Doncaster Rovers: ‘It's looking good if we maintain our performance’ – James Coppinger on the push for promotion
Few men have experienced the ups and downs of football quite like Doncaster Rovers' record appearance maker James Coppinger.
And he takes his position as a guiding hand for the younger players within Rovers' relatively youthful squad seriously.
On Saturday, following the disappointing draw at neighbours Scunthorpe United, Coppinger turned the spotlight on some of his younger team mates, offering constructive criticism on the manner with which the game was approached in the crucial second half.
And you can bet he did the same after Tuesday night's defeat at Shrewsbury Town.
The words and advice offered by the 38-year-old are worth heeding.
So when he says he does feel excited by the potential for success at Rovers this season, it is more than mere hyperbole.
Yet, more important are his words about no one getting too carried away by the position they currently find themselves in.
"I'm excited but it's not getting too excited," Coppinger told the Free Press.
"We've got 13 games left and we've got to play the teams around the top six or seven. It's not going to be easy.
"The group that we've got and how far we've come in such a short space of time, it's looking good if we maintain our performance."
Taking nothing for granted is a theme of Coppinger’s approach to the game as a whole and the specifics of this season’s promotion push.
It is why, while admitting overcoming the deficit to the top two would be difficult, he refuses to rule out a tilt at automatic promotion.
“I genuinely think you can't think that you're anything,” he said.
“It's cliche but it is about taking it one game at a time. It's difficult when you're in the top two, I've been in that position and every game you're going out knowing people are after you.
“Luton and Barnsley are doing really well at the minute.
“It looks like they're difficult to catch but with 13 games to go, anything can happen. You only have to look at Portsmouth.
“We're just taking each game as it comes but that is all you can do.”
Whether it sees them close in on the top two or not, Coppinger says Rovers should be focusing on at least cementing their place in the top six over the next month, to avoid the battle going down to the final few matches of the season.
Though the defeat in Tuesday’s game in hand at Shrewsbury saw them miss the opportunity to open up a five point cushion from seventh place, Rovers host fifth placed Charlton Athletic on Saturday with the opportunity to move above the Addicks in the standings.
“If you put the hard work and focus and concentrate on the next four or five games, as you get into the final games of the season it makes it easier, it relieves a bit of the pressure,” Coppinger said.
“I've been in situations where you're constantly looking over your shoulder in the last five games, whether it's at the bottom end of the table or the top.
“If you can be going into those games with a good points tally, a lot of momentum, it makes it a lot easier.”
Coppinger says chasing down the teams above, starting with Charlton, will keep Rovers on their toes for the remainder of the campaign.
But he insists the group is not overly concerned by the fortunes of their promotion rivals.
“When you're on a run like Luton, you feel invincible,” he said.
“When you get beat, you've not even thought about it and it can take the wind out of your sails.
“We have to concentrate on ourselves, pay a little bit of attention to the other teams but it's all about what we do in the last 13 games.”