20 Oct 2020
© Joel Cooper

Joel Cooper’s year just keeps getting better after being named as the Northern Ireland Football Awards Danske Bank Player of the Year winner.

The prize comes just a matter of weeks after the 24-year-old fulfilled his full-time dream by joining Oxford United from Irish League champions Linfield.

“It’s a bit of a surprise to me to get this award. I wasn’t expecting to get a call about it, but I am delighted,” said Cooper.

“Some great players have won it in the past, Jimmy Callacher won it last year and it’s great to keep it at Linfield for another year.

“It’s good to win both the young player and the senior award. It wasn’t a bad time for me at Linfield, two league titles and a Player of the Year award is something I’m very pleased about.”

Cooper becomes the seventh player in history to be awarded the Player of the Year prize after also picking up the Young Player of the Year award, which he won as a Glenavon player in 2016.

The others being:

Gavin White 2015 and 2018 – won Young Player and Player of the Year in same season

Stuart Dallas 2011 - won Young Player and Player of the Year in same season

Liam Boyce 2010 and 2013

Michael Gault 2003 and 2008

Noel Bailie 1990 and 1994

Mark Glendinning 1998 and 2005

Next on Cooper’s list of targets will be to join the four most recent double winners by adding a full international cap to his achievements, having been called up to the Northern Ireland squad by manager Ian Baraclough immediately after making the move to the Kassam Stadium.

“It’s been a crazy few months for me and while 2020 probably hasn’t been a great year for a lot of people it’s been brilliant for me,” said Cooper.

“I was disappointed that I didn’t get to play again for Linfield. I didn’t know at the time in March that was going to be my last game for the club.

“When I got the call from Oxford everything happened within a couple of days and it’s been a great couple of months. Getting the call up to the senior international squad is something that I wasn’t expecting, but I’m honoured to be a part of it.”