Steve Cooper insists the time was right to move into senior football, despite disappointing England manager Gareth Southgate by accepting the Swansea job.
Cooper spent six years at the Football Association and in that time led the Under-17s to the European Championship final and World Cup success, with a line-up featuring the likes of Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
The 39-year-old Welshman had previously worked as Liverpool’s academy manager overseeing the development of players such as Raheem Sterling, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Woodburn, but admitted he had a burning desire to make the step up from age-grade football.
“It’s been a lifelong ambition to be a football manager,” Cooper said after being unveiled as Swansea’s sixth permanent boss since Garry Monk was sacked in December 2015.
“I wasn’t going to put myself in this situation until I thought the time was right, and now I feel that time has come.
“I wanted to get the last Under-17s European Championship out of the way in May.
“When that came and went, the feelings (to move into a senior management role) got stronger and the opportunity came up at Swansea. I’m very proud.”
Cooper revealed that he had spoken to Southgate and other influential FA figures about his move into club football.
He said Southgate was “slightly disappointed” by his decision but had wished him all the best in his new job.
“I have left a fantastic job, one of the best jobs in youth development in Europe,” said Cooper.
“I’ve spoken to Gareth a lot, amongst other experienced senior managers – conversations, advice.
“Gareth has been a colleague for the last four or five years and someone I’ve worked very closely with.
“Although he’s slightly disappointed I’m leaving the FA I go with his blessing, that’s for sure.
“He said some kind words and gave me some good advice about what it might look like in this environment.
“I’ll stay in close contact with Gareth and all my other former colleagues at the FA – there are some good people working there.”
Cooper succeeds Graham Potter, who guided Swansea to a 10th-placed finish in the Sky Bet Championship last term in his one season in charge before becoming Brighton boss.
Potter worked within tight financial guidelines following the club’s relegation from the Premier League in 2018 as Swansea’s American owners cut costs.
Despite the sale of Wales winger Daniel James to Manchester United, for a £15million fee which could rise to £18m, Swansea are still trying to off-load players on Premier League wages.
Five players – Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Borja Baston, Tom Carroll and Jefferson Montero – were all loaned out last season and remain under contract at Swansea next term.
“There will hopefully be some additions,” said Cooper.
“We need to be creative and looking at the loan market, and maybe do some deals that are right for the football club.
“If we do that there’s no reason why we can’t kick on.
“I think there’s some real good foundations in place in terms of the performance levels, the profile of players currently at the club.”
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