Neale Cooper’s former captain and fellow Gothenburg Great Willie Miller led the tributes to the former Don last night following his death at the age of 54.
Cooper was the youngest member of the Dons’ European Cup Winners’ Cup winning side of 1983 when he starred at the age of 19 and Miller hailed the man regarded as the ‘life and soul’ of the Pittodrie dressing room.
Miller said: “It’s a huge shock to everyone. I’ve been in touch with some of the Gothenburg guys and we’re all devastated. It’s so sad and unexpected.
“Our thoughts go to Neale’s family in the first instance and the fact we are all devastated will be reflection on how much of the city of Aberdeen feels.
“Neale was the life and soul and I never met anyone else like him. You knew whenever you had a conversation with Neale it would end with a joke and you would be laughing.
“Whether it was a joke, a funny story or an impression of a former manager or team-mate, Neale had an amazing ability to leave you with a smile on your face.”
Cooper’s midfield partner during Aberdeen’s glory days, fellow Gothenburg Great Neil Simpson, paid tribute to his team-mate on social media.
He wrote: “Devastated and heartbroken. We will miss your cheeky smile, infectious laugh, Fergie impressions, all the dressing room stories and your friendship.”
Former Aberdeen manager Alex Smith, who succeeded Cooper as manager at Ross County in 2002, knew Darjeeling born Cooper for almost 40 years since the duo first crossed paths as teenagers.
He said: “He was a fantastic man and someone I’ve known since he was 15. He was regarded as a young Franz Beckenbauer as a teenager but the issue he had at Aberdeen was that Willie Miller’s ability and experience ensured he was never going to oust him from central defence.
“Sir Alex Ferguson found a way to incorporate him in his team by putting him in midfield alongside Neil Simpson and the rest was history.
“I put him through his coaching licence at Largs with the SFA and he was laugh a minute. Neale and Kenny McDowall used to go on ahead of the coaches every night so they could buy a round of drinks and then wear towels across their arms and serve us as if they were waiters.”
Following managerial spells with Ross County, Hartlepool United and Gillingham, Cooper served as assistant manager and later as manager at Peterhead.
Blue Toon chairman Rodger Morrison said: “It’s a measure of the man that you’ll not find anyone with a bad word to say about him. He was a joy to work with.”