‘Only place big enough for funeral is Pittodrie’ – Steve Paterson on Neale Cooper’s send off

Former Aberdeen and Inverness CT manager Steve Paterson with the then Ross County manager Neale Cooper.
Former Aberdeen and Inverness CT manager Steve Paterson with the then Ross County manager Neale Cooper.

Former Aberdeen manager Steve Paterson believes Pittodrie is the only venue big enough in the city to accommodate everyone who will want to pay their respects to Neale Cooper.

The Gothenburg Great died on Monday following a fall and the shock at his passing has led to tributes from friends, colleagues and fans across the country.

Paterson was Cooper’s rival when the duo worked at Caley Thistle and Ross County in the lower leagues before going on to become clubmates at Peterhead where they formed the management team, and knows his friend was held in such high regard that mourners will number in their thousands to honour the 54-year-old.

An emotional Paterson said: “I honestly don’t think there will be a church in Aberdeen big enough to hold all the people that would want to turn out to honour an Aberdeen legend like Neale, perhaps they should think about holding the service at Pittodrie.

“I am just devastated. It’s a tremendously sad situation.

“We kept in touch over the years and I had planned to catch up with him soon. This news really is devastating for me and so many others I’m sure. The news of his untimely death is kind of unreal and it’s still sinking in to be honest.”

Paterson, like so many who knew Cooper, is still coming to terms with the shock of his death but in what has become an increasing trend among his colleagues and friends, the stories of Cooper’s humour have come to the fore.

Former Caley Jags and Peterhead boss Paterson is not surprised.

He said: “I don’t think that there would be anyone in the game of football who would have a bad word to say about Neale.

“He was a fantastic talent, not just as a player, manager and coach, but also on the after-dinner circuit where his presentation, stories and impressions, especially of Alex Ferguson were legendary.

“He was just a very gifted guy in that respect. The Neale you saw on the stage was the same Neale we all knew.

“There was never ever any animosity between Neale and myself despite the rivalry between our two clubs when I was at Caley Thistle for all those years.

“We used to meet socially from time-to-time at various functions and I always found him to be incredibly funny and I can honestly say that I’ve never ever met another football man who made me laugh so much.

“It was hilarious to be part of Neale’s company. He was a hugely infectious character who was always smiling and laughing, that was his approach to life.

“He was a joy to be with and he never once failed to make me laugh.”