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Neale Cooper: Tributes from the Former Players

June 7, 2018 9:24 pm Author: Sean Graham (AFC Former Players Association)


Ahead of tomorrow’s Celebration of the Life of Dons Legend Neale Cooper at Pittodrie, Sean Graham of the AFC Former Players Association has collected messages from several former players but begins with some of his own memories of Neale:

Anyone who had the good fortune to see Neale Cooper play or to meet him will know why everyone is feeling the way they are right now. Days later, family, relatives, friends, fans and teammates, still cannot believe he has gone for Neale was a guy who lived the dream and more!

So many said nothing but good things about him throughout his career. He was even likened to a young Franz Beckenbauer by Andy Roxburgh when he was in charge of the Scotland Youth team and he wasn’t wrong!

Alex Ferguson saw his potential at Aberdeen and Neale became a mainstay in a Dons midfield which had craft and guile, with Neil Simpson alongside him and Gordon Strachan and Peter Weir either side of them.

Solid performances at home and abroad helped Neale become a firm favourite with the Dons fans as he was part of a team that dominated the Scottish game and showed Europe’s finest that they could play a bit.

He was in the Aberdeen first team in the 1980s at the tender age of 18 and went on to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup, the Super Cup, two league titles, four Scottish Cups and a League Cup before he was even 24 that shows you the kind of player he was and the kind of team Aberdeen were.

Eventually he moved on, going south to Aston Villa in 1986 as the Gothenburg Greats started to move away, as did his legendary gaffer, Sir Alex Ferguson. Injuries hampered him at Villa and he returned to Scotland to play for Rangers, heading back to England and Reading and then home to Dunfermline and Ross County where he finished his playing days before going on to manage the club.

He took them to two promotions before moving to Hartlepool for the first of two spells, making many friends and happy memories. He is still loved there and will be forever more. He was also assistant manager to Steve Paterson at Peterhead, then becoming manager, leaving in 2011 and becoming assistant manager to Derek Adams at his old club Ross County.

Throughout his career, Neale will be remembered fondly everywhere he played, managed or even watched, but at Aberdeen, we have lost a favourite son, a man who gave so many happy memories to the Red Army over the years.

I remember my first cup final, Hampden 1982, Aberdeen played Rangers and had gone a goal behind to a John MacDonald diving header but then the Dons hit back as Alex McLeish scored with, as Archie McPherson described it, a “floating equaliser”. The game ended 1-1 but the Dons took control in extra- time and ran out 4-1 winners with goals from Mark McGhee, Gordon Strachan and one from this young midfielder with curly blonde hair, who took great delight in thumping the ball home from close range and celebrating in front of the Rangers fans for whom he later played. He celebrated and looked the way every Dons fan on the terrace would have, doing what every schoolboy dreams of, scoring in a cup final.

Little did Neale or any of us know what kind of adventures he or Aberdeen would go on after that fantastic day at Hampden. A European tour which included three of the most memorable nights in the club’s history against Bayern Munich, Waterschei and Real Madrid, will be forever remembered.

Neale and the boys from ‘83 will be forever remembered as legends for their achievements as they went head to head with some of Europe’s best and came out on top to win the Cup Winners’ Cup and Super Cup. Legends never die.

I would like Neale to be remembered for living the dream; he was a fan with a shirt on and he achieved so much in his all too short life. He made me laugh during an interview, a story that he could hardly tell for laughing because he knew the punchline, he knew what was coming next. He loved to tell the stories and to laugh and he loved life. It’s so sad he won’t be here to enjoy it any more. He touched lives all over the world and made so many friends wherever he went.

The match against Bayern Munich is known as Pittodrie’s greatest night. On Friday, it will be its saddest night as thousands will pack out the stadium to say goodbye to one of their own, one of the legends in Red.

Stand Free, wherever you may be Neale….Stand Free!

Sean Graham
Aberdeen Former Players Association

• European Super Cup Winner 1983
• ECWC Winner 1983
• Premier League Winner 1984, 1985
• Scottish Cup Winner 1982,1983, 1984, 1986
• Scottish League Cup Winner 1985
• Scottish First Division Winner 1996

• Scottish Third Division 1999
• Scottish Second Division (Promoted) 2000

Below are the thoughts of just some former Dons players.

Peter Weir

Neale was a huge personality. He was always talking, laughing, joking, an extremely talented and funny man. He made people happy and it was a pleasure to be his friend and team mate, winning so many honours as a young player. Most of the Gothenburg Greats met up on May 11th, celebrating 35 years since that memorable season. Neale was centre stage, telling stories and jokes.

Neale was a midfielder but his knowledge and awareness meant the manager was able to play him in other positions when required and he always did a great job.

He will be sadly missed by all. RIP Neale ‘Tattie’ Cooper, never forgotten.

Walker McCall

I remember Neale as a youngster coming in to train during the school holidays.
He was a character and always had a smile on his face, a bit mischievous and loved a prank.

Later on when he broke through to the first team, he got changed next to the treatment room. One day he shouted through to Roland Arnott he had some swelling in his foot – he had brought in one of those big dummy rubber foots and put his foot in it!

As a player I remember going to Celtic Park when Willie Miller was suspended and Stuart Kennedy injured. Sir Alex brought in Neale to play aside Alex McLeish and Andy Dornan to replace Stuart and we got a 2-0 victory with both these youngsters playing a blinder.

My parting thoughts go to all his friends and family. He was a quality player and a gem of a lad and will be sadly missed by all of his footballing family and friends. We’ve lost a bubbly character so full of life. RIP buddy, will miss you.

Bobby Clark

I was heartbroken by the terrible news! I had heard that he had a fall and was in hospital but I thought he would pull round. When I got the news I was devastated as I remember him all too well as a young 14 year old when Lenny Taylor and I coached the Aberdeen youth squads in the Pittodrie car park. We had Neale for three years and that U-15 team he played in was a very good group. They won the Scottish U-15 schools cup and also played in the curtain raiser of my testimonial game against the Elgin Boys Club.

He was a very good player, a Scottish schoolboy international, and when you think that Aberdeen got three players out of that team in John Hewitt, Brian Mitchell, and Neale, it was a terrific time. He was such a happy youngster, always smiling and had a very loud, distinctive laugh. He always seemed to see the funny side of every situation and was a great person to have in the dressing room.

The last time I saw Neale was back in 2002 when I took my Notre Dame team across for a pre-season trip and we played five games against Formartine, Banks of Dee, Aberdeen U21s, Dundee Utd U21s, and Ross Country U21s. Neale was the Ross County manager at that time and after the game he came in and gave a wonderful talk to our team. He had the lovely ability to make everyone smile.
The world will be a much sadder place without Neale but I am sure he already has St Peter smiling.

My thoughts are with his family.

George Campbell
Melbourne Football STARS

My first memories of Neale were as a young lad coming to train as a schoolboy. His personality immediately made him so likeable as he had a cheeky, happy go lucky approach that was infectious amongst the group.

I remember him coming up to me one day: “Pele, you came here as a kid, how do you survive in amongst these big brutes, cos they just want to kick lumps out of us”. He certainly went a long way after those words and tackling became a feature of his game.

After I came to Australia, the Scotland national team came to play a World Cup qualifying game against Australia in 1985. George Murray ex-Coach at Aberdeen held a barbecue at his house in Melbourne for all the Aberdeen boys who were in the squad at that time (there were a few). Neale came straight up to me with his beaming smile and said, “Pele, great to see you, thank you for helping me fit in when I came to Pittodrie as a kid”.

A lovely man who achieved greatness in our beloved game.

Willie Garner

I remember Neale being about the park as a wee skinny kid, who had a talent. That wee guy turned into a top player and ultimately a club legend. He was the first face I saw when I walked into the hospitality room in the Dick Donald stand when performing my ambassador role at home games, and it will be a difficult first time back, knowing he won’t be there.

I remember a pre-season trip to Germany, when I was assistant manager. Sir Alex was trying out his German to ask for salt and pepper, but the waiter hadn’t a clue what he was asking for. Tattie was at another table, and he was in fits of laughter, like a school kid.

Fergie said, “Cooper, come and sit here with us”. He sat down and honest, I could not look at him. Fergie was fuming, the rest of the room couldn’t eat their food just in case they started laughing. I thought Tattie was going to burst. After a very tense five mins, Fergie relented and burst out laughing, to the relief of the rest of the squad.

Brian Irvine

Such a sad loss of a former team mate at the Dons and manager at Ross County. Always laughing, a great character to have in your team, he will be sadly missed.

Brian Mitchell

I grew up with Neale at Aberdeen through his teenage years and remained good friends after our football careers finished. I often came across Neale at social occasions out and about and he never changed from the warm, friendly and humorous nature he had. You felt his best friend whenever you met him and his positive nature was always inspirational – he could make a bad day into a good day for you!

I remember we shared a room a lot when we were in the youth team and had a few trips abroad with Aberdeen. Once was to Germany where we were accommodated with families in homes and I was paired up with Neale. It was laugh a minute and the family enjoyed having us. Neale took a shine to the mother I remember, but that was Tattie, he always seemed to like older women!

One of the most recent times we spent together was at the Scottish Open when we walked around the course with another friend and every hole there was a different story. It was hard to stop laughing when the golfers were in full swing!

We all know Neale lived life on the edge but that’s the way he liked it. He will stay in my memory forever as a one off and when I reflect back, he will always bring a smile to my face – that’s the way I will remember him. RIP Tattie.

Theo Snelders

I never played together with Neale but the summer of 1988 when I joined Aberdeen, he trained a couple days with the squad to get fit. Over the years, I met him a couple of times. One of them was in 2003 at the 100th anniversary of Aberdeen FC at the AECC Bridge of Don.

Neale had a speech for over an hour. Stories from the dressing room plus he could imitate certain persons so well, great entertainment and the people were loving it. I will never forget the legendary story before the Celtic game in 1985 where Aberdeen could clinch the title and where he had to mark Charlie Nicholas. The way he was imitating Archie McPherson. Hilarious.

We go over to Archie McPherson. “Good afternoon from a sunny Pittodrie ready for kick-off, Frank McGarvey plays the ball to Charlie Nicholas… Ooooooooh this must be the fastest tackle ever in Scottish football!”

What achievements he had as an Aberdeen player but foremost he was a good person with great humour and well liked. He will be sadly missed. My deepest sympathy and condolences.

Duncan Shearer

My memory of Neale was the Inverness & Ross County derby games, when Neale was helping Derek Adams. When Derek was speaking to the press after the game, Neale would come to the coaches office and sneak a couple of beers before Derek arrived knowing Derek was not a big fan of alcohol.
A fantastic loveable person will be missed by us all and so pleased to have known Neale.

John Stewart

He was my manager at Peterhead as soon as I met him he was so welcoming and cracking jokes. He had never even met my family and asking how they were. He was such a nice man, I was devastated when I heard the news.


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