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Pools boss reflects on events at his former club
COLIN Cooper and Tony Mowbray go back a long way. Their football careers have been engrained in Middlesbrough Football Club, from the young promising defensive duo of 1986 right up to the present.
But the pair are no longer part of the Riverside Stadium set-up; Cooper now in charge of Hartlepool, Mowbray axed by Boro earlier this week.
The pair ran out together at team-mates at the Victoria Ground when Boro played there after almost going out of business 27 years ago.
While Boro seek Mowbray’s replacement, Cooper has been mooted as an outside chance.
He laughed off odds of 20-1 being available. It’s probably better right now to save your cash and not put it in the bookies’ account.
But Cooper’s stock is on the rise. Tuesday’s win over AFC Wimbledon was their fifth successive victory and he and Craig Hignett have turned around the fortunes of a club that was stagnating.
And, for whoever takes over as Boro boss, Cooper sees some similarities from when he and Hignett were installed at Victoria Park in May.
“I’m hearing Mark Venus has the job for now, how long I don’t know. I just want the club to do well and have an upsurge,’’ admitted Cooper.
“When I came to this club, I felt it was a mentality change that needed to happen.
“We aren’t there yet, but getting there and the negativity that was around the place when me and Craig came in was evident because of what has gone on – not just last season, but the seasons they survived and struggled to survive at times.
“At this moment in time, after five wins in a calendar year, that is what is needed to happen at Middlesbrough right now.
“And, whoever takes charge, I hope that that can happen. I’m on a journey as a manger and I want Middlesbrough to have an upsurge.’’
Cooper was long part of the set-up at the Riverside Stadium, performing a number of different backroom roles under various managers after ending his playing days there.
“I was there when the club was relegated out of the Premier League. It hurt. It hurt me when Gareth Southate got the sack because I was part of the staff,’’ he reflected.
“It didn’t hurt me as much when Mr Strachan left because he asked me the leave the staff.
“But after Tony was appointed I felt it was bang on. Both the chairman and chief executive said they felt it was the best thing they had done since appointing Bruce Rioch in 1985 and I felt the same. I wanted Tony to be the one to turn it around.
“Whoever takes the job, I hope they have Middlesbrough to their heart and it’s not just another job.
“It’s not just another football club, it’s more than that and, with me being a few miles up the road, I want them to succeed.’’
Cooper has utilised his Boro connection to land Christian Burgess and Matty Dolan on loan and he hopes that the next boss will look as favourably on Pools as Mowbray did.
Burgess is on loan until the new year, but the month-by-month loan arrangment for Dolan needs renewing this week.
He added: “Whoever takes charge, I have to have a relationship with them as I still want to bring Middlesbrough players through our system.
Cooper, front row, and Mowbray, back row, celebrate promotion to Division One with Middlesbrough in 1988
“With Tony it was a case of picking the phone up and he would do whatever he could to help. Whoever the next manager is I have to have a relationship with that person.’’
Cooper was a long-term lieutenant of Mowbray’s and the pair have remained close. It was with Mowbray’s blessing that Cooper was allowed to leave his coaching role at Rockliffe Park to take his first permanent manager’s job.
There’s more to their relationship than just a football one.
“I’m very sad about the situation,’’ reflected Cooper. “I played with Tony 20-odd years ago and we have remained close. I was as delighted as anyone when he got the job.
“It’s been a horrendous 2013 for him. He felt there was still work to do and proceed with.
“In his own words, Middlesbrough are in a different place than it was ten years ago when I was still playing there, let’s be brutally honest.
“So I feel really sorry for Tony. The club is in my heart, I want them to do well and whoever the manager is I wish them well.
“Three different spells at the club in 20-odd years and it means a lot to me.
“If I wasn’t sad for Tony, I wouldn’t be a very good mate. We were colleagues and we are friends.’’
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