Joel Cooper set for Champions League football after U’s exit

·3-min read
Joel Cooper has rejoined Linfield after leaving Oxford United. Picture: Ric Mellis
Joel Cooper has rejoined Linfield after leaving Oxford United. Picture: Ric Mellis

JOEL Cooper is set to play European football following his exit from Oxford United.

The 26-year-old winger returns to Irish Premiership champions Linfield after leaving the U’s by mutual consent earlier this month.

David Healy’s Linfield are due to be unseeded in the draw for the first round of the Champions League.

Cooper returns to the club on a three-year deal, after ongoing personal issues marred his time at United.

He joined the U’s on a three-year deal in July 2020, and made just 12 appearances, scoring twice.

READ AGAIN: Joel Cooper leaves Oxford United by mutual consent

The forward returned home to Northern Ireland during both seasons in England.

Cooper told Linfield TV: “When Linfield come calling, it’s hard to down for anybody.

“Being here before, I know what it’s like to win trophies and that’s something I wanted to come back to.

“Obviously the gaffer has a big part to play in that, I’ve worked under him previously and it’s been brilliant.

“I’m buzzing to get going, European games are always exciting to play in – we just go into them games and give it our best.”

Healy told the Linfield club website: “Joel had successful spells with us before, one which helped him earn his move to Oxford United and then a second spell back on loan from Oxford which culminated in him starring in our Irish Cup final triumph against Larne at Mourneview Park.

“He knows this club well, so he will settle in easily. He fits into our way of playing and I’m really pleased to have got this business concluded now, to assist with our pre-season preparations in advance of an eagerly anticipated European and domestic campaign.

“Joel is an experienced player who knows this league well and who will have benefited greatly from the experience he gained while in England.

“I’m really looking forward to working with him again and I know that having been refreshed by an overseas family holiday, he can’t wait to get started in pre-season in the weeks ahead.”

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Cooper joined United from Linfield in 2020, fresh from winning the Northern Ireland Football Writers’ Player of the Year award the previous season.

He received his first international call-up that August and made seven appearances in the first two months of the 2020/21 campaign.

However, ongoing personal issues meant Cooper struggled to settle, and he returned to Northern Ireland after playing in United’s Papa John’s Trophy win at Walsall in November 2020.

He was loaned back to Linfield for the second half of the 2020/21 campaign and helped the Belfast club win a league and cup double.

Cooper scored his only two goals in a United shirt against Tottenham Hotspur Under 21s in the Papa John’s Trophy, in October, before playing six times during a loan spell at Sky Bet League Two side Port Vale.

He left the U’s after making just six League One appearances, all of them as a substitute.

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