On 23 March 1995, the footballing genius that was Davie Cooper suddenly passed away. His death was a tragedy not only for his family and friends, but also for thousands of us Rangers supporters who stood awe-struck on the terraces almost unable to believe the sheer genius of the man.
The fans of his former clubs, Motherwell and Clydebank, also felt extreme sadness at his passing but it is the Rangers fans, his fans, the ones that he thrilled for so long that felt the greatest loss. “Super Cooper” was one of ‘The People’. He was the embodiment of what it is to be a Ranger and will forever be revered as that in the hearts of those of a generation who were fortunate enough to have witnessed his sublime talent.
Davie signed for Rangers in 1977 from Clydebank and became an icon in the mould of Jim Baxter a generation before. To many supporters, Davie Cooper was the best player to ever pull on a Rangers jersey – since that awful day 20 years ago, world class players such as Brian Laudrup and Paul Gascoigne have worn the famous blue of Rangers, and it is testament to Cooper’s outstanding ability that many still consider him the greatest.
He was never blessed with blistering pace but he used his mesmeric skills to beat men on the run, deliver the defence splitting pass and take stunning free kicks that only venerated Brazilians were supposedly capable of doing. His left foot was majestic.
People occasionally complained that he was inconsistent, as is the case with most if not all wingers, but in true mercurial fashion it was often when he was having an off day that he would produce one stunning piece of brilliance that literally took your breath away. When he got the ball, crowd anticipation rose in a manner that was rarely seen around stadiums during that era. The phrase “the beautiful game” was founded because of the sublime talents of men like him.
We all have our own special or favourite memories of him. The wonder goals that he scored; his stunning solo effort in the Glasgow Cup Final against Celtic, his mazy run against what seemed like the entire Kilmarnock defence in a midweek game where he scored 4 goals; the equaliser in the League Cup Final against Dundee Utd; the screamer against Aberdeen also in the League Cup Final – a shot hit so hard that his response to being told that opposing goalkeeper Jim Leighton got a hand to it was, “Yes, on the way back out”. He wasn’t known for his prowess in the air but his headed goal against Celtic in yet another League Cup Final not long after he signed for us is worthy of a mention here.
As well as an uncanny ability to score stunning goals, his artistry in setting up others was sublime. His stunning display in what is known as the Cooper Final against Dundee Utd in the Scottish Cup in 1981 will never be forgotten by those Bears fortunate enough to have been in attendance. Dribbling past an entire defence, in setting up Robert Fleck for a goal against Ilves Tampere at Ibrox also lives forever in the memory, as well as his exquisite reverse pass that released a youthful Iain Durrant in the first live League game against Celtic also at Ibrox in 1986, are just a few of the pieces of brilliance from the great man.
There is plenty YouTube footage available which endorses the above, an example of such can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRZHAe3ARiw
If Davie had been a young man today his value would have been mind-boggling. His £100,000 transfer from Clydebank in 1977 is widely regarded as the bargain of the century, and it is difficult to put a price on how much he would cost in the current transfer market.
Like many at Ibrox, he blossomed following the arrival of Graeme Souness in 1986, turning in a string of supreme performances in that League Cup and title winning year. Even after he left his beloved Rangers he continued to turn on the style for Motherwell and was an integral part of them winning the Scottish Cup in 1991.
It is now 20 years from that fateful day when we lost a genius, yet fans still talk fondly of the man who proudly stated that he “played for the team he loved” and his name is still being sung by the new generation of fans at Ibrox.
The term legend is often bandied about haphazardly but in Davie Cooper’s case it is most certainly merited.
His record for Rangers:
League Championships: 1977-78/86-87/88-89
Scottish Cups: 1977-78/78-79/80-81/90-91
League Cups: 1977-78/78-79/81-82/83-84/84-85/86-87/87-88
You remain forever in our hearts Coop – and eternally in our thoughts.