IN these worrisome times, we are reminded all too well about the frivolity of the terms habitually used to describe our footballers. Starlets, midfield maestros, wing wizards. But perhaps the one that sounds the most redundant of all is hero.

We have been given a jolting prompt that the real heroes in society are those whose sacrifices away from the limelight make the material impact on our lives. They deserve every bit of credit they receive during this crisis, and perhaps more importantly, to not be taken for granted quite as much when it is all behind us.

So, it was with some reluctance that I began to type this tribute to someone who I have always considered a hero, simply for being extremely talented at football. But even now, I can think of no other way to describe the impact he had on my own and countless other lives, and it is in no way a show of disrespect to those who are currently putting their own health and safety at risk to protect our own to acknowledge him as such. For in watching clips this week of the man displaying his God-given talent, there was a brief and glorious respite from the drip-dripping of horror that has become the daily digest.

The man I am talking about, is Davie Cooper.

Even in times such as this, perhaps even more so during such dark moments, it is important to remember the things that normally make your spirit soar. Watching Cooper play football was such an experience.

I had just turned seven when Tommy McLean somehow landed Cooper from Rangers for a paltry £50,000, though in fairness, he was being phased out of the first-team picture at Ibrox under Graeme Souness. He was 33, and many thought his best days were behind him after a stunning career with the side he had supported all of his life. "I played for the team I loved," said Cooper, but it was time to move on.

McLean, a former teammate of Cooper’s at Rangers, pounced. He called it the best piece of business he ever did, and other than perhaps the capture of Henrik Larsson by Celtic, it is hard to argue there has been a better pound for pound signing in the modern history of Scottish football.

In his autobiography, ‘Football in the Blood’, McLean explains how the seed for a move that would elevate Motherwell beyond his wildest expectations was planted in the less than salubrious surroundings of the toilet of an Italian restaurant in Crossford.

A throwaway line from Cooper’s friend Ricky Jordan, who was dining with McLean and Cooper, about how disillusioned Cooper had become at Ibrox was all it took to set the wheels in motion, in what is surely one of the most productive example of awkward men’s room chat in history.

McLean phoned Walter Smith first thing on the Monday morning, and word was relayed back to him that Rangers were prepared to do Cooper a turn on account of his sterling service to the club, and would let him go for just the 50 grand. For the first time in McLean’s life, he wasn’t for haggling.

Not since Clydebank chairman Jack Steedman had originally persuaded Cooper to ditch his printing job and turn professional by wafting £300 of beer and smoke-stained notes under his nose – the previous night’s takings from the Bankies Club – had a Scottish club pulled off such a brilliant bit of business.

So began what for me and hundreds of other young lads in the area was a lifelong love affair with Cooper. It also meant that when I started going along regularly to Fir Park with my dad, I was watching Cooper on one wing and Bobby Russell on the other. No offence to the likes of Jermain Hylton and Sherwin Seedorf from the current 'Well squad, but times they have a'changed.

As important an addition as Cooper’s dazzling wing-play was, it was the influence on those around him that was arguably the most significant contribution he made to his new club. As well as playing a pivotal role in bringing on brilliant young talents like Tom Boyd and Phil O’Donnell, he lifted the whole club, and indeed the town.

How could you lack confidence with Cooper on your side? Suddenly the shoulders were back, the heads were held high. Motherwell went from a team hoping to scramble results at places like Celtic Park and Ibrox to a team that went into every game reasonably believing they could win.

That belief he imbued in those around him eventually played a huge part in Motherwell picking up their first major trophy in 39 years – and still their last - by winning the thrilling 1991 Scottish Cup Final against Dundee United.

It is hard to fathom that the 25th anniversary of his untimely passing at the age of just 39 came and went earlier this week. I can still vividly remember fighting back the tears as a pal told me what had happened as we waited to go into an English lesson, even though he had left Fir Park to return to his first club, Clydebank, by that stage.

He remained a hero then and he remains a hero now. A crumb of comfort is that he left behind a decent amount of footage so that we and subsequent generations can enjoy glimpses of his brilliance.

The Dryburgh Cup goal against Celtic that defied belief. The rocket for Rangers that flew past Jim Leighton so quickly he joked to the keeper he had almost got a touch to the ball on the way back out of the net. The jinking run and finish at Tynecastle against Hearts. The virtuoso performance against Ilves Tampere, among dozens of others. Rangers fans of a certain vintage will argue over their own favourites.

Do yourself a favour and revisit – or discover – these moments on Youtube. Ruud Gullit knew a player when he saw one, and the fact he still mentions Cooper as one of the greatest players he ever played with or against after a friendly between Rangers and Feyenoord speaks volumes.

It is hard to put the ethereal qualities of Cooper into words, or indeed, the impact he had on my life and on that of thousands of others. He was a kind of magic.