Sheffield Wednesday boss search: The career of Owls target Mark Cooper

Mark Cooper
Mark Cooper
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Sheffield Wednesday are hoping to lure Mark Cooper from Swindon Town, to take up a role in a newly-structured management team.

Most recently, Cooper led the Robins to the League One play off final, but what had he been doing before then?

Mark Cooper

Mark Cooper

Here’s a look at the 46 year old’s career so far...

BACKGROUND

Born in west Yorkshire, Cooper is the son of England international Terry, who made his name most notably in that famous Leeds United side of the late 60s and early 70s before going on to manage himself, at both Bristol clubs, Exeter (twice) and Birmingham.

AS A PLAYER

Mark Cooper then manager of Kettering, ahead of his side's FA Cup 4th round tie with Fulham in 2009

Mark Cooper then manager of Kettering, ahead of his side's FA Cup 4th round tie with Fulham in 2009

Midfielder Mark began his footballing life at Bristol City where his dad was boss, however he never forced his way into the first team and made the switch to Exeter City, again where Terry was then in charge. To continue the theme, Cooper followed his dad to Birmingham, having spent some time on loan at Southend during his spell at St James’ Park before moving on to Fulham, Huddersfield (on loan) and Wycombe. When Terry went back to Exeter, unsurprisingly so too did Mark and it was during that time the younger Cooper made his most league appearances (88). From 1996, Cooper turned into something of a journeyman, signing for Hartlepool, Macclesfield (loan), Leyton Orient, Rushden & Diamonds, Telford (loan) before settling into life in non-league football with Hednesford, Forest Green Rovers, Tamworth and Hinkley United.

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Owls fight to land Mark Cooper

Mark Cooper and his father Terry

Mark Cooper and his father Terry

AS A MANAGER

It was at Tamworth where Cooper got a taste for coaching as he was made player/assistant manager before stepping up to take full responsibility for first team affairs. People began to take notice of his managerial abilities early on as he led the Staffordshire side into the third round of the FA Cup for the first time where, after a replay, they eventually bowed out on penalties to county neighbours Stoke City. Cooper was also in charge when Paul Merson signed in 2006, but the former Arsenal player spent just a month with the Lambs before retiring. Cooper left Tamworth in January 2007 with the side at the bottom opf the Conference and for the start of the next seaosn he was placed in charge of Kettering. He won Conference North in his first season at the Poppies and cup successes continued, reaching the fourth round of the FA Cup where they lost to one of his old clubs, Fulham. After an eighth-place finish in the Conference National, Cooper’s star was on the rise and league clubs were alerted to his abilities. In November 2009 Peterborough brought Cooper in to replace Darren Ferguson, kicking off with a defeat to Sheffield United, however he would last only until February before being sacked with Posh having won just once in the 13 games in which he took charge. Just before Cooper’s sacking, Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony infamously ranted on the club’s website: “I have to apologise to all Posh fans for this season up until now. It’s been nothing short of a disaster. I can understand their frustrations. I am done with defending the players, the previous management, current management and everyone else at the football club, top to bottom.”

It was back down to the Conference for Cooper where he led Darlington to a Wembley success in the FA Trophy, beating Mansfield in the decider. However, in October 2011, Quakers chairman Raj Singh sacked Cooper, stating: “We said from the start of the season that our ultimate aim this year was promotion, and we’ve been nowhere near it, despite having one of the best squads in the Conference which is strong enough to be competing for the play-off places at least.”

Cooper briefly returned to Kettering, who were then mired in crisis and lasted just one game before leaving of his own accord and hitched up soon after at Telford, replacing former Owl Andy Sinton.

Mark Cooper, then Peterborough manager, at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United

Mark Cooper, then Peterborough manager, at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United

Again, he didn’t last long there, heading off to Swindon after five games at the helm, none of them wins, with Kevin MacDonald bringing Cooper in as assistant.

SWINDON TOWN

In July 2013, MacDonald left ‘by mutual consent’ with Cooper put in charge of at least readying the team for the new campaign. He said: “I learnt a lot off Kevin. He’s a fantastic gentleman, a lovely man and a good football coach. I’ve spoken to him. He’s obviously philosophical and wished me good luck.” With two wins in the opening four games, Cooper had done enough to convince the Robins’ hierarchy he was the man for the job with Chairman Jed McCrory saying: “The manner in which Mark has conducted himself as caretaker manager after Kevin’s departure left the board with little alternative but to offer him the job.” In his first season, Cooper led Swinton to eighth place in League One, eight points off a play off place. Then, last season Cooper was linked to the manager’s job at Leeds United, won the Manager of the Month award for November and after spending the majority of the season near the top of the division, finished fourth in League One. After a dramatic Play Off semi-final victory over Sheffield United, the two legs ending 7-6 on aggregate in favour of the Robins, Cooper’s side suffered a heavy Wembley defeat to Preston, losing 4-0.

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Taking charge in the Play Off semi-final last season at Bramall Lane

Taking charge in the Play Off semi-final last season at Bramall Lane