Doncaster Rovers: James Coppinger loving life on the front line

James Coppinger. Picture: Heather King
James Coppinger. Picture: Heather King

When it became clear this summer that Grant McCann would be sending out his Doncaster Rovers side in a 4-3-3 system, James Coppinger was emphatic about where exactly he wanted to play.

A place in McCann's front three was in Coppinger's sights and, so far, he has had his wish.

And his performances this season have justified the faith of the player himself and his manager that he is the right man for the role.

Last weekend he provided the assist for all three goals in the win at Rochdale in a superb performance where his creative spark was vital in edging Rovers to the win.

Afterwards, he put his good run of form in an advanced position down to the more attacking intent of McCann plus his own renewed focus on the role.

"It's just good to be able to be out there and creating chances," he told the Free Press.

"I think I've taken that a bit more seriously this season in terms of taking responsibility and making that my role.

"It's just about getting into better positions and being more away of what my role is.

"A lot of time last season I was doing things, defending and getting into positions where I wasn't that high up the pitch.

"The manager now allows the front free to stay high up the pitch, get on the ball and be in better positions to make a difference.

"I feel like that has definitely affected my game. It's been five assists in the last four games and it could have been more.

"It's pleasing."

Not only does he feel as though he has the tools best suited to a place in the front trio, he is not sure that he has it in him anymore to feature in McCann's midfield.

Coppinger's fitness at the ripe age of 37 is rightly lauded by staff, teammates and observers alike.

But he is not convinced he has the correct fitness levels to compete for a place with the likes of Herbie Kane and Matty Blair.

"I'm fit but I'm not that fit to play in the midfield three," he said.

"We've got Matty, Herbie, Ali Crawford, Tommy Rowe, Ben Whiteman. They're all flying.

"In that role you've got to get out to the wide man and the full backs. It's a strenuous job.

"For me it's good to concentrate on making the difference with end product and on creating things at the other end."