COOPER DANCES TO SAMBA BEAT

Swin­don boss puts on style

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Stu­art Ham­monds

AF­TER Mas­simo Luongo rounded off a 19-pass move to score Swin­don’s win­ner against Steve­nage re­cently, the ‘oles’ rang around the County Ground and the lo­cal pa­per’s match re­port wel­comed read­ers to the ‘Cooper-ca­bana!’

It’s fair to say it is not the style of head­line Mark Cooper has been able to look for­ward to since start­ing his man­age­rial ca­reer nine years ago.

“The Peter­bor­ough and Ket­ter­ing fans would have loved see­ing that – it’s a kick in the teeth for all the peo­ple who hoof-balled me off,” laughs the 44-year-old, who was this week handed the County Ground job on a twoyear con­tract.

As some­one who watched his sides reg­u­larly, I should em­pha­sise that those opin­ions weren’t al­ways fair.

Cooper him­self says that “you’ve got to de­velop a style with the play­ers you’ve got”, and the part-timers at an un­fash­ion­able Con­fer­ence club like Tam­worth had suc­cess get­ting the ball into the fi­nal third be­fore fi­nesse en­tered the fray.

Cooper had Ket­ter­ing top of the Pre­mier when Posh, then in the Cham­pi­onship, came call­ing in Novem­ber 2010.

But af­ter 88 days of in­ter­fer­ence from the Lon­don Road hi­er­ar­chy, he had to re­turn to Non-League and now-de­funct Dar­ling­ton to en­hance a rep­u­ta­tion for re­sults, if not re­fine­ment, with a 2011 FA Tro­phy fi­nal win at Wem­b­ley.

Be­lief

Sacked that Oc­to­ber and un­em­ployed for over 15 months, Cooper waited un­til last Jan­uary to re­turn at AFC Telford, be­fore new Swin­don boss Kevin Mac­Don­ald in­vited him to be his as­sis­tant on March 1.

“Kevin took me in and I got left hold­ing the fort as care­taker when he went and now I’ve got a crack at it,” said Cooper.

“It’s amaz­ing how it hap­pens. I had some low times wait­ing for the phone to ring, but you’ve just got to keep believ­ing and some­thing will turn up.”

Mac­Don­ald’s shock res­ig­na­tion on July 12 left Cooper primed to be the man charged by chair­man Jed McCrory with con­tin­u­ing to re­duce Paolo Di Canio’s whop­ping wage bill, while re­mod­elling the of­tendi­rect play­ing style.

“It’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent way of do­ing it, be­cause un­der the pre­vi­ous regime it was about buy­ing the best play­ers and tak­ing the gam­ble out of it be­cause if it didn’t work, they’d just get rid of them,” says Cooper.

“We’ve de­vel­oped a style of play with younger play­ers, like the lads on loan from Tot­ten­ham – Ryan Ma­son, Alex Pritchard, Grant Hall and Luongo – as well as Jack Barthram and Nathan Byrne, who we took from Spurs af­ter they were re­leased this sum­mer.

“Then there’s Yaser Kasim, who couldn’t get a game in the Con­fer­ence at Lu­ton last year on loan from Brighton, but he’s an­other ex-Tot­ten­ham scholar who can only play in a cer­tain way. They are all tech­ni­cally very good foot­ballers who are not mas­sive, so we’ve had to de­velop some­thing to get the best out of them. If we start whack­ing it into cor­ners, it’s go­ing to be a waste for them.”

Di­rec­tor of football op­er­a­tions Lee Power – whose friend­ship with White Hart Lane tech­ni­cal co-or­di­na­tor Tim Sher­wood is be­hind the Spurs in­flux – has em­pha­sised that the Robins’ trans­fer pol­icy will be one in, one out as the wage bill con­tin­ues to be trimmed to around £3m.

Cooper says:“The bud­get has been cut right down but it’s worked out for me, be­cause if it was still lots of money, I wouldn’t have got the job.

“I be­lieve I’m a bet­ter man­ager for the ex­pe­ri­ence I had at Peter­bor­ough, and I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to this.

“We’ve played some good football, like at Peter­bor­ough on the open­ing day when we lost 1-0. You’ve got to score goals though, and that’s where we are strug­gling a bit at the minute.”

The ar­rival of for­mer New­cas­tle United bad-boy Nile Ranger could help with that, ahead of Tues­day’s trip to QPR in the Car­ling Cup.

“It’s prob­a­bly last-chance saloon for him,” said Cooper, “but I’ve found a nice lad and a good player who, once we get him fit, will be an as­set.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

NEW LOOK: Mark Cooper is un­zip­ping the Swin­don tal­ent

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