James Coppinger – 15yrs a Donny Rover

“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.

James-Coppinger-Doncaster-Rovers

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.

James Coppinger image sourced from; www.efl.com
James Coppinger hat trick image sourced from; www.youtube.com

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Declan Rice – England Over Ireland

Ireland under 16, Ireland under 17, Ireland under 19, Ireland under 21 and Ireland senior team have all selected and nurtured midfielder Declan Rice over the years.

The West Ham midfielder has now decided that his international future lies away from the Arriva and with those at Wembley.

The promising West Ham man has chosen birth place over grandparent eligibility, he has chosen England over Ireland.

Declan-Rice

Born in London, Rice became eligible for ROI as his grandparents were from Cork.

After receiving 3 full caps (all in friendly matches) under Martin O’Neill the youngster asked to be omitted from a squad to play Wales back in August 2018.

All-in-all Rice has pulled on the shirt of the boys in green on 23 occasions.

In the last few days he has released a statement that has confirmed the decision that could define his footballing future.

“I have equal respect for both England and Ireland and therefore the national team I choose to represent is not a clear-cut, simple selection.”

“Ultimately, it is a personal decision that I have made with my heart and my head, based on what I believe is best for my future.”

It is a big risk but one that could be full of reward should he nail down a place in the three lions’ squad. You’d have to suggest that England’s recent success at various age levels will have played a huge part in Declan’s decision. Perhaps a group stage elimination at the recent World Cup would have nullified any thoughts of a switch?

Whilst there has been the odd Irishman make noises of discontent – it is worth noting that Ireland, like many other nations have benefited from similar situations.

Look back to the late 90’s and you’ll see the Englishmen of Cascarino, Townsend and Aldridge.

The mid 2000’s would find the likes of McAteer, Holland, Kinsella and Clinton Morrison switch allegiance.

Perhaps the Scots could consider themselves equally hard done by with the losses of James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady to their near neighbours in recent years?

Kevin Kilbane who is 3rd on the list for all-time record caps was born in Preston and their most recent squad features a massive 9 non-Irishmen.

It’s a sore one for those across the Irish sea to take, as they have missed out on a player with a lot of potential but like it or not Rice has not broken any rules.

This doesn’t make it right, but Ireland will have to move on quickly and focus on the upcoming Euro qualifiers after suffering relegation in inaugural Nations League competition.

Declan Rice image sourced from; www.thetimes.co.uk

Stuart Armstrong – A Promising Future

In recent times some of the best talent in the Scottish Premiership has made their way south… Mainly to Southampton it has to be said.

We’ve seen Fraser Forster, Virgil Van Dijk, Steven Davis and Victor Wanyama all arrive on the south coast from opposite sides of the Old Firm divide.

Add in Steven Naismith (Everton), Andy Robertson (Hull), Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth), Gary Hooper (Norwich) and Joe Ledley (Crystal Palace) you’d have a strong argument to suggest that contrary to belief, there is a wealth of talent north of the border.

Well there is a man who has the potential to top them all and go on to become a stand out player for a top club in the English Premier League , that man is Celtic’s Stuart Armstrong.

Signed from SPL rivals Dundee United January 2015 the all-action midfielder has gone on to become one of Brendan Rodgers’ key men in their push for an unprecedented unbeaten domestic treble.

With 13 goals so far this term it is only team mate Moussa Dembele that can possibly beat him to any of Player of the Year accolades shortly to be handed out.

Stuart-Armstrong-Image

Perhaps surprisingly it was only last month in which Armstrong made his international debut. Unsurprisingly he was the best player on the park by a mile. He covered every blade of Hampden turf on a “do or die” night for Scotland. He carried a nation and was rightly awarded MOM for his endeavours.

The sublime and composed pass so late in the game that gave Chris Martin the opportunity to keep The Tartan Army’s faint Russia 2018 hopes alive typified the season that the Celt is having.

Celtic’s £2.5M outlay looks a steal and they are certain to make a huge profit should they decide the time is right to cash in. Having only just turned 25, Armstrong is still a couple of seasons away from his peak but he has all the attributes to make it to the very top.

The scouts must be watching and reporting back to their respective managers to ready that chequebook.

Check out this video on Youtube; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dodHHHTTAaU 

Stuart Armstrong image sourced from; www.celticnewsnow.com