Doncaster Rovers: James Coppinger on retirement and what drives him to continue playing

James Coppinger
James Coppinger

It was not too long ago that there were genuine doubts over whether James Coppinger would still be playing professional football this season.

Sitting in the press room at the Keepmoat after the draw with Rotherham United last season, he offered several suggestions that he was seriously considering life beyond the game and the possibility that retirement was on the horizon.

A year on, do not expect the same hints from Doncaster Rovers’ all-time record appearance maker any time soon.

And it is not because he is scoring goals of the manner of his volley from the half way line against Deeping Rangers in pre-season, or the Thierry Henry inspired beauty at Walsall last weekend.

It is simply because, if Coppinger saw the end coming last year, he certainly does not now.

"Not at all,” he told the Free Press after the win at Walsall on Saturday.

“I remember speaking in the media room at the Keepmoat that day.

"I've said it before and I'll probably say it on numerous occasions before I do retire – you have to take it month by month, six months at a time.

"You get year-long contracts at my age so I can't look past that or at anything really.”

Such comments will be music to the ears of those who still delight in seeing the veteran bamboozling opposition defences.

When he spoke last November, he insisted any doubts about his future came from mental rather than physical factors.

Considerations such as family life and travelling times appeared to be weighing heavy upon him on that day at the Keepmoat.

But as he stood pitchside at the Banks’ Stadium last weekend, there was no sign of anything causing him too much mental turmoil.

Coppinger spoke of the togetherness of the group, particularly after the entire first team squad and staff attended the funeral of supporter Jake ‘Pieman’ Power the previous day.

And he said his belief in the squad is the main driving force behind his desire to keep playing.

"It's not determined by me but at this moment in time, I feed off those lads,” he said.

“They're giving me so much.

“They inspire me every day with how hard they want to work and what they want to do.

“If they didn’t give what they do every single day then I don't think I would still be playing.

"I have to go off how I'm feeling and how I'm feeling with people I'm playing with and they couldn't give any more.

“So that's probably the answer about my future.”

At 38, the physical side of things is always also going to be a factor.

But watching any given game in which Coppinger has featured so far this season, he certainly gives the impression there is nothing to worry about on that front.

And he says appearances certainly are not deceiving.

“I know I always say this and you probably don't believe me - I feel as fit now as I did when I was 26 or 27,” Coppinger said.

"I've changed my diet, so I'm feeling leaner.

“I've lost weight and a bit of body fat. I feel unbelievable.

"I'm sure people think I'm winding them up but I genuinely feel like I've had a bit of something I haven't had before after changing my diet.

"In the last two or three weeks I'm getting up to speed.”