Fans favourite faces 'fantastic' achievement
When a shy 23 year old walked through the doors at the rickety Belle Vue in the summer of 2004, few would have expected the new £35,000 signing from Exeter City to stay at Doncaster Rovers for a decade, not least the man himself.
“I never thought that I’d be here for that amount of time but the club’s moved forward and I’ve moved forward with it and it’s been a fantastic journey and i hope it continues,” he said.
“It’s been a fantastic ten years for me at the club and to play 400 appearances is a good achievement and I’m really proud.”
Proud he should be. Everything about the club has changed over his time at the club, from players and managers to leagues and even stadia, but ‘Copps’ remains part of the furniture.
“When I came to the club, I was actually suspended for the first few games for a sending off the previous season at Exeter. My debut finally came away at Bradford City – we lost 2-0,” he said.
“When I first signed we were at Belle Vue and we played three or four seasons in League 1 but then we won the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at Cardiff, promotion at Wembley and the promotion most recently.”
It was a tough first season for the former Newcastle United trainee, who, under Dave Penney, found prolonged spells in the first team hard to come by.
Coppinger, in a four man midfield containing messrs Ravenhill, Thornton and McIndoe, finally got his first goal for the club in November 2005 in a 2-0 win at home to Bristol City – it was the first of his 40 in the red and white hoops.
Moments of greater note are the fantastic hat-trick against Southend United in the League 1 play-off semi-final second leg in front of the Sky TV cameras and a packed Keepmoat Stadium; Coppinger the epitome of then manager Sean O’Driscoll’s footballing culture, which arguably peaked in a 1-0 win over Leeds United at Wembley to ensure promotion to the second tier of English football for the first time in 50 years.
“I think there’s been a few highlights, obviously the two promotions and playing a big part in both – especially the hat-trick against Southend and then the lead up to Wembley and beating Leeds in the final,” said Coppinger.
“Then obviously last year scoring the winner to take us up as champions was a stand out moment.”
Coppinger haring forward in his limited edition green shirt at Griffin Park in an effort to get on to Billy Paynter’s square ball in the dying embers of a ‘do or die’ clash against Brentford – who had just missed a penalty, of course – is an indelible image on the minds of many Rovers fans who have elevated him to cult status, as a result of his title winning goal.
However, the emphasis, for now, is to not undo all of last season’s hard work.
“The main thing is Saturday, a massive game against Birmingham and hopefully we can wrap up our Championship status as soon as possible because we’ve got some tough games coming up, each game is a cup final,” he said.
“There’s a massive belief among the squad, we’ve been working hard in training and everyone understands what we need to do to stay in this league and with seven games to go, we’ve given ourselves a fantastic chance.”
Coppinger will be presented with an award by another ‘400 club’ member in Colin Douglas before Saturday’s clash with the Blues to commemorate his time at the club, which he insists is not over yet, by any stretch of the imagination.
“To play 6 seasons in the Championship has been a really good achievement for everybody at Doncaster, not just myself. It’s an honour to play 400 games and for the club to do this is amazing, I’m looking forward to Saturday and getting the result as well,” he said.
“It will be something I remember for the rest of my life.”