“IF someone presents you with an opportunity then grab it and do everything you can to achieve your dreams.”
Those were the inspirational words of Colin Cooper as he addressed hundreds of fascinated students at Dyke House Sports and Technology College yesterday.
The youngsters hung on to the Hartlepool United manager’s every word as he looked back on his own career on and off the field and told of the battle and tragedy that he has overcome to fulfil his own ambitions.
And speaking in an assembly in the school’s hall, Trimdon-born Cooper said: “This school is a wonderful school and it’s a fantastic starting point to go on and achieve what you want to achieve.
“I am originally from a mining village about 15 minutes away from Hartlepool.
“From that village I had a dream and that dream was to do what I loved and I have to say I have fulfilled that dream.”
Colin Cooper’s appearance at Dyke House yesterday was the latest example of a successful working partnership between the school and the football club.
Hartlepool United’s youth teams use the school’s fantastic sporting facilities.
And yesterday after Cooper’s inspirational assembly, the first team squad descended on Dyke House and used the school’s pool and other specialist facilities to help aid their recovery after Tuesday night’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy match and ahead of the league trip to Newport County tomorrow night.
In the assembly, Cooper, who played 730 games in a sterling career which included spells at Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest looked back on his time on the field.
But he also told the youngsters of the devastation his family faced after the tragic death of his two-year-old son Finlay in 2002.
With the help of his family and close friends, Cooper and his wife Julie later set up the Finlay Cooper Fund and have since hundreds of thousands of pounds in his young son’s memory.
As he urged the youngsters to get the very best out of themselves, he said: “If you have a dream, an ambition, then go for it.
“Don’t let anything or anybody get in your way.
“If that’s what you really, really want to do, then be prepared to give everything to get what you want and to achieve your dream.”
The school’s headboy and headgirl Mitch Rookes, 16, and Dulcie Rodgers, 15, both spoke in the assembly and told the Mail afterwards how they had been inspired and motivated by Cooper’s words.
Cooper said he has a “burning ambition” to make Hartlepool United a success and said the partnership between the football club and schools and the local community is extremely important.
Headteacher Andrew Jordon told the Mail: “To have someone from the area make such a success of themselves as Colin Cooper has, both in sport and with the charity, is fantastic for the youngsters to see.
“It’s been a great chance for them to learn from a real positive role model.
“We have a great relationship with Hartlepool United and thoroughly appreciate Colin giving up his time to come and speak to the students.”