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Neil Harris: Reading FC’s Jake Cooper Was Desperate To Join Millwall

The Millwall boss speaks out about Cooper’s transfer last week.

Millwall v Port Vale - Sky Bet League One Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Jake Cooper moved from Reading to Millwall last Friday in a transfer that he’d been very keen on for a long time - that’s according to Neil Harris, who took the 22 year-old on loan to The Den in January 2017.

Having barely made an impact under new manager Jaap Stam, Cooper eventually joined the Lions in a bid for first team football, which he got with 18 appearances.

Speaking to News At Den, Harris highlighted Cooper’s ambition to return to Millwall on a permanent deal:

“Jake told me in April that his future lay here, that he wanted to be here. Even when I left him out of the starting XI at Wembley he still wanted to be here.”

He added:

“It took a little bit longer than anticipated but Jake was always the number one target and he was desperate to come.

“He was one I was really keen to sign because there aren’t many 6ft 6ins left-footed centre-halves available and I thought for us to have real balance in our defence we needed a left-footer.”

It’s a real shame that a promising, talented academy graduate felt that his future was best-served away from Reading but, in the end, things just weren’t working out for Cooper under Stam.

Despite his impressive strength and ability in the air, his skill on the ball was shaky, making him a poor fit for possession-based football in which he’d be expected to play accurate passes out from the back.

With that in mind, he had long been expected to make the transfer from Berkshire to London, but the transfer appeared to be in limbo before it finally went through. The Millwall boss put that down to behind-the-scenes alterations at Reading:

“It took a lot of toing and froing with Reading, they changed personnel in their backroom staff over the course of June, start of July which made it difficult to conclude a deal.

“The goal posts were moved, which wasn’t a problem, it happens in football.”

That backroom staff change will be the appointment of Ron Gourlay as Chief Executive, who replaced Nigel Howe on July 10. The disruption (reportedly, according to Harris) caused to Cooper’s transfer by Gourlay’s arrival suggests a big realignment in Reading’s transfer plans.

Either way, Cooper now finds himself at a club where he’s happy to develop, with a manager that values him more than Stam did. We’re sorry it didn’t work out for you Jake, but we’re also happy for you.