Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent born right back Tom “Snowy” Cooper (his nickname earned from his distinctive blondness) started his football career in local junior football with Longton in 1922 and Cheshire County League side Trentham in 1923 before signing with his local Second Division club, Port Vale, for £20 in August 1924, making his debut in an FA Cup tie at Alfreton Town in December that year and his Football League debut a week later against Manchester United.
He played 33 games for Vale before moving to Derby County for £2,000 in March 1926, helping Derby to secure promotion to the top flight as Second Division runners up at the season end, where he quickly established himself as a top quality defender. Indeed he would come to be considered as one of England’s greatest full backs, an excellent tackler and a quality passer of the ball. He soon became an England international winning his first cap against Ireland in Belfast in October 1927, and he played 266 games in nearly ten years for The Rams as a mainstay in some of the best Derby County teams in the club’s history, albeit his time at Derby was also injury plagued requiring cartilage operations on both knees. In 1930 they finished runners up in the League Championship, Cooper became club captain in 1931, being an ever present in the 1930-31 season as they finished sixth. He scored his solitary career goal in February 1932 in a 5-2 victory over Middlesbrough. He was also a member of Derby’s 1933 FA Cup semi final team beaten by Manchester City at Leeds Road, Huddersfield.
He went on to win 15 international caps and to captain England 4 times during 1934, winning his last cap in September 1934 when he captained his country to a 4-0 win over Wales at Ninian Park. He also represented The Football League on five occasions. He moved to Liverpool for £6,000 in December 1934, his arrival being greeted by the club programme as follows: “The event of the season. His fee is a record one for a full back. Cooper is a back who, although on the robust side, is one of the fairest men in the game. He is “fair” in a double-sense being silvery thatched – “Snowball” some of the fans call him. With Cooper and Blenkinsop in the side Liverpool will possess the most distinguished pair of backs in the land. Well done, Liverpool!”.
He had five seasons at Liverpool playing 160 times for The Reds until the outbreak of the Second World War, and was also their club captain. He was still playing wartime league football for them when in June 1940 he tragically lost his life in a motorcycle accident while delivering dispatches for the Royal Military Police aged only 35. His funeral was held on the 29th June at St. Peter’s Church in Littleover. His six bearers were Sammy Crooks, Harry Bedford, George Collin, Dally Duncan, Tom Davison and George Stephenson, all former Derby County clubmates.
NB this photograph was taken on 1st April 1933 at Hampden Park, Glasgow, before Scotland played England in a match Scotland won 2-1 on front of 136,000 spectators. In front of Cooper to the left is future Liverpool full back partner Ernie Blenkinsop.