PETERHEAD Football Club parted company with boss Neale Cooper last week after a string of disappointing results left the club languishing at the bottom of the Second Division.
Cooper first came to the club in October 2006 as assistant to Steve Paterson, the pair looking to build on the progress Iain Stewart had made in leading the Peterhead into the Second Division, and then taking them to the brink of First Division football a year later.
When Paterson’s reign turned sour and the club were left struggling at the wrong end of the table, chairman Rodger Morrison turned to a ready-made replacement in the form of Cooper.
Having begun his managerial career with Ross County, Cooper had the experience of leading a club up the leagues and he took over in January 2008. Reviving the fortunes of an ailing team, he led them to a fifth-place finish, missing out on a play-off spot by just one point.
Cooper, along with assistant Andy Dornan, set about reshaping the squad again. Focusing on youth and making the most of Dornan’s links with the Aberdeen youth set-up, it was a mostly north-east based team, the young squad augmented by experienced pros remaining from the previous regime including Polish pair Michal Kula and Konrad Kozminski and former Dundee defenders Bobby Mann and Callum Macdonald.
A play-off place was the minimum aim and in 2008-09 a fourth-place finish ensured that goal was met, only for a 4-2 aggregate defeat to Airdrie United in the semi-final to consign Cooper’s men to another season in Division Two.
The Blue Toon finished in fifth place again last term as a number of signings backfired through injury and lack of form, including former Blue Toon man Scott Michie, and the pressure really was on Cooper to perform this season.
The term began with a number of promising performances and an impressive run that took the club to a first national competition semi-final, facing Queen of the South in the League Challenge Cup.
But league form didn’t match that shown in knockout competitions and, despite a number of promising performances, it was the end of September before the Blue Toon sampled league success, finally recording their first win at home to Alloa Athletic.
An inconsistent period followed but following the low of a 5-0 home defeat to Brechin, Cooper looked to have turned his side around. A 5-1 win over Airdrie United followed, before weather interrupted the card until January 8.
A 0-0 draw with St Mirren followed, and suddenly the positivity was back as Peterhead went on to beat high-flying Livingston and bogey side Alloa Athletic, and secured a draw against Ayr United.
The only low point during January was the 6-1 cup replay defeat against The Bairns, but the way the Toon bounced back showed signs of the resilience Cooper had often asked from his side.
As it turned out, though, January was nothing more than a blip. The side had since gone into free-fall, and slipped to the bottom of the pile, culminating in Cooper’s time in the Balmoor hot-seat coming to an end.
As one era ends another begins, and John Sheran takes over looking to lift the side off the bottom of the table, and keep Peterhead in the Second Division.