PFA Scotland exit trials: Alex Cooper among cast-offs aiming to impress

By Martin DowdenBBC Scotland
Alex Cooper
Alex Cooper is trying to get a new club after leaving St Mirren

Signing for Liverpool on a three-year contract as a teenager surely fills you with the belief that you are on your way to the top of the game.

Celtic, Rangers and Chelsea had all shown interest in Alex Cooper, a midfielder showing the kind of promise in Ross County's youth ranks that led many to believe he might have a career to rival that of his father Neale, the former Aberdeen midfielder.

Raheem Sterling was one of his peers. Their subsequent trajectories highlight the fine margins that exist in the game.

Players go on trial to find new clubs

Long-term injury curtailed Cooper's progress and he departed Merseyside unfulfilled. He returned to Dingwall, moved on to Falkirk and most recently St Mirren before finding himself unattached in this close season.

At the age of 24, his career is in limbo. This week he will endeavour to further it at Broadwood Stadium, Clyde's home ground, which is staging the 10-day PFA Scotland showcase and exit trials, a chance for player to impress attending coaches, managers and agents.

Cooper stands out. He is creative and athletic. Amongst this squad of players, he seems a cut above. Mark Wilson, the former Celtic and Dundee United defender who is overseeing the trials as head coach, certainly thinks so.

"It's their chance to shine," Wilson said. "Alex Cooper's come in and been a leader right away. You can see his ability.

"Sometimes you look at these players and think, 'why are you here? You should be signed up somewhere'."

Mark Wilson playing for Celtic against Hibernian
Wilson (right) won eight trophies, including four league titles with Celtic

Cooper's career is far from finished and there is every chance he will be given an opportunity.

His story is a helpful reminder for youngsters pursuing their dream that it may not become a reality, even when presented with a chance at a club with the stature of Liverpool.

"There's been a lot of down times where I've been really frustrated and upset by things that are happening," said Cooper.

"I've put so much into it and kind of dedicated myself to it and I really want to try and make it work.

"I'm committed to try and stick to it as long as possible."

The trials culminate in a match next Saturday, 18 June, where the attendant coaches and managers can assess what's on offer.

There have been successes. Midfielder Iain Davidson earned a two-year contract at Raith Rovers last summer after being released by Dundee.

For Cooper, and the rest of this squad of players, this close season is no holiday. They have to impress or face a future potentially away from the game.

Sportsound will be following Alex Cooper's progress in PFA Scotland's exit trials over the next week, starting on BBC Radio Scotland on Saturday from 14:00 BST.