NEALE Cooper has a lot to thank Sir Alex Ferguson for – and so, too, does his mum.
It was because of the Manchester United manager – who announced his retirement yesterday – that a 17-year-old Cooper spent an extra four years at home.
Then manager of Aberdeen and with Cooper a rookie footballer on the books at Pittodrie, Ferguson called the curly-haired youngster into his office one morning before training.
The former Pools boss takes up the story.
“He called me in and had a right go, ‘you’ve been seen coming out of a flat for the past seven weeks, what’s going on?’” Cooper recalled.
“I said ‘yeah, that’s right’.
“So he came back, ‘well what the hell is going on? Whose is it?’.
“‘It’s mine’ I told him.
“That was it, he wasn’t happy - ‘I don’t want you living in a flat at your age. You’re going back home until I say so’.”
By bed-time Cooper was back at home with his mum – he stayed there until he was 21.
“I didn’t argue,” he laughs.
“But Sir Alex was the best and still is.
“Everything we won at Aberdeen was because of him.
“He gave us that belief, we feared no-one.
“He got the very best out of players his entire career and it’s no surprise how successful he has been.
“You would run through a brick wall for him.”
Ferguson, 71, will step down at Old Trafford later this month after 27 years in charge and a British-record haul of 49 trophies.
Before taking over The Red Devils, however, he had, with Cooper in his side, led Aberdeen to success in the Scottish Premier League (twice), Scottish Cup (four times), League Cup and the 1983 European Cup Winners’ Cup and European Super Cup.
“He signed me when I was 16 and I was playing in a Scottish Cup Final at 17,” Cooper, now assistant boss at Ross County, went on.
“I owe him so much and I’m proud to have played for him.
“I heard the news yesterday morning that he was stepping down and I was a little shocked, I must admit.
“But he was never going to walk away after losing the title to Man City last season and now he has won it back he is leaving on a high.
“I’m not sure he’ll be able to relax because he lives for the game – it made me laugh when I heard he was in work for 7am yesterday morning.
“But I wish him all the best and I’m sure he’ll be a massive miss to football.”