On this day in Town’s history: Cooper’s superhuman efforts are honoured
PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 March 2020
In our daily feature, we take a look at what happened on this day in Ipswich Town’s history, selecting one particular year – this time it’s from 34 years ago, and a Testimonial match for Paul Cooper, against the old enemy
I have seen many Town keepers in action, since I started watching the Blues as a young schoolboy back in the 1970s.
To that end, I have seen some excellent goalkeepers, and some not-so-excellent goalkeepers, don the Town jersey (back in the old days, always the No.1 jersey).
Paul Cooper and Laurie Sivell were the duo vying for the first-team berth, when I became a regular visitor to Portman Road in the mid-1970s, Cooper having arrived from Birmingham City in March, 1974, initially on a short loan – he ended up staying for 13 years, until 1987!
And even though he was one of the first Town keepers I ever saw in action, I think I can safely say that I have never seen better since.
He certainly deserved his Testimonial match, which took place on March 26, 1986.
Staged at Portman Road, it was against arch rivals Norwich City.
OK,so Town did the lost the match 1-0, but the result is never the point of Testimonials. The mere fact that the Canaries agreed to pay respect to Cooper, a goalkeeping legend, spoke volumes.
Ironically, for such a superb keeper, a very young Cooper started out as a striker, before eventually transforming himself into a keeper and cutting his teeth at non-league level for Sutton Coldfield.
You may also want to watch:
His big break came with a move to Second Division Birmingham City, and then came the best move of his career – to Portman Road!
Although he went on to play a mighty 575 first-team games for Ipswich, and star in both the FA Cup win of 1978 and the UEFA Cup triumph of 1981, what I remember most about Cooper (now aged 66) was his amazing knack of saving penalties.
Cooper, by today’s standards, was never a tall keeper.
He stood at 5ft 11ins, which was actually three inches taller than the diminutive Sivell, but he showed that saving penalties was no fluke, by boasting a terrific record.
In fact, it got to the stage where Town would concede a penalty, and yet you would not be too crestfallen, because the chances were that Cooper would save it, regardless of the penalty-taker in question!
He certainly did his homework, both in terms of analysing potential penalty-takers (choice of direction, and power), and also his fondness for trying to put off the opponent by waving his arms in comical fashion on the goal-line, and sometimes even leaning to one side to put confusion and doubt in the mind of the marksman.
It all worked.
For instance, Cooper saved five of the seven penalties he faced in 1978-79, and went on to keep out eight of 10 penalties the following season, a staggering statistic.
In later years, he went on to play for Leicester City, Manchester City and Stockport County, but he remains, in the eyes of many, the darling (keeper) of Portman Road,