A raw acknowledgement the end is coming: Inside THAT emotional James Coppinger press conference

James Coppinger is a man who seemingly takes things in his stride.

By Liam Hoden
Sunday, 21st February 2021, 9:08 am

For 17 years, in the colours of Doncaster Rovers, he has consistently been the one to be relied upon to keep his cool and produce moments of magic in the most high pressure of circumstances.

The play-off semi-final against Southend, those 30 seconds of madness at Brentford.

And as a 40-year-old, deep into the final season of his storied career, whipping in a beautiful free kick to rescue a point 12 minutes into stoppage time against a promotion rival - all with the weight of occasion on his shoulders, wearing a kit he designed to mark his unparalleled career at Rovers.

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James Coppinger fights back the tears as he speaks about reaching the end of his career and scoring on the day set aside to honour his 17 years with Doncaster Rovers. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

Timeless. Legend.

But the emotion of a situation can catch up with the most unflappable of people.

And as Coppinger sat in the Keepmoat press room on Saturday evening, it all came flooding out in a moment of reflection.

His voice had threatened to break on a couple of occasions, but as he spoke about coming to the end he could hold back the tears no longer.

There was not a dry eye in the room.

Tom Biltcliffe of BBC Sheffield, whose own love for Rovers runs deep, needed to hold it together to keep his interview flowing, and did a sterling job.

Others present had the time and opportunity to allow their emotions to flow, and a few tears needed to be wiped away.

In this job, there is supposed to be a degree of detachment from the subject matter, a level-headedness that allows for proper analysis and thought.

But there are times when the pure emotion of a situation takes over.

Here was a man laid bare, showing the depth of emotion the public rarely gets to see.

It did not feel intrusive to be present. It was a privilege.

Coppinger has consistently been someone who says what he thinks and this was a moment when he showed what he felt and had no reason to be embarrassed or apologetic about it.

Having produced an incredible adrenaline high with his wonderful free kick that suggested he has plenty left to give, the emotional comedown less than 30 minutes later felt like a real acknowledgement that the end point is indeed coming.

That will be difficult to process for many, and in that moment, it appeared that fact struck Coppinger harder than it had previously, certainly in public.

He has spoken plenty about the thought that has gone into his decision to call time on his career, or about the frustration he feels at not being called upon to play as much as he has in every other season in his time with Rovers.

And with a man who methodically processes things, who visualises what is to come and appears comfortable and in control of his plans, you could be fooled into thinking there was some emotional distance.

But it is the human being that thousands of supporters have come to love above all others over the best part of two decades. And it was the human being who they saw or heard on Saturday evening demonstrating exactly what he felt in the most raw of manners.

The end point is indeed coming and there are plenty more tears to be shed.

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In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.