There's a point in every young man's life when he realises that, do you know what, he might not actually be good enough to play for his favourite team. I think mine came when I was about nine. The little fat kid that got picked second to last in the playground (there was a bespectacled fat child too) realised nice and early in life that a career in professional football wasn't to be.
But, thankfully, being crap at the game I love never dampened my love of it (and a little part of me still thinks that if Jeff Whitley can forge a professional career then my chance may not be quite dead yet). I was always the one commentating while we were playing in those fields though, anyone else do that as a youngster? No? Just me? Ah.
Anyway, I digress. My point was that if I wasn't able to play for my team, then damn I'd love to talk about them. Unfortunately, that didn't come about either and I'm not a commentator now, but here at Roker Report, we know a man that is.
Now that the season is over, the dust has settled on a disappointing yet ultimately successful season, and it’s time for some horribly frustrating transfer talk to begin, who better to catch up with than a man who spends his Saturday afternoons watching the lads, and describing it for our benefit?
Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce, from Real Radio & Sky Sports - Chris Cooper.
Hi Coops. Commentating on Sunderland games sounds like everyone’s dream job. Is it everything that we all hope it to be?
Chris: It's always a privilege, but there's much more to it than just turning up at the ground and getting to watch the game for free, if that's what you mean! There's a lot of preparation and planning beforehand. Not in what I'm going to say, as that can't be planned, but gemming up on every single aspect of the game, and all the players (from both sides) likely to be involved. I spend the equivalent of a working day during the course of the week, getting all the prep done, and then like to be at the ground by midday (for a 3pm kick-off) to go over everything again, chat with The Legends and "get in the zone"
Can you talk us through a typical week in the life of Chris Cooper?
Chris: There's no such thing as a typical week. I also work for Sky Sports News Radio (Also available on iPhone & iPad Apps) so I don't get much free time. When I do I like to spend as much as I can with my girlfriend (a QPR fan) or my mates just chilling out. If the Sunderland game is on a Saturday afternoon, then Fridays depends on where the game is, but usually a quiet night in. It's either an early start down south, or a bit of a lie-in if it's in the north. For home games, I like a lie-in, and then a walk on the beach before going to the ground.
Gary Rowell and I tend to only do overnight stops for long distance midweek games (eg Spurs this season).
What’s your earliest Sunderland AFC memory?
Chris: 1973, as a very young schoolboy, but I knew when Ian Porterfield scored that I'd be a commentator or a manager. My Dad shouted "They've done it" - to which my response was - "There's a long time to go yet"
And if you had to pick a favourite?
Chris: As above, plus the final day of the season, 2008/2009.
What is the most memorable game that you have commentated on?
Chris: Away from Sunderland, two stand out, for very different reasons. The Champions League final in Istanbul in 2005 between Liverpool and AC Milan and Carlisle v Plymouth, final day of the season in 1999 when Jimmy Glass scored deep into stoppage time to keep Carlisle up.
Does your job allow you to be friends with the staff? Whether that be playing staff or otherwise?
Chris: I'm friendly with the staff, but not close friends in as much as going out socialising. I do think though that those staff I deal with are among the friendliest at any club.
If you had to name your favourite player of all time, who would you choose?
Chris: Too many, and it probably changes daily, but Gary Rowell will always start coughing loudly and nudging me when I'm asked this!
And current player?
Chris: Lionel Messi.
Who was your player of the season?
Chris: Phil Bardsley, but it might have been a close run thing if Titus Bramble had been fit for most of the season.
What positions would you like to see us strengthen before next season?
Chris: I'd like to see more goals coming from players other than the strikers, and the way Stephane Sessegnon has been scoring is very promising. We're going to need at least two strikers, some creative central midfielders. I prefer Kieran Richardson in midfield to left back, and Bardsley's a natural right back, so those positions need looking at. Another centre back or two wouldn't go amiss, given the way we pick up injuries.
Ha, not many then… Any specific targets in mind?
Chris: Not in any particular order... Nedum Onuoha, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Carlton Cole, DJ Campbell, Charlie Adam, Christian Eriksen, Lewis Holtby, Roger Johnson, Charles N'Zogbia, Eden Hazard, Seb Larsson, Radamel Falcao, Craig Mackail-Smith. Is that enough to be going on with?
I'd be reluctant sign any more Africans this summer if they're likely to be involved in the Africa Cup of Nations, as we could lose them for a month in the New Year.
Do you think Steve Bruce is the right man for the job?
Chris: Yes, without a doubt.
With the right additions, what do you think is a realistic target for next term?
Chris: Another top ten finish and above Newcastle, but I'd sacrifice a league position or two for a really good run in one or both of the cups. The early exits in those have been one of the main disappointments of the last few seasons.
Cheers Coops, all the best for next season.
And those, readers, were the thoughts of Mr Chris Cooper. I’d like to thank him for taking the time out to talk to us at Roker Report. Whilst Real Radio appears to have dropped the rights to SAFC games next season, we're sure you'll find Chris' enthusiastic and incisive tones around somewhere! You'll definitely find him on www.skysports.com/radio though, so get plugged in.