The last to quit club

OF THE 12 players to appear at Wembley, Paul Cooper was the last to leave the club nine years later - and was “gutted” that he did not stay even longer.

Nick Garnham

OF THE 12 players to appear at Wembley, Paul Cooper was the last to leave the club nine years later - and was “gutted” that he did not stay even longer.

Cooper was a vital cog in the UEFA Cup-winning side, winning the club's coveted player of the year trophy in that memorable 1980/81 season in a star-studded side.

He recalled: “I was the only non-international in the side, so whenever they all went away I had a few days playing golf!

“It would have been nice to get a cap, but I was just content to be playing in such a good team on a week by week basis.”

After Bobby Robson left to manage England and Bobby Ferguson took over as boss the UEFA Cup-winning side broke up. The club found themselves battling against relegation in the 1984/85 season, before going down the following season.

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“Along with Steve McCall I was the last one of that '81 side left at the club, and we were left fighting against relegation. I felt under a lot of pressure because we were not scoring goals and I could see Bobby thinking 'if we can keep a clean sheet then we can get a point' before matches.

“It was so different to the '81 side with Alan Brazil, Paul Mariner and Eric Gates, when if we did let two goals in we were still capable of scoring three to win!”

Cooper's final match was a play-off semi-final, second leg defeat against Charlton Athletic in May 1987, which meant Ipswich were destined to spend another season in the old Division Two.

He had a not-very-lucrative testimonial match against Norwich City during that season after agreeing a new one-year deal at the start of it.

“It was the ninth season running that someone at the club had received a testimonial. The club were not going through a very good spell and I didn't get a very good gate. In fact, the police charges were as much as the turnover from the gate!

“The following season the club had to offer me the same contract terms or, if not, a free transfer, and I was gutted because I did not want to leave. I was very settled in the area and loved the place.”

Bryan Hamilton, a former Ipswich team-mate, was then the manager at Leicester City, a club who had produced some excellent goalkeepers such as Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton and Mark Wallington.

Russell Osman, a fellow member of the 1981 UEFA Cup-winning side, was also playing for Leicester at that time and Peter Morris and Cyril Lea, who had also been at Portman Road, were on the coaching staff at Filbert Street, a ground where Cooper had always enjoyed playing.

“I agreed to sign for Leicester in the summer of 1987 and then went on holiday. John Duncan then took over as manager of Ipswich and telephoned me and asked me whether I would stay, but I had promised I would sign for Leicester and said I could not go back on my word.

“We had a good squad at Leicester but we didn't gel and Bryan got the sack. David Pleat then came in and we didn't see eye-to-eye.”

After 56 appearances he left in March 1989 and joined Manchester City, where Mel Machin was the manager and there was another Ipswich link as John Deehan was his assistant.

“Then Mel got the sack and Howard Kendall, who I knew from my Birmingham days, came in as the manager. He was very good to me and said I could go and get another year somewhere.”

So after just 15 appearances he was on the move again in the summer of 1990.

“I went to Stockport which was a real culture shock having played at the top level all my life. You had to take the kit home and wash it yourself!

“We got promoted from the old Fourth Division but one of my elbows was playing up and so in the summer of 1991 I packed up. I had fallen out of love with the game.

“I stayed in the Manchester area and set up a business selling air conditioning before moving to Tenerife.”