IPSWICH TOWN HALL OF FAME: Paul Cooper reflects on the glory years
- Credit: Archant
Legendary Ipswich Town goalkeeper Paul Cooper said missing out on the First Division title in 1981 was the one regret of his career, as he reflected on a glittering career at Portman Road.
The Brierley Hill-born goalkeeper enjoyed 13 years at Ipswich, having signed initially on a month’s loan from Birmingham City in 1974, before joining permanently that summer.
Renowned for his penalty-saving ability (he says it was just luck despite getting the better of eight opponents during the 1979-80 season), Cooper, who now resides in Tenerife, won the 1978 FA Cup and the 1981 UEFA Cup under Bobby Robson’s leadership.
“The word ‘great’ is used far too often when describing both players and managers but in my case I can categorically say I played with and under both,” said Cooper, who said he was humbled to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame at Portman Road
“Both the teams of ‘78 and ‘81 were special in their own right – the 1978 team brought the FA Cup back to Ipswich for the only time in the club’s history so far, so that makes that team special for the pleasure it brought to so many people.
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“In 1981 it was a very special team with many great players, I count myself really privileged to have played in that side with these players.
“It was such a well-balanced side and technically as good as any in that period.
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“As Sir Bobby Robson freely admitted he did not have to coach the team, he just let them go out and play knowing full well he had the right players throughout the team to influence any changes that needed to be made during the game.
“The biggest travesty of justice is that we lost the league to Aston Villa having beaten them on three occasions that season. Villa only used 14 players the whole season and were a very good side and went on to win the European Cup the next season.
“I think winning the UEFA Cup, finishing second in the league and losing the semi-final of the FA Cup after extra-time in 1981 was a great achievement – but I personally think the team was never the same after that season. The only disappointment of all my career was not winning the league.”
Cooper left the club in 1987 but insists part of the Blues has remained with him.
“I was gutted to leave after 14 years with the club – although I joined Leicester City where Bryan Hamilton was manager and Russell Osman was a player, so I felt part of me was still at Portman Road.”