THE BONNIE PRINCE by Charlie Cooke
For Chelsea supporters, before Joe Cole, Dennis Wise or Frank Lebouf were ‘Here, There and Every ******* Where’, there was Charlie Cooke.
Charlie was raised in the shipbuilding town of Greenock in Scotland in the austere immediate post-war years. After watching Puskas play for Hungary in a Pathe Newsreel he decided to become a footballer.
He began his professional career with Aberdeen where he became such a favourite the fans christened him their Bonnie Prince. A record fee between Scottish clubs took him to Dundee where he won a Player of The Year Award from the fans, who appreciated his individual and entertaining talent, to add to the same award he had won at Aberdeen.
He arrived at Stamford Bridge in 1966 and promptly delighted the fans with his superb ball and juggling skills, his searing runs and perceptive crosses but most of all with his magical body swerve that triggered a collective mega-decibel sigh from The Shed. They called him The Magician, The Maestro and The Wizard, or just Charlie, Charlie, Charlie Cooke.
Cooke became a pivotal member of the mercurial Chelsea side of the late 1960s and 1970s, playing alongside Bonetti, Hudson, Osgood et al. The epic two-match 1970 FA Cup final against arch-enemies Leeds remains to this day one of most-watched television events. With Chelsea he also won a European Cup Winners’ Cup medal and three Player of the Year Awards – a feat equalled only by Gianfranco Zola.
When that great team started to break up Charlie joined Malcolm Allison’s flamboyant Crystal Palace side but rejoined Chelsea in the mid 1970s where he provided skill and wisdom for Eddie McCreadie’s vibrant but inexperienced young team.
Like many of the era, Charlie finished his career in America, where he played with and against the likes of George Best and Pelé. But unlike most of the other British players, Cooke stayed on in the USA becoming a respected coach of young footballers and a firm believer in the USA’s destiny as force in world football.
The Bonnie Prince is an insightful, exciting and entertaining account of a special footballer, once seen never forgotten.
Charlie Cooke recently completed a whirlwind tour of South West London and beyond promoting his new autobiography The Bonnie Prince. Signings tooks place in Slough, Epsom, Kingston, Fulham, Putney and most notably at the Chelsea Megastore where Charlie was the main attraction once more.
A good time was had by all. Charlie is pictured here visiting one of Chelsea's real VIPs - Dave Johnstone - who operates the fanzine stall opposite Fulham Broadway station. Copies of The Bonnie Prince signed by Charlie and Martin Knight are available from the shop.