James Coppinger on a bright new future at Doncaster Rovers - 'If I was a fan I’d be really excited'
He is stepping into an intriguing new role of his own but James Coppinger believes everyone at Doncaster Rovers should be excited for the future.
The 40-year-old has started in his position as mentor and adviser at the club after bringing down the curtain on his playing career.
And there is a fresh focus around the club as a whole, with a determination to reposition the identity of Rovers following the appointment of Richie Wellens as manager.
Coppinger says the direction and ambition of the club was a major factor in him opting to continue a relationship with Rovers that has already stretched over 17 years.
“I might be biased but the reason I’m getting involved is because I see the ambition of the club, the potential of the club and what the club is capable of,” he told the Free Press.
“To be a part of that in a different capacity and see what goes on behind the scenes, having an influence in certain decisions, trying to help, it’s exciting.
“If I was a fan I’d be really excited.
“Having an identity, a way of playing, having exciting players coming to the club is what football is all about.
“You want to come to the game on a Saturday and be excited by what you’re watching.
“Both myself and Richie were involved in arguably the golden era, one of the best teams to have played for Doncaster Rovers
“If we can emulate that in any way shape or form it is exciting.
“I can’t keep stressing how excited I am about it.
“Although it’s just started, it’s something I’ve been working towards for the last 18 months.”
It is clear that the exact details of Coppinger’s role at the club will continue to evolve.
He will be available as a sounding board for all who need it, be they young players or owners and directors. Coppinger has already been involved in the recruitment team as Wellens puts together a new-look squad for the coming campaign.
But arguably his primary role will be something very close to his heart - mentoring players on the importance of the right mentality.
“It will be as flexible as it needs to be and we’ll see how it goes,” he said.
“But it’s about supporting the club, the manager, the players from the academy up to the first team.
“I’ve been at this club for 17 years and been involved with professional football for 23 years - I think the game has evolved massively in terms of support to be as successful as possible.
“I’ve been mentoring players for the last five or six years and a huge part of why I’ve been successful has been about mentality and mental performance.
“I think I’ve been working with the club for about 18 months to two years, looking to go into this role and it’s about timing.
“I think the timing for it is perfect to be honest.
“I get a lot of satisfaction from helping people.
“You go into different countries and different sports and people are doing this role, facilitating support networks and that’s what I want to try to bring to Doncaster.
“I’ve been successful in my own career here and I want to do it in this role with this club.
“Ultimately it’s about performance, about training every single day, playing every single week and being successful at the end of the season.
“In most industries, it’s the person that comes first. Football is ruthless, it’s fickle - all of the things that come with being a player, manager, coach, CEO, owner or whatever.
“I feel like I have a lot to offer in that department to support where they see fit.”
Coppinger will also work closely with boss Wellens, reigniting a professional relationship that began as players during one of the most successful periods in Rovers history.
The pair enjoyed a superb understanding on the pitch and are firm friends off it, and Coppinger is confident they will work well together in their respective new roles.
“I think we share the same love for football, the same desire,” he said.
“On the pitch, we played very similar - almost telepathetic.
“He’s probably the best player I played with in terms of forming a relationship on the pitch.
“Off the pitch, I’ve really admired how he’s gone about his managerial career - winning promotion with Swindon, the way he’s played, his style, his identity and the way he communicates.
“He’s never changed from being a player with how honest he is, how transparent and being up front with how he feels and how he wants to play.
“Going forward, if I can support and help him be successful, then that’s what it’s about for me.
“He’s really impressed me over the last few years of being a manager. He’s changed and he’s had to adapt and almost change the way he does things to be successful, have people next to him to advise him.
“For a lot of managers, it’s about them and them only in how they see things.
“But, speaking to Richie, he’s really looked into the best way to get things out of individual players.
“He’s really philosophical with some of his thought processes.
“There’s so many facets to it and so many things that play a part in that.
“Him being managed by Sir Alex and working with some fantastic managers while he was at Leicester. Me with Sir Bobby and Kenny Dalglish - we’ve been in dressing rooms where we know what it takes.
“We’ve both had success at this level. Richie has had success as a manager.
“It all adds up to, you’d like to think, giving yourself the best opportunity.”