MARK Cooper is well aware of the perils of sending the Bristol City fans home unhappy while visiting Ashton Gate as an away manager, but will be gunning for his old club tomorrow nonetheless.
The Town boss spent a handful of his formative years in and around Bristol while his father Terry was manager of City, and will now lead a team out at his dad’s old stomping ground for the first time when Swindon visit for tomorrow’s derby.
Cooper has a vivid memory of one Swindon visit where City needed a win to secure their place in the play-offs alongside Town on the final day of the 1986-87 season, but when Gordon Owen’s penalty trickled wide in the dying minutes the County Ground side escaped with a 1-1 draw.
The home fans weren’t happy to see their side miss out on a shot at promotion and took their frustrations out on Swindon boss Lou Macari, pelting him with glasses while then City YTS Cooper watched on. The current Town boss is understandably keen to avoid suffering the same fate as legendary boss Macari but would love nothing more than to leave Ashton Gate tomorrow having similarly disappointed the vocal home crowd.
“I’m really looking forward to going back and I’ve got quite a few friends in Bristol, but I’m looking forward to going back as manager of Swindon and hopefully getting a result,” he said.
“I remember big crowds, vocal support when things are going well and a nice stadium. It’s a proper football stadium, similar to ours, and it can generate a lot of noise when it gets going.
“It will be a good atmosphere I’m sure because they’re hitting a patch of form and we’re on a bit of a rocky patch but I think it will be a good game.
“I can remember being at Bristol City when I was a young lad and Swindon came with Lou Macari as their manager.
“Bristol City had to win to get in the play-offs while Swindon were already in, I think, and Bristol City got a penalty in the last minute. Gordon Owen took it and rolled it past the post so City missed out.
“I can remember after the game I was a YTS and we were doing our jobs and had to go and get something out of the car park and the City fans were throwing pint glasses at Lou Macari. Hopefully that won’t be me.
“I can remember coming here and watching Bristol City too and they are good memories for me.”
When Ashton Gate is rocking it can be a formidable experience for any player, especially the youngsters on display for Town, but Cooper has backed his players to cope well with another big occasion.
“City are paying well at the moment and Steve (Cotterill) has gone in and done well but we are going to try and give a good account of ourselves,” he said. “If we play like we did second half on Tuesday (against Wolves) we can get a result.
“I don’t think the atmosphere will be a problem at all because we’ve been to QPR and won with a young group and also went to Rotherham, which was a big atmosphere and won, so they know how to handle it.
“It’s just the mental tiredness which has crept in a little so we need to keep them fresh for Saturday.
“In games like this it’s the team who keep their head who will prevail.”
Cooper will have to make late calls on a number of his injured players ahead of Saturday’s clash with Bristol City.
The Town boss hoped to have Wes Foderingham back between the sticks but the keeper is by no means certain to recover from his groin injury in time, meaning Tyrell Belford could continue in goal.
Nathan Byrne was due to have a scan today to assess what Town believe is a nerve injury causing hamstring issues, while Troy Archibald-Henville will be assessed after training tomorrow to decide whether he is fit to return after missing out on Tuesday night.
Jay McEveley could play his second game in a week despite his ongoing knee problems while Nathan Thompson is almost certain to return.