“I left school at 16 and I never wanted to be a professional footballer. It wasn’t something I had on my mind – it was a hobby.”
Currently in his 15th season at the club, James Coppinger continues to write himself into the books of Football League history. Not bad for someone who had no intention of following this career path.
He’s ranked up an unprecedented amount of appearances in South Yorkshire and continues to be named on the team sheet week in, week out.
As a youngster the midfielder was signed by Kenny Dalglish for Newcastle United in ‘98 along with Paul Robinson from local side Darlington in a joint £500k deal.
He struggled to make an impact at St James’ and after a couple of loan spells at Hartlepool and a solitary substitute appearance his time up north was over.
He switched from St James’ Park to St James Park!
2002 saw his Toon contract end by mutual consent and he travelled the length of the country to sign for Exeter City.
In what was his 1st full season in the professional game would end in heartbreak. Relegation from the 3rd division made Coppinger question his future involvement in the game.
He said: “I had a lot of negative things going on in my life. I had a fear of failing – and also a fear of success. The way I was going and the way I was thinking, before I met Terry [Gormley, a motivational speaker], it was only a matter of time before I came out of football.”
However, it was in 2004 the boy from the North East would find a home and fall back in love with the game.
Bought for a reported £30,000 by then Doncaster boss Dave Penny, the midfielder has become a Rovers legend.
Unsurprisingly he has had some top moments along the way at Donny. A hat trick in a Play Off Semi-Final against Southend (link below) securing a date with fellow Yorkshire rivals Leeds United, he started at Wembley in a victory that broke Doncaster’s 50yr absence from the 2nd tier of English football.
And who can forget the last gasp winner at Brentford to clinch the League One title back in 2013, for those unfamiliar we suggest you check it out online. Genuinely one of the EFL’s greatest moments.
By the time the 2018/19 season is over the amassed total of appearances for Rovers will have passed 550, phenomenal! Backed up by a Ryan Giggs-esc record of scoring in every played in season.
He was recently replaced by a youngster from the bench with a 22yr age gap as 16yr old Lirak Hasani took to the field in his place, talk about current gaffer Grant McCann reminding his midfield maestro about his age.
Doncaster Rovers are pushing for League One play offs in the pursuit of promotion back to the Championship and having the experience of a player like Coppinger in their ranks could prove invaluable.
The game needs more like the 38yr old.