Joel Cooper programme article

Posted : 12th January 2019

POPULAR summer signing Joel Cooper spoke to ‘Look at Linfield’ this week to discuss life at Linfield, his new role in a new system, coping with expectations and his aims for the future. The attacker had just netted his eighth goal of the season against his former club Ballyclare Comrades in a 1-0 win which sent the Blues into the sixth round of the Irish Cup and an eye catching home draw against Crusaders.

“Ballyclare were my first club and I have a lot of love for them, hence me not celebrating my goal. I know a lot of people at the club and it was their manager Stephen Hughes who brought me to Ballyclare. Their fans are great too and I have a lot of time for the club where I spent two good years.”

“When teams sit in, that’s when your movement comes in and you need to move the ball quicker, something we need to do better. Things were a bit flat last week and that subconsciously might have influenced us as players but Ballyclare made it hard for us. It was all about getting through however and we managed that. You never look back on performances in a cup competition, just the results, although we expected a better performance.”

The 22-year-old had played most of his career on the left of a 4-4-2, but since joining Linfield, the former Ballyclare Comrades and Glenavon star believes being part of an interchangeable three behind the striker has worked a treat for him and the team in a solid 4-2-3-1 system.

“We play a good system and the three behind the striker can all interchange. That gives the opposition something else to think about. One minute they’re trying to mark me – next minute it’ll be Stewart, Kearns, or whoever. My goal last week was at the front post, whereas in a 4-4-2, I probably would have been at the back post, so I think it helps me. We’ve been keeping clean sheets, we have a good shape and defend from the front. I think that gives us attackers the license to get forward.”

Cooper signed a three-year deal with Linfield last summer, as his contract expired at Glenavon and he says it was the concomitant pressure and expectations at Windsor Park which he wanted to experience.

“Playing at Windsor is amazing. I wanted the big pressure and expectations here – it’s not just from the fans. The players, staff and everybody else have high expectations and it keeps you on your game. We have high standards as a squad and have aims that we want to achieve this season. So far, we’re doing well and if you’d offered us this position at the start of the season, we’d probably have been happy to take it.”

As a highly-rated prospect, Joel played in the Linfield Academy for one season. As he developed, he featured for Northern Ireland U21s and even took part in Northern Ireland’s senior training camp in France at EURO 2016. Still regarded as a man with big potential, Cooper admits the prospect of full-time football would appeal to him, although he doesn’t want to focus on anything other than Linfield at this moment in time.

“I’ve just focused on getting myself established and doing well here for Linfield this season, but I do still aspire to make a career in full time football. I will only focus on Linfield, unless something changes but football is a funny game and you never know what can happen in a few years.”

Everyone associated with the club will hope to see Joel continue his impressive performances and we wish him every success in his time ahead at Windsor Park.
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