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Cooper leaves Ashton Gate links behind ahead of derby day
FOR FOUR of his formative years, Mark Cooper was what most would term a Bristol City “fan” - even if the Swindon Town boss refuses to admit as much today.
With his dad Terry in charge of first-team affairs at Ashton Gate, Cooper would travel the length and breadth of the country watching his father’s side in action.
He went on to see through a YTS apprenticeship with City and was included in their senior squad without making an appearance before switching to Exeter in 1989.
While he may quite rightly play down the link between himself and Town’s local rivals in the build-up to Saturday’s derby date at the County Ground Cooper’s relationship with the Ashton Gate outfit is undeniable, and he accepted that the seven years he spent in Bristol are ones he remembers fondly.
“I grew up with Bristol City, watching them home and away for a long time because my dad was the manager.” he told the Advertiser.
“They’re a good football club, a big club but I’m fully focused on getting three points for Swindon Town on Saturday.
“I grew up watching every game for four or five years, then being a YTS boy and a professional. I have fond memories of being there and watching them.
“I never thought I’d be managing a team that’s playing against Bristol City and I’m looking forward to it.
“I’ve been to see them twice and I saw a lot of friends when I went to see them the other night. I’m looking forward to managing against them on Saturday.
“There were people working in the media who were there when I was there and on the local radio and on the paper. The old kit man was there and people like that. It was good to see them.”
A near-capacity crowd is expected for the visit of City tomorrow, with an audience of around 13,000 anticipated.
Cooper said the atmosphere could well work to his side’s advantage, but he backed his players to remain cool regardless of the cheers or jeers that may or may not be thrown in their general direction.
“Hopefully there’s a massive crowd in, there’s a really good atmosphere and our players can go and show again, to another big crowd, how good they are,” he said.
“To us it probably doesn’t affect us a great deal.
“The players are calm, they really appreciate the efforts our crowd make home and away. I think you see that in their reaction to the crowd afterwards.
“Once the whistle goes it’s game time and they want to go and play.
“The biggest effect the crowd have on us is when we play, and we sometimes go backwards, they stay with us and don’t shout ‘get the ball forward’.
“They haven’t done that yet, they’ve been fantastic and long may that continue.”
Utility player Alex Smith is waiting on the results of a second scan on a shin and knee problem which has kept him out of action since the win at QPR in the Capital One Cup and will not feature, while Tijane Reis continues to be sidelined with a knee injury of his own.
Aaron Oakley is recovering from a broken foot, while wingers Alex Pritchard and Nathan Byrne are both suspended.
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