Wales should have their eye on Pontypridd’s Cooper
Pontypridd’s own Steve Cooper has proven a lot in his first full season as a manager of Championship side Swansea City. Cooper took the helm following the departure of Graham Potter and has put the club back on the right path after finishing 10th in the previous campaign. He has been forced to deal with the departure of last season’s top scorer Oli McBurnie following his sale to Sheffield United, while promising youngster Daniel James also departed for Manchester United.
A lot of the club’s former stars in the Premier League had previously left the Liberty Stadium for pastures new, putting the pressure on Cooper to bring out the best in the young talent remaining and brought in on loan. He has performed outstandingly well to allow the Swans to finish sixth in the table, pipping Nottingham Forest on the final day for the last playoff spot.
It’s no surprise to people who have followed Cooper’s coaching career. The 40-year-old was the architect behind England’s Under-17 World Cup triumph in 2017 and runners-up in the Under-17s European competition in the same year. Cooper is a very talented coach and gets the best out of young players. Rhian Brewster was part of his squad that won the World Cup, winning the Golden Boot in the process. The 20-year-old suffered a devastating injury in 2018 and was in the need of a solid landing spot to get back on the right track.
He looked no further than Cooper and Swansea, where he has been a revelation in the second tier. The list goes on as Freddie Woodman, Ben Wilmot, Sam Surridge, Conor Gallagher, and Marc Guehi all benefited from Cooper’s guidance. Even young players currently already at the club have been transformed – notably Ben Cabango and Joe Rodon.
The Swans lost one manager last season and could be in danger of losing another should they continue their upward trajectory. Wales should definitely be monitoring his progress, depending on how they perform under Ryan Giggs at the Euros next summer. The Dragons are backed in the football betting odds at 125/1 to win the competition so there’s not a great deal expected of them, although given their heroics under Chris Coleman in 2016, Giggs will be under some pressure. If he underwhelms, the Welsh FA may be on the lookout for a manager that brings the best out of young emerging talent with Gareth Bale beginning to age.
Cooper’s talents would appeal with the likes of Ethan Ampadu, Ben Woodburn, Harry Wilson, Tyler Roberts, Rabbi Matondo, and James ready to usher in a new era. Giggs performed well enough to get Wales into the Euros, but there has been criticism of his managerial skills.
Cooper would offer superior coaching skills and that could be what Wales crave rather than a big name with passion. Gareth Southgate’s methodical approach, having worked with younger age groups in the England set-up has worked extremely well for the Three Lions. Following suit with Pontypridd’s Cooper may not be a bad idea for the Dragons unless Giggs’ men produce a stunning effort in the Euros.