Wednesday 23 May 2012
Kevin Cooper: I regret leaving Wimbledon
He scored AFC Wimbledon's first competitive goal on 17 August, 2002, after notching for Sutton United against us in our first friendly match, and there was certainly plenty more to come from Kevin Cooper. Before leaving for Carshalton Athletic in June, 2004, a move he deeply regrets, Kevin scored 107 goals in league and cup in a spell that ended with promotion from the Combined Counties Premier League. Kevin also beat the all-time Wimbledon goalscoring record for one season when he surpassed the 57 goals previously set by Eddie Reynolds, scoring 66 in total.
Best moment at Wimbledon?
The first goal I scored for AFC Wimbledon was special as it was the start of a new era. It was a big thing on the coach on the way to the game at Sandhurst. We agreed that the player who scored the first goal would get the man of the match award and a trophy. It was not about being greedy, we just all wanted to do well for the club. It was great for me to get the first goal, but I would have to say that the most important moment in my mind was when I beat the all-time Wimbledon scoring record for the most goals in a season. I did it at home when I scored four against Cove in an 8-0 win. The goal that beat the record was a penalty and it was a great season as we also got promotion and won the cup.
The cup final against North Greenford United (4-1 win in the Combined Counties Premier Challenge Cup). It was great to win a double and it was a great occasion. I remember going on the way in an open-top bus, it was like we were involved in the FA Cup Final. I scored twice in the game at Woking and the pitch got invaded afterwards. It was crazy and I remember it was a great night too.
How did your move to Wimbledon come about?
I played for Sutton United in the club's first friendly match. I scored two goals and afterwards Terry Eames pulled me aside and asked me if I fancied playing in front of over 4,000 supporters every match. I signed the next week.
What was the key to AFC Wimbledon's success?
The players had good focus to achieve success and we had players who were capable of playing at a higher level. However, I would have to say that it was the backing that we received from the supporters. It gave you that buzz and it was a good pressure in a way. I thrived on it as it made you want to do well, rather than strolling around the pitch. All the players wanted to play for the badge.
What was your rapport like with the Dons fans?
The fans had songs for three or four of us and the atmopshere after matches was superb. There was a buzz about the place and the rapport with the supporters was unbelievable. Sometimes it would take me about 45 minutes to get from the dressing room to the car. You would stop for everyone who wanted to speak to you. They loved the banter and it made us all feel a real part of the club.
Any regrets about your time at Wimbledon?
I regret leaving the club. I left in the summer of 2004 when I was out of contract. At the time it felt like the right decision as Carshalton Athletic were in the Conference South. But it was the worst thing that I ever did.
What do you think of the current situation at AFC Wimbledon?
I think that the supporters 10 years ago would have bitten your hand off if you had said to them that they would be staying in League 2 for another season after getting into the Football League. I think they have to be patient. The fans will know that as they know what the club is all about. It was a great feeling for me when AFC Wimbledon got promoted in Manchester, knowing that I was a part of it all at the start. I tried to get up to Manchester last May, but instead I was driving my car listening to it on the radio and I stopped it to listen to the penalties. I have been to Wimbledon matches in the Football League in the past year, but it was crazier back when I was playing. The club is settled back in the Football League, but it was a rollercoaster back then and it was great to be involved with the start of the club.