Kettering’s football community to bid farewell to local legend Rick

Rick Cooper founded and ran Kettering Orchard Park, giving opportunities to thousands of people to play football in the town

Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 11:16 am
Updated Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 11:18 am
Tributes have been paid to Rick Cooper (third from left on back row) who is pictured as part of the Kettering Orchard Park team of 1979. Rick founded the club and went on to play, coach and run it until his untimely death earlier this month

Football will bid farewell to a local legend this week.

Rick Cooper was one of the best-known figures in Kettering’s football community having been responsible for setting up Kettering Orchard Park at the age of 17 along with his mum Bet in the late 1970s.

Throughout the years, Rick played for, coached and ran the club who currently play in Division Four of the Chromasport Northants Combination and was well known for giving thousands of adults and youngsters an opportunity to play the beautiful game.

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Rick passed away on November 16. He had been diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour, although news of his death was met with huge shock and sadness.

Teams in the Northants Combination held minutes of silence and applause ahead of matches following his passing while fitting tributes have been made to his family online.

His funeral will be held at the Edgar Newman Chapel of Kettering Crematorium on Friday at 1pm with those attending welcome to wear football shirts while a special celebration of his life will be at Kettering Town FC for the remainder of the day.

And his daughter Nikki said: “Dad had the brain tumour and we knew the prognosis wasn’t good but everything happened really quickly.

“But the hundreds of comments, people changing their Facebook profile pictures to the Orchard Park logo and all of the stories we have heard have all been really comforting.

“We have heard so many stories about him paying younger lads’ subs so they wouldn’t miss out on playing football, he brought people football boots so that they could play and it’s clear that some of these lads’ pathways could have gone differently if it hadn’t been for some of the things he did.

“There was a time when young lads had to get permission from their schools to play and some of those schools refused that permission so my dad would always go in and fight for these boys to play because they were good enough.

“We don’t really have any idea how many people will come out for his funeral but dad would just want it to be a celebration and for everyone to remember all the good times.

“He is in his Manchester United top and his Orchard Park tracksuit and that’s the only way he could be.”

Rick’s family staged the Rick Cooper Charity Tournament and Meet Up in early October as a fundraising campaign was launched for Orchard Park and The Brain Tumour Charity in his honour.

Over £2,000 was donated on a Just Giving page with another £2,000 raised on the day and the family are determined to ensure his legacy will live on.

“I am so glad we got to give him the tournament because I don’t think he ever fully appreciated what he meant to people,” his daughter Nikki added.

“We raised over £2,000 on the day so we have actually raised over £4,000 in total.

“We have donated money to The Brain Tumour Charity and dad has left this legacy that we want to continue.

“He wanted to invest in coaching to give young people a chance to play football so we will do all we can to carry that on in his name.”

Orchard Park released their own statement following the news of Rick’s death in which they said “the world had lost a legend”.

The statement read: “It is with the deepest sadness and a collective broken heart that we write to confirm the untimely passing of our chairman and founder Rick Cooper.

“The thoughts of everyone at the club are with the Cooper family at this difficult time.

“In Rick Cooper, the world has lost a legend. A man of kindness and generosity.

“A man whose life was defined by the love he devoted to his family and the football club he tirelessly built from scratch.

“Kettering Orchard Park was one big family under his leadership and shall maintain the pursuit of a vision for the club that will now become his legacy.”