Joel Cooper programme article

Posted : 27th April 2021

‘Look at Linfield’ this week catches up with mercurial winger Joel Cooper who is closing in on the milestone of 100 Linfield appearances, with just three more to go until what he says will be a proud achievement for him.

“I see 100 Linfield appearances as a massive achievement and it’s something I will be really proud to achieve. The milestone excites me and hopefully I can get there as soon as possible.”

The former Ballyclare Comrades and Glenavon winger left Linfield to join Oxford United in EFL League One last summer, before returning to Windsor Park on loan in January. However, he informs the club programme that he’s been disappointed with his performances since returning.

“I’ve found it tough. The league has improved but one thing that hasn’t changed is that everybody guns for you. At Linfield you just have to deal with that, but it’s been enjoyable being back at the Club.

“The fans are definitely not seeing the best of me. It’s been up and down for me and I don’t feel like I’ve given my best, but all I can do is keep working hard and trying to improve my form and to improve as a player. I feel like I haven’t really had a good run of games – that’s down to myself, and then just as I was starting to get back up to speed, I got sent off and missed three games. I think that killed me again because after three games out it takes a while to get back up to speed again. The only answer is for me to keep working hard.”

The 25 year-old has tasted success in the Irish Cup before, having played a starring role for Glenavon in their win over Linfield in the 2016 final. He wants to do it again, but says the team need to approach the game with the right attitude as favourites. And whilst he acknowledges that a lot of talk will be around next weekend’s Big Two derby against title challengers Glentoran, he says Linfield cannot afford to look that far ahead yet.

“The boys at Annagh won’t have played competitive football for over a year now, so they will be buzzing to get back in and playing again. It will be a different challenge for us as heavy favourites but it’s a game we want to go and win, and hopefully we can do that.

“The Glentoran game...let’s be honest, it’s a cup final, not just for us but for them as well. I think we owe them one for the past few games against them but we aren’t thinking too much about it because the Annagh game in the Cup comes first and we are fully focused on trying to progress in the Cup too.”

With the Irish Cup to play for and five massive post-split Premiership games to come for Linfield – who are seven points ahead at the top – Cooper says it’s a shame fans across the league can’t be there to enjoy a big end to the season.

“Empty stadiums can feel a strange place and when you need a lift at times during games sometimes the supporters can give you that. That’s been tough not having that, when you’re on top in a game and you’re looking for a goal. Last Saturday when we lost to Glenavon at Mourneview Park I felt if we had fans behind the net, they’d have helped us suck the ball into the net late on. They make a big difference and it’s a shame we are playing big games and fans of all teams across the league can’t be there to enjoy it.”

All the best to Joel and the team for a big end to the season and hopefully, the appearance milestone won’t be the only thing he’ll celebrate in the coming weeks.
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