Steve Cooper has revealed he was tempted enough to leave “one of the best jobs in Europe” in order to become manager at Swansea City.
Cooper – whose official title at the Liberty Stadium is head coach – made his first appearance in front of the media on Tuesday and insisted it had been a wrench to leave the FA for his first job in club management.
The Pontypridd-born 39-year-old is one of only two coaches to have followed the late Sir Alf Ramsey in leading England to a World Cup triumph, a conquest he achieved in 2017 with England U17s.
Paul Simpson emulated that feat with England U20s the same year and Phil Neville is hoping to become the next with England Women at the World Cup currently being staged in France.
Cooper – son of former top referee Keith Cooper – is taking over from Graham Potter at the club after he left to join Brighton in May, and will look to build on a positive end to the season that saw the Swans briefly flirt with the Sky Bet Championship play-off places before finishing 10th.
“It’s been a lifelong ambition to be a football manager but I wasn’t going to put myself in that position until I knew I was ready. Now I feel that time has come,” said Cooper.
“I wanted to get the last European Championships U17s out of the way in May. When that came and went, I started to get stronger feelings [for club management].
“I have left one of the best jobs probably in Europe but your ambitions are your ambitions and your motivations are your motivations, and this is what I want to do. Now is the time and I am very much looking forward to it.
“When the chance came up I did a lot of research and watched a lot of games and I liked what I saw. I believe in the way the team is playing.”
Daniel James may have left to join Manchester United but Cooper still has plenty of young talent at his disposal, including Oli McBurnie, who scored 24 goals in 44 matches for Swansea last season.
He offered no cast-iron guarantees, but Cooper is hopeful he can hold onto the Scotland striker as well as the rest of the club’s talented youngsters.
“I hope so,” added Cooper when asked if McBurnie would be staying. “It’s hard to come across that (his goals). Like any player, if we get an offer you can’t refuse, you have to discuss that.
“Dan James – the club must be very proud of that. There’s nothing better than seeing a homegrown player come through the system and take their opportunity.
“I did my best late on to see if he wanted to stay! But it was too late. I’m sure he’ll go on to good things at United.
“You get young players and put them in the team and they thrive. People will then look, that’s normal. Anything is possible.
“We have to make sure we work hard to keep our assets. That will be my focus, getting the team ready to play the next game.”
Cooper said he consulted with current England senior manager Gareth Southgate before taking the plunge into club football.
“Yeah I’ve spoken to Gareth a lot, amongst other experienced senior managers – conversations, advice etc.
“Gareth has been a colleague for the last four or five years and someone I’ve worked very closely with. Although he’s slightly disappointed I’m leaving the FA but I go with his blessing, that’s for sure.
“He said some kind words and gave me some good advice about what it might look like in this environment. I’ll stay in close contact with Gareth and all my other former colleagues at the FA – there are some good people working there.”
Cooper believes fans can consider Swansea as possible promotion contenders but was cautious as to how he believes his first season will pan out.
“I’m not going to say anything stupid that could come back to haunt us. I’m a big believer in controllables.
“Step by step, the more games you win the more chance you have of promotion. I don’t see why we can’t hit the ground running, but I’m a massive believer in focusing on what I can control.
“It’s a Premier League set-up, there’s no doubt about that. The training ground, I’ve heard some really good things about it (Fairwood), but going there and seeing it, the idea and the investment that’s gone into the facility, it’s exciting.
“There’s nothing to stop us from growing the players, working on how we want to play, building the right culture. I’ve been in the stadium for first-team games and it can generate a fantastic atmosphere. We really want to do that.
“What’s really important about clubs like Swansea – and I get this being a south Walian – it can have a massive impact on the community. I’ll constantly be thinking about what the fans want to see.
“We’ve got a young team, we want to see them working hard, be brave on the ball. If we can do that and be successful, I think there’s lots of good things that can come to the community.
“I’m really proud of that, that we can have that impact. It’s a Premier League set-up and if we’re not aiming to get back there, however long it takes, then it’s not the right ambition. We have to get back there.”