The Granite City paid tribute to one of its own last night as 4,000 of his friends, team-mates and family gathered at Pittodrie Stadium to pay tribute to Gothenburg Great Neale Cooper.
The celebration of the life of former Aberdeen midfielder, who went on to manage Ross County, Gillingham, Hartlepool United and Peterhead, produced tears and laughs as friends and colleagues joined as one to remember the man known as Tattie, who died on May 30 following a fall.
Aberdeen stars of the past gathered alongside supporters and Cooper’s family to remember a man whose warmth and humour left a lasting impression on all who met him.
Several of Cooper’s team-mates from his time at Pittodrie – Scotland manager Alex McLeish, his predecessor Gordon Strachan, former Dons boss Mark McGhee, Eric Black, Peter Weir, Stuart Kennedy, John McMaster, Doug Bell, Ian Angus, John Hewitt, Bryan Gunn and Neil Simpson – were in attendance for the ceremony which was hosted by broadcaster Richard Gordon.
Cooper’s son Alex, who has followed in his father’s footsteps in football, spoke along with his nephew Doug Blake on behalf of the family.
Cooper, who plays for Fresno FC in the United States thanked the emergency services for their efforts in treating his father and thanked representatives of all the clubs associated with his dad.
He said: “It has been humbling for the family and we’re really grateful. It’s amazing to see such a turnout. The family are really grateful to each and every one of you who has come here and shared your messages about what he meant to you and his dirty tackles and warm heart.
“Whether it was a greeting on a street, a joke at night or helping with the hunt for a lost dog, we’re all so grateful and thanks very much.”
Willie Miller, who was Cooper’s captain in his biggest achievement as a player, the Cup Winners’ Cup final win against Real Madrid in 1983, hailed his former team-mate as the spark of the dressing room during his time at Pittodrie.
But the biggest laughs came from Cooper himself with video footage of some of his famous tales from his career while former Don Charlie Nicholas, who was on the receiving end of an infamous challenge from Cooper just three seconds after kick-off while he was at Celtic, led the video tributes as he recalled the challenge.
Archie Knox, who was Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant during the club’s dominant period of success in the 1980s was joined by Aberdeen director and former manager Craig Brown in sharing their memories, while Andy Dornan, Cooper’s former team-mate and assistant, did likewise.
Dornan told of Cooper’s encounters with Huey Lewis, Michael Elphick and Paul Simon during his time at Aston Villa.
Joe Harper, all-time leading goalscorer at Aberdeen, gave a touching tribute to his close friend.
Harper said: “In those winter nights when you see the star twinkling, that’s the star of the north and that’s Neale winking at you.”
The poignant and emotional celebration concluded with the release of 220 red and white balloons in recognition of Cooper’s appearances for the Dons, followed by a minute’s applause for the Gothenburg Great.
Richard Dimamdro, 45, a Kincorth accountant, said: “I thought it was fantastic, really funny but also touching.”
Bill Downie, 52, a Portlethen sales manager, said: “It was the best, it is what he deserved.”