James Coppinger on 550 appearances, retirement and family life - is he about to hang up his boots?

James Coppinger
James Coppinger

He may have just reached another milestone at Rovers but James Coppinger has hinted for the first time that the end of his career may be near.

Coppinger made his 550th appearance for Rovers in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with neighbours Rotherham United.

While confident he would physically be up to the task of reaching 600 appearances for the club, the veteran said other factors, particularly his young family, will ultimately influence his decision.

And he suggested the tough decision to hang up his boots may come sooner rather than later.

“It’d be nice to get to 600 obviously,” Coppinger told the Free Press.

“I think it’ll be mentally more than physically for me though.

“Physically I feel brilliant. I’ve never been the quickest, never been one of those to rely on pace.

“But mentally, as you get older with family, kids growing up, you have to choose your priorities.

“It’s hard to stay as focused throughout the week. And you feel like you’re letting people down if you don’t.

“I find I can manage it all quite well but there’s only a certain amount of time I can do that.

“Who knows? As long as I’m enjoying it and I’m offering something for the club and the lads, then I’ll keep doing it.

“As soon as the time comes when that’s not the case, I’ll be knocking it on the head.”

The enjoyment factor is undoubtedly still there for Coppinger right now.

But when pushing the 36-year-old on his intentions beyond the end of the current season, he certainly gives the impression he has yet to decide.

Coppinger’s contract expires in the summer and while form would suggest yet another extension would likely be offered, it seems it would not be a given that he would sign.

“I think it’s difficult to make that decision,” he said, when asked if he would be happy to carry on.

“It’s not just me. I have a young family.

“I’m travelling in from Middlesbrough every day.

“It does take its toll – not just physically but mentally.

“I take it game by game. It’s a cliché but that’s the only way I can do it.

“I love the club, I love doing what I do. I think that’s why I’ve done it for such a long time.

“Hopefully I can keep enjoying it.

“The lads play a big part in that because we’ve got such a good group.

“Not just the banter and the craic, they want to do well, they’re a good professional group that want to do well and improve.

“If I didn’t have that then I think I’d struggle.”

Family is the key issue for Coppinger outside of the game.

When asked if he would want to stay in football beyond his playing career, talk again turns to home life.

“I don’t want to be spending a lot of time away from the family,” he said.

“Family for me is a big part of my life.

“I wouldn’t want to be stopping playing and going into a job working seven till seven.

“Managing and coaching, you have to put the hours in if you want to be the best.”

But he also admits he has not given the next stage of his working life much thought.

He said: “I think if I did I wouldn’t still be playing.

“I’ve said that before. If you look that far ahead it’s risky.

“I’ve known players do that, get their coaching badges and before they know it, their performances dip and they’ve come out of playing before they were ready to.

“I haven’t allowed myself to do that.”

Talk of the future will be firmly on the backburner as Coppinger looks to add to his club record 550 appearances.

Putting aside outside factors, it is clear he would relish the chance to reach more milestones at Rovers.

“I’d love to get to 600 – I’d love to get to 700,” he said.

“I take it a week at a time. A season at a time.

“You get to 30 and some clubs don’t offer you more than a year.

“For me, to get to 37 in January, and still be going, still be playing 40 games a season – hopefully.

“I’m over the moon.

“It’s nice to get to 550 and play that many games.”