Monday, 21 June 2010

50 Joe Cooke

Here Joe is in action for Bradford in the FA Cup Quarter-Final in 1976 against eventual winners Southampton

Position : Centre half

Played : 1984-5 to 1985-6

Appearances : 75

Goals : 4

It's fitting that the 50th player in our survey was such a hero. By far the most successful of Halom's summer signings, Dominican Joe was still only 29 when he signed on a free transfer from Bradford who clearly thought he was a crock having only made six appearances in 1983-4. Joe had made his debut for them when only 16 as a striker and scored 22 goals for them in 1975-6. After over 200 appearances for them he went to Peterborough in a swap deal in 1978 but after less than a season he moved on to Oxford. I'm guessing from his record that it was there he first started playing at centre half but I'll invite correction on that . After two years there he went to Exeter before returning to Bradford in 1981.

I would give Joe equal credit with Steve Taylor as the main man in keeping us clear of the re-election zone for the two seasons he was here. He was the rock at the back particularly in his first season when the players around him came and went in dizzying succession. Though there were often calls for him to play upfront, that only ever happened when we were chasing games in the second half; he was too vital to our defence. Les Chapman and Barry Diamond certainly knew that when they contrived to get him sent off at Stockport and one shudders to think what the latter said to provoke the model professional into decking him. Captain Joe was said to be a greater disciplinarian than the manager and I remember one story that Joe was promised that a stopover at a pub on the way back from an away trip would only last for one drink. When that didn't happen Joe went outside and stood in the car park for an hour or more waiting for the rest to emerge.

I often wonder if that was the real reason for Joe's sudden departure for £12,000 to Wrexham in 1986. It's true that Halom was under a lot of pressure from chairman Tommy Cannon to cut costs but we then spent £5K on a new defender (who wasn't fit to wipe Joe's arse but we'll come to that) and would have spent another wedge on Swansea's Dudley Lewis had he not turned us down so that excuse rang a bit hollow. I think Halom just wanted an obvious successor out of the way as his position became more precarious.

Joe lifted Wrexham to mid-table security as we nearly went out of the League and Halom got sacked, but after 51 games he had to retire and returned to Yorkshire playing for lowly Liversedge FC.

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