Steve Cooper: Swansea City's new boss ticks all the right boxes

Steve Cooper
Steve Cooper built a reputation as an impressive coach during six years with the Football Association

The Welshman who won a World Cup with England is heading home intent on making a mark in club football.

Steve Cooper is the man Swansea City have turned to as they look to maintain the momentum built by former boss Graham Potter.

It is a bold move.

Cooper, 39, has no experience of club management and is anything but an established name.

But then many of Swansea's smartest moves in recent years have raised eyebrows.

Making Roberto Martinez manager in 2007 was seen as a major gamble given that he was playing in midfield for Chester City at the time.

The move worked out pretty well, though, as Martinez delivered the League One title in his first full season and introduced the possession-based playing style which has become the club's trademark.

The appointment of Brendan Rodgers was also a surprise. He had recently been fired after an unhappy spell at Reading, yet the Ulsterman led Swansea to the top flight in his maiden campaign at the helm.

Potter was another brave choice. His only managerial experience had come with a small club in Sweden, but he did enough in one season at Swansea to secure a move to the Premier League with Brighton.

Now Cooper gets the chance to prove his worth in south Wales; familiar territory for a man born in Pontypridd.

The son of former Premier League referee Keith Cooper, he signed a professional deal as a youngster at Wrexham but never made the first-team breakthrough.

He went on to play for The New Saints, Rhyl, Bangor City and Porthmadog, but was thinking about coaching from a very young age.

He was just 27 when he secured a pro licence - the highest qualification available - having begun coaching in Wrexham's youth set-up.

He progressed to head of youth at The Racecourse, where his efforts led to a move to Liverpool's academy in 2008.

Cooper worked with players such as Raheem Sterling, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Wales' Ben Woodburn on Merseyside.

He was promoted to academy manager in 2011, during Kenny Dalglish's second stint as Reds boss, before joining the Football Association as a youth coach educator in 2013.

Cooper was named England Under-16 coach in 2014 and then Under-17 coach the following year.

Phil Foden
Manchester City's Phil Foden scored twice as England beat Spain to win the 2017 Under-17 World Cup

His finest hour to date was in 2017, when England won the Under-17 World Cup for the first time.

Jadon Sancho, of Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City's Phil Foden, Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi and Wolves midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White were part of the squad who came from 2-0 down in the final to beat Spain 5-2.

"We've played like we want all of our England teams to play," Cooper said at the time.

"Brave on the ball - pass, pass, pass, not one long ball - get into good areas, play as a team and some good individual play up the field as well."

Cooper worked directly under current England manager Gareth Southgate - who was then England Under-21 coach - and Dan Ashworth, the FA's director of elite development at the time.

Ironically, Ashworth is now technical director at Brighton, whose decision to go for Potter has led to Cooper's return to Wales.

He will arrive with a reputation as a top-class coach who wants his teams to play good football.

For Swansea, that is two boxes ticked.

The willingness to play a possession game was crucial as Swansea sifted their way through more than 60 contenders for the manager's job.

Steve Cooper
Steve Cooper spent five years working in Liverpool's academy

And chairman Trevor Birch explained following Potter's exit that Swansea wanted someone who would focus on running the first team.

The plan is to appoint a head of recruitment, plus a new scouting team, so the manager can concentrate on training and matches.

Cooper convinced Swansea's decision-makers - Birch, Leon Britton and Alan Curtis - he was the one for them during two interviews.

He is understood to have impressed thanks to his ideas, his knowledge of the Swansea squad and his vision of the way forward.

It is quite the compliment that comparisons have already been drawn between Cooper and Rodgers, who won so many admirers during his two-year spell as Swans boss.

Cooper's new job will not be easy.

Daniel James, such a potent threat for Swansea last season, is leaving for Manchester United and there are questions about whether Oli McBurnie and Matt Grimes might also be poached by clubs higher up the food chain.

There will be little money available to strengthen the squad, meaning Cooper - like his predecessor - will be forced to work with numerous young players.

But then he has proved he is pretty adept at that.

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