Swansea has a history of hungry, young managers with plenty to prove. Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers, Garry Monk and others made their name at SA1. The gamble backed at some point, though, but the Welsh club kept on to that model.
When Graham Potter dumped the second-tier side to join Premier League Brighton and Hove Albion last month, it wasn’t quite difficult to secure a successor owing to the existing template. In around 60 applicants, Steve Cooper best suits the role.
“At the forefront of our thinking was the appointment of a head coach who was hungry, ambitious, had a clear track record of playing our style of football,” Swansea chairman Trevor Birch said in a statement.
“Plus a pedigree to work with and develop young, talented players… Steve matched all those requirements in abundance and his views, coaching ethos and presentation were compelling.”
Indeed Cooper embodies Swansea philosophy. He has no experience of club management. At 39, he is the sixth-youngest manager in the Championship. Only Scott Parker (Fulham), Lee Johnson (Bristol City), Jan Siewert (Huddersfield), Alex Neil (Preston) and Jonathan Woodgate (Middlesbrough) are younger than the new Swans boss.
Cooper started quite early. His voracious desire to improve and learn saw him complete the UEFA Pro Licence qualification at the age of just 26. Then he took his craft to Wrexham, managing the youth side.
He progressed to head of youth at The Racecourse, where his efforts led to a move to Liverpool’s academy in 2008. In 2011, he was promoted to academy manager, before joining the Football Association as a youth coach educator two years later.
Cooper was named England Under-16 coach in 2014 and then Under-17 coach the following year. He led the Young Lions to the final of the 2017 European Championship, where they lost to Spain on penalties, but they gained revenge later in the year by coming from 2-0 down to beat the same opponents 5-2 in the World Cup final in India. They had never previously been further than the quarter-finals in the global competition.
Such an achievement doesn’t come at a platter. Cooper earned it. This is the sort of right skills to lead a youthful Swansea squad, ranked among the highest in the EFL in terms of minutes played by players aged 23 and under last season.
The 39-year-old has a history of dealing and developing talented young players. He is were widely praised for an attractive, attacking style of play – the sort of football condoned at the Liberty Stadium.
Cooper becomes only the first Welsh-born coach to be in full-time charge of the Swans since Brian Flynn left the club in 2004. He will definitely make it count.
Follow Toby on Twitter @prinzToby