Club News

Former Blue Toon striker pays tribute to Neale Cooper

Mon 11 Jun 2018

Bavidge spent a decade at Balmoor and scored in a famous 9-2 win over Berwick under boss Neale Cooper Bavidge spent a decade at Balmoor and scored in a famous 9-2 win over Berwick under boss Neale Cooper

Former Blue Toon frontman Martin Bavidge has paid tribute to the late Neale Cooper, one of six managers he played under at Peterhead.

The 54 year old died suddenly last month and his untimely passing rocked football, particularly the clubs he served on the field and in the dugout.

Neale, who spent four and a half years at Balmoor, left a lasting impression on everyone he encountered and will be sorely missed.

Bavidge said: “When I heard the news, it was horrible.  I could not believe it.”

“Some former team-mates, who I still meet up with, were in shock.  Even now, I still cannot believe it.”

“It is just really, really sad and it is far, far too young.”

“Neale was a great guy, someone who I bumped into on a number of occasions away from football.”

“He was always upbeat, happy and everytime you were in his company, he would be laughing and joking.”

Initially, the legendary Aberdeen midfielder came to Peterhead as Steve Paterson’s number two in October 2006.

However, once Paterson departed the club around 14 months later, Neale was promoted to manager, a role he held until March 2011.

His bubbly personality made for plenty of joyous times, although there was a serious side behind the smile.

Bavidge said: “As a manager, Neale had a bit of everything and he knew how to handle situations.”

“I always remember pre-season training when he would be taking the mickey out of you as all the players tried to get into shape.”

“I also recall the time when he went ballistic after we missed out on the chance to play Celtic in the Scottish Cup.”

“We drew 2-2 against Queen’s Park at Balmoor and then lost the replay 1-0 at Hampden and that was the maddest I had ever seen him.”

A highlight under Neale’s tutelage was, not long after he had taken up the reins, a resounding 9-2 victory over Berwick Rangers.

Stuart McKay scored a hat-trick and Rory McAllister, who was briefly on loan from Inverness Caley Thistle, netted his first ever goal for the club.

Bavidge was also on the scoresheet and added: “Had I not managed to chip in that day, my time at the club might have been up because the goals were raining in!”

“Neale, during his time as manager, put together a young side wih guys like David Donald, Neil McVitie and David Ross, who all improved under him, and it was a good squad to be part of.”

Bavidge, now 38, has since retired from the game after a decade of service in Buchan, which was followed by two seasons at Inverurie Locos in the Highland League.

His Saturdays are now occupied by watching his two football-playing children, although he has not ruled out a return to senior football in a coaching capacity at some stage in the future.

Bavidge continued: “At Peterhead, I played under Ian Wilson, Iain Stewart, Steve Paterson, Neale, John Sheran and then Jim McInally.”

“I do think I have something to give back, perhaps as a number two or a coach but I cannot see myself becoming a manager.”

“I remember, just before Jim came to the club, having to organise training and dealing with some other issues in the build-up to games.”

“It was hard work but I do fancy getting involved again if the right opportunity came along.”

Netting 98 goals from 298 appearances, Bavidge served Peterhead with distinction and hopes to see his old club climb back up the Scottish football ladder.

He said: “I have no regrets from my career and I look back on my time at Peterhead with really happy memories.”

“There were lots of highlights and it was just a pity that we lost out on a penalty shoot-out in 2006 against Partick, which stopped us from back-to-back promotions and moving up to the Championship.”

“I believe Peterhead should be challenging at that level so hopefully they can get back there because they definitely should not be in League 2.”

 

By Glenn Moir