Andy Cooper left the editorship of the North Devon Journal on Friday after 15 years with Northcliffe's Cornwall and Devon Media. I first met Andy 17 years ago when he attended one of our Editor's Chair courses while editing the Brentwood Gazette. I have worked with him since from time to time, including the redesign of the CDM titles. Most memorable though was a Northcliffe editor's conference in 2007. I agreed to organise and run the conference at Tortworth Court Hotel near Bristol and invited big-hitters such as Tim Anderson from Bluffton Today, Graham Dudman from The Sun, Vicky Taylor from the BBC and Lars Jespersen from Danish media company Nordeskye. The conference timings meant I was to be away from home for my birthday (no problem there) which also happened to be the date of the UEFA Cup Final in Glasgow. No worries. The chances of Newcastle United reaching the final were astronomical. As the date grew closer though it wasn't quite as cut and dry. Newcastle had comfortably won their group stage, brushed aside Zulte Waregem 4-1 in the knock out stages and, having beaten AZ Alkmaar 4-2 at St James's, looked set for the quarter finals. The prospect of Newcastle winning their first meaningful trophy in 38 years, on my birthday, and me not being there (I was at the Fairs Cup Final in 1969) was too terrible to contemplate. I worked out the flights, trains and even the drive that would get me from Glasgow to Bristol overnight in time for the conference opening. In typical fashion, Andy offered to hold the fort. As it happens, and in equally typical fashion, Glenn Roeder's team crashed out in the away leg in Holland. Panic over. When I arrived at Tortworth Court (instead of Hampden Park) on the evening before the conference, Andy was there to buy me a birthday drink and present me with one of the most cherished gifts I have ever received. Concerned that I was going to miss a rare moment of Newcastle glory, he had written to Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given and been sent a pair of his signed gloves (in return for a donation to the Irish international's favoured charity). Andy had framed the gloves along with a brass plaque that reads: Presented to Peter Sands with grateful thanks for his help in organising the Northcliffe Editorial Conference 2007. It was always in safe hands ... just like Shay Given's.
It was a fantastic gesture by Andy that typifies his generosity. He bowed out on Friday with a note that ended with: I wish you all the very best, both personally and professionally, in whatever life throws in front of you in the future and, in the immortal words of Sergeant Phil Esterhaus . . .Let's be careful out there. Good luck Andy ... and many thanks.