Bradford City player) - Michael Owen (Newcastle United striker)
* Cesare Maldini (former Italy coach) - Paolo Maldini (Milan defender)
* Johan Cruyff (former Netherlands great) - Jordi Cruyff (now at Espanyol).
*The Summerbees. Journeyman grand-father George Summerbee (ex-Aldershot); Manchester City legend Mike Summerbee, and his son, Nicky (on loan at Tranmere Rovers).
*Eidur Gudjohnsen (Chelsea) replaced father Arnor, a fellow striker, during Iceland's game against Estonia in 1996, but never quite made it into the on-field XI at the same time.
*Leeds and Republic of Ireland double act of Gary Kelly and nephew Ian Harte.
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