Elgin City defender Matthew Cooper will rekindle fond memories when the Black and Whites make the trip to Easter Road for Saturday’s glamour Scottish Cup fourth round tie against Hibernian.
The last-32 tie away to the Premiership side is City’s reward, having comfortably defeated Lowland League sides Whitehill Welfare and Stirling University in the previous two rounds.
The trip to the capital will take Cooper back to the scene of his maiden first team outing with Caley Thistle when he was an unused substitute for a 2-2 draw against Hibs in September 2012 shortly after joining following his release by Aberdeen.
After a long succession of matches on the bench for Terry Butcher’s side, in which he witnessed Caley Jags victories at Ibrox, Parkhead and Pittodrie, Macduff-born Cooper’s first team opportunity finally came when he replaced Josh Meekings in a 4-1 victory over Dundee in December that year.
That proved to be the first of just three appearances before joining League 2 side Elgin, and having now racked up more than 150 appearances for the Black and Whites, Cooper is relishing his opportunity to shine on the big stage.
The 24-year-old said: “On a personal level it will be the biggest crowd I have played in front of, although I sat on the bench down there not long after I first joined Inverness.
“I have been among the substitutes at a few of the other big grounds as well. It’s definitely not the same as being on the park though.
“I would say it’s one of the most exciting ties we could have hoped for from the draw. After the win over Stirling University we were all hoping for a big cup tie, so when the draw was made everyone was buzzing.
“It will be a great occasion for the boys, as well as the supporters and everyone connected with the club.”
Cooper signed a new two-year contract with the club yesterday, extending his time at Borough Briggs until 2021, alongside Darryl McHardy and David Wilson.
Hibs’ game will be their first following the winter break, with Cooper potentially coming up against attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld who could make his debut following his loan move from Sporting Lisbon.
Right back Cooper is intent on frustrating Neil Lennon’s men, who are eighth in the Premiership at present, and he added: “Everyone knows that Hibs go into the game as massive favourites, so there is no pressure on us.
“But the boys will be right up for the game. We have to go down there and make it as hard as possible for them, and you just never know in the cup. It might just be our day.”