Davie Cooper - simply the best

Davie Cooper with assistant manager Tom Forsyth, team-mate Bobby Russell and manager Tommy Mclean after signing for Motherwell in 1989
Davie Cooper with assistant manager Tom Forsyth, team-mate Bobby Russell and manager Tommy Mclean after signing for Motherwell in 1989

It should have been like any other day in the Motherwell Times office on Thursday, March 23 1995. But preparations under way for the following week’s issue were put on hold when the phone call and message we were dreading came through - ‘We’ve Lost Coop.’

The previous day Davie Cooper had collapsed after suffering a brain haemorrhage while filming a football coaching TV show but Scottish football still clung to the hope that he would pull through.

He didn’t and we lost one of our game’s greatest talents at the shockingly early age of just 39.

It’s hard to believe next week will mark the 20th anniversary of his death and for those of us who marvelled at his skill it’s often hard to explain to a generation growing up without having seen him play just how good he really was.

Aerial ability? Negligible at best. Pace? Nope, none of that. Right leg? Good for standing on but not much else. Left peg? Incomparable.

The magic that left foot could conjure up was a wonder to behold. When Coop set up Ian Durrant for an Old Firm winner one established England international of the time memorably observed that if he had tried a similar pass he would have been out for a month with a pulled hamstring!

Cooper spent most of his Rangers career in a side mediocre in comparison with other eras.

Title successes bookmarked the start and end of his time there but for nine barren years in the middle he was one of the few shining lights to brighten up dull Saturday afternoons at Ibrox.

He did it again and more when he moved to Motherwell in 1989, getting such a new lease of life that he regained his Scotland place - only injury ruling him out of the 1990 World Cup - and then inspiring Motherwell to their 1991 Scottish Cup triumph.

Everyone has their own favourite memory of Coop. The unbelievable Drybrough Cup ‘keepy up’ solo effort against Celtic - check it out on YouTube if you’ve never seen it - and the nervelessly converted penalty against Wales which sent Scotland on their way to the 1986 World Cup spring to mind.

I’ll always remember a Motherwell v Aberdeen clash at Fir Park in December 1989. ‘Well had a man sent off after just 12 minutes and were dead and buried at 2-0 down with 16 minutes to go - only for Coop to slot home a penalty and the lash in an equaliser in the space of a couple of minutes to earn a 2-2 draw against a more than decent Dons side.

It was privilege to report on that game, as it was to meet a polite and humble man who was light years removed
 from his ‘Moody Blue’ 
image.

Greats such as Ruud Gullit and Graeme Souness were among those who believed Coop possessed the skill to be a sensation anywhere had he ever opted for a lucrative move abroad.

But that wasn’t Cooper. He was happy to simply ply his trade for clubs he loved or for communities he was part of.

For that, and for the honour of enjoying his presence on the Fir Park stage, we’ll be eternally grateful.