INTERVIEW: It’s 469 not out for Doncaster Rovers record-breaker James Coppinger

James Coppinger receives a golden ball from Rovers' various supporters clubs' representatives.
James Coppinger receives a golden ball from Rovers' various supporters clubs' representatives.

Four hundred and sixty nine appearances. The ever-present during one of the most successful periods in the club’s history. The only player remaining who transitioned from Belle Vue to the Keepmoat.

He may not have the misty-eyed mystique of an Alick Jeffrey but there are few doubts over James Coppinger’s status as a Doncaster Rovers legend.

If he needed another milestone to carve his name in club history, Coppinger is now the club’s all-time leading appearance maker in Football League and cup competitions following his start against Stalybridge Celtic last weekend.

“It’s a massive achievement and something I’m very proud of,” he said. “To play that many games, averaging 40-plus a season.

“Obviously you need a bit of luck along the way, staying injury free and being selected.

“But I think consistently performing is the key.”

It took 22 years for someone to surpass Colin Douglas’ appearance record and if anyone is to beat Coppinger’s tally, it seems likely it will take a few decades.

Richie Wellens is second in the active list of appearances for the club. But for him to take the record, Coppinger would have to leave now and Wellens play almost every game for the next six seasons.

At the age of 35, Wellens is unlikely to claim the record.

And in the modern age of football, anyone hanging around at a club for a 12-year spell to match Coppinger is incredibly rare.

“It will take a long time for someone to step up and beat it,” Coppinger said.

“These days there are that many people that come in for one and two year contracts then go somewhere else.

“I’m just fortunate to have been at a great club and been supported throughout my time here.”

So why has the Guisborough-born midfielder been a Rovers player for so long?

There was the loan move to Nottingham Forest that looked to have spelled the end of his time with the club. Plus a departure to Barnsley that looked nailed on before he signed his current deal.

But Coppinger insists he has never had the need to say goodbye to Doncaster.

He said: “My family has always been happy here.

“We’ve lived in Doncaster for nine and a half years. My two sons were born here and my wife worked here.

“I’ve said for a long time that being happy is my motivation.

“It’s nothing to do with money or anything like that.

“I’ve always been happy at this club and long may it continue.”

Family is not the only reason why the 34-year-old has opted to stick around.

From the start, when he joined from Exeter City in 2004, Coppinger saw ambition at Doncaster Rovers.

Two promotions and a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy triumph later, he feels fulfilled by his Rovers rollercoaster ride.

“The club have progressed with me,” he said.

“When I came, the club had back-to-back promotions and were looking forward.

“It was an ambitious club that wanted to do well and push on. It was the same situation in my career.

“We went from strength to strength, getting promoted and winning silverware as well. I’ve seen a massive difference.

“I think John Ryan has to take a massive amount of credit for what he’s done for the club. And Dick Watson and Terry Bramall have taken over from that.

“Without them, the club wouldn’t be where it is today. It’s a great club.

“It’s been good but there’s been some not so good times as well.

“As a footballer, it’s how you react to that and we got promoted after being relegated last time.

“With what’s happened over the last couple of years, we want to transform it and keep it positive.”

When it comes to Coppinger’s future, it is most definitely 469 not out.

He sees no end in sight for his playing career and has shunned preparations for life after the point when he hangs up his boots.

At just 31 appearances away from the big 500 milestone, he is intent on making the challenge for someone to beat his record even more difficult to overcome.

“People are always asking me what I’m going to do next and to be honest I’m not looking to do anything,” Coppinger said.

“I’m concentrating on my football, on the here and now.

“I’m not getting carried away but at the same time there is no reason to look to do anything else.

“I’ve played every game this season which is massive for me.

“I don’t think people believed me when I said before the start of the season that I feel in the best condition of my career.

“But I genuinely feel I recover better than I used to, I’m physically and mentally stronger.

“I’ve also got two kids who keep me on my toes.

“They’re always telling me I’m not doing this and that or scoring enough goals or that I’m rubbish.”

Even his harshest critics cannot deny the importance of Coppinger to Doncaster Rovers over the last 12 years.