UK news I wouldn't have achieved dream of playing across the water without Linfield switch, claims award winner Joel Cooper last news
MetiNews.Com - The Irish Premiership's Player of the Year Joel Cooper believes he had to endure the unrelenting demands at Linfield to secure his dream of full-time football in England.
Breaking News ! "The Irish Premiership's Player of the Year Joel Cooper believes he had to endure the unrelenting demands at Linfield to secure his dream of full-time football in England. Winger Cooper is enjoying his first season in League One with Oxford United and is now part of the Northern Ireland senior squad.But the 24-year-old reveals in a wide-ranging interview with Sunday Life Sport how the constant demand for success at the Blues matured and improved him as a player and taught him about ruthlessness.He was never allowed to be comfortable at Linfield as competition for places at Windsor Park was fierce. It was his drive and determination which helped him win a second League title with the Blues last season and which today sees him parade the Danske Bank Premiership Player of the Year trophy.His endeavours earned the Ballyclare man a move to Oxford in July and Cooper was called up to Ian Baraclough's squad for the last two international windows.Cooper was a huge talent for Glenavon between 2015-2018, but stresses he needed to experience playing for a club of Linfield's stature and history, where a fear of failure provided the motivation in south Belfast."Signing for Linfield was crucial to my career," Cooper says."No disrespect to Glenavon, but Linfield is more ruthless. There is more competition for places so you have to do everything right, every time, if you want to keep your place in the team."David Healy helped me immensely, as did all the staff and players, and I am grateful to them for helping me in my time at Linfield before I moved to Oxford. I enjoyed it when we were winning, but it could be a tough place to play in if results didn't go your way. You just had to dig in and work your way back."Glenavon and other Irish League fans gave me stick, saying I wasn't strong enough, but I tried to feed off the negativity."I tried to prove to everyone that I was the right guy to play for Linfield and by doing that hopefully you can win people over."Cooper scored 13 goals in a truncated season - only Andy Waterworth netted more for Linfield - but it was enough to convince Karl Robinson to plunder the Irish League for a third time, having previously signed Gavin Whyte and Mark Sykes."It was a crazy season. It started off on a high for us with the run in Europe, which was an incredible experience, but then we hit a rough patch," explains Cooper.
."The season's end was difficult to manage because you had to stay fit and be ready to return to the game and you had to do your fitness work in isolation because of the pandemic."Then we were approaching pre-season when I heard a bid was going to be made for me, but I didn't really know what was happening, it happened so quickly."Oxford made a bid that was accepted by the club and it was all done and dusted in a matter of days."Karl was brilliant, taking me aside for a one-on-one chat, telling me just to play the way I do, and the lads have all been brilliant."Having Sykesy here helps as we played at Glenavon together and of course Gavin was here before he moved to Cardiff City."I haven't set any goals as such, I want to get into the team and hopefully cement my place, improve, help the team and hopefully break into the international team."Michael O'Neill invited Cooper and Paul Smyth to join the international squad's training camp for the Euro 2016 Finals in France and he has been part of Baraclough's panel for his five games to date.However, waiting to get his first senior cap after playing for Baraclough at Under-21 level gnaws at the dynamic winger."Not getting my first senior international cap yet is frustrating because I have been so close, but it hasn't happened yet," he admits."Joining the squad for their training camps in France four years ago was incredible, and the recent trips have been great too. Bosnia was an incredible experience."I just really want to make my debut and hopefully build from there. Obviously the Slovakia game next month is massive and I'd love to be involved."To do that, I have to focus on Oxford now, try and do well for my club and be ready if Ian Baraclough needs me."I am delighted to win the Danske Bank Player of the Year award. Thanks to the sponsors and all who voted for me at NIFL and the Football Writers." "
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