Cooper is Head of Academy Coaching at Oldham Athletic, the club which recently turned down, with the assistance of baying mobs, the chance to sign convicted rapist Ched Evans.
Cooper recently featured in a national football magazine discussing his past of football hooliganism. We both felt compelled to establish further his views on rehabilitation.
It’s the elephant in the room on which everyone is expressing an opinion. Sure, it’s pretty unanimous that everyone believes in rehabilitation, but then there’s the muffle at the end from these purveyors of justice where hushed tones are used:
“But not for rape… not for a footballer,” they say.
Unequivocally Cooper backs it. Why wouldn’t he? Not only was he a football hooligan, but he’s a self -confessed former cocaine addict.
His rehab reached an apex this week when he achieved his UEFA A Licence at St. George’s Park. These badges don’t get handed to you on a plate and it’s a measure of his dedication and diligence that he has achieved this just six years after his recovery from drug addiction.
Understandably, Oldham have stamped a veto on any member of staff discussing the Ched Evans saga, and Cooper abides by this, refraining from his usual demeanour of openness to adopt a note of austerity.
It, however, doesn’t blur his views on the universal topic.
“Cocaine’s a high, and obviously you get addicted to highs. You think that’s the only way you can get a high. My high now is keeping fair play in football, coaching the lads and looking after my family,” he says.
“Everyone can rehabilitate themselves in one form or another, but without pain, people don’t change… I think it’s really hard for people to rehabilitate themselves when they are on their own.”
Perhaps it’s instinct or simply a development of his rehabilitation, but Cooper portrays almost all scenarios in a degree of imagery.
“Children are born as innocent sponges,” he remarks when discussing if everyone deserves a chance at self restoration. “Something has gone on where they felt pain and something’s changed that person. It’s either someone or society. Take that person out that environment and you can rehabilitate anyone.”
After setting himself the pyramid of targets when undergoing his recovery that culminated this week with the earning of his A Licence, his next target is to produce the first ever £1 million youngster for his club.
The young players of Oldham know of his struggle and upheaval, but he says he doesn’t directly use it as an influence. It instead works subliminally; these youth players know the routes of life on offer.
“There’s good in everyone. It’s like having the keys to an Audi. It’s parked in your drive and you don’t know that the keys fit that Audi, and what that car does. So you put the keys in and you hear the revs when it starts. Pressing the pedals, you think: ‘Flipping heck, I’ve had this all the time and never used it’.”
This faux pas, then, that is currently dogging football, and sport in general, of how different crimes, different vices, decree whether or not someone can be rehabilitated, is not acknowledged by someone who has experienced it.
Cooper never assumed moral high ground when discussing his addiction of how it compared with people enduring rehabilitation for the obliquely described lesser or more serious examples, and it’s an attitude which should be embraced by all.
With Ched Evans being hounded from club to club, those prescribing clubs’ moral headaches with their online petitions and mob-like behaviour could learn a lesson from his endearing words and sentiments.