Elgin City’s transformation since Matthew Cooper joined nearly seven years ago gives the defender cause for excitement after he signed a new deal until 2024.
Cooper has been rewarded with a long-term contract which will take him up to his testimonial year, having clocked up 224 appearances since joining from Caley Thistle in 2014.
During his early days at Borough Briggs, Cooper recalls being able to count on one hand the number of local team-mates who would report for training, with a large number of the squad hailing from the central belt.
Cooper has seen the north base soar under manager Gavin Price and he feels the club’s ambition made it an easy decision to commit his future for another three years.
Cooper, who is from Macduff, said: “This last couple of years the manager has been trying to fix a squad, with boys being tied down for two or three years.
“There’s a good base of a squad and every year maybe just one or two changes.
“This season has shown it is a good squad and it’s working well. The continuity is important, not just to the starting 11, but within the squad.
“I have been speaking to some of the boys about when I first signed for Elgin and how good a squad we’ve actually got this year.
“There’s a lot of local boys and young lads coming through. I remember when I first signed there were only about three or four of us for north training, so we were either travelling up to Aviemore or Inverness for a few weeks.
“We are now getting 14 or 15 boys every Tuesday and Thursday in Elgin, which makes a massive difference. A lot of the boys have been here two or three years now, so we know what to expect of each other and how we can get the best out of each other. The manager has invested well.
“I see a big improvement in the club every year.”
Cooper was only 20 when he joined City, having made just three first-team appearances for Inverness under Terry Butcher.
The right-back knows he will be among the Moray club’s senior figures by the time his deal runs out, adding: “I was delighted to sign it. It’s good to have a bit of security for myself and especially with what’s going on just now, even more so.
“Since I have been here it usually has been one-year contracts every year, especially up in Elgin, where it’s hard to attract players.
“I was thinking about it at the weekend when I signed. I started off as a young kid at the very start of my career. By the time this is done I will be nearly 30 and near the other side of the hill.
“It’s a long time, but it just passes so quick. The manager said he was going to reward me and sign me up to the testimonial year, which is something to look forward to at the end of it as well.”
Cooper is wary of today’s League 2 opponents Albion Rovers, despite the Coatbridge team losing their last four games on the bounce.
Second-placed Elgin are looking to keep up the pressure on leaders Queen’s Park, who they trail by four points, and Cooper added: “It’s always tight, we never go down there and get an easy game.”
Elgin have doubts over defenders Stephen Bronsky and Andy McDonald, but midfielder Russell Dingwall is expected to be fit after picking up an ankle knock in the win over Annan.