James Coppinger believes that learning how to deal with disappointment is an important part of becoming a professional footballer.
Speaking to TalkSport’s Ian Abrahams, Coppinger discussed making his professional debut for Newcastle United in the Premier League and how playing alongside some legends of the game like Alan Shearer and John Barnes didn’t feel real at the time.
“That’s a long time ago … over 20 years ago,” he said.
“It was surreal to be honest, one of those moments that I probably didn’t really take in at the time.
“Sir Bobby Robson gave me my debut and to work under him and to have the likes of Alan Shearer, Gary Speed, Rob Lee, Stewart Pierce, and John Barnes, all these players that I looked up to, suddenly I'm playing alongside them.
“I look back and they’re fond memories and it was amazing to play alongside people like that but that’s what they are, they’re memories and it’s held me in good stead.”
During Mental Health Awareness Week, Coppinger spoke a lot about resilience in football and the importance of positive mental health and he believes that more knowledge as a youngster would have helped him deal with the situation better.
“From being a kid, I didn’t really want to be a football player,” he continued.
“I had opportunities to go to a few school of excellences but I didn’t really enjoy it, it was too much pressure. I wanted to play with my mates in the park and up until 16 I was happy with that.
“I became a professional footballer at 16 or 17 and then made my Premier League debut at 19, that was just something I never envisaged.
“My dad used to remind me all the time of the position I was in but I wasn’t mentally prepared for what happened to me in a short period of time.”
Coppinger now has more that two decades of experience in the game, and says that he tries to use what he was learned to help the younger players around him.
“One of the reasons why I’ve gone down a bit of a mentoring route with the players I’ve played with at Doncaster, and I’ve done a lot of mind set, positive thinking with people out of football because it plays such a big part in young players' careers,” he said.
“Football is cutthroat at every level and you’ve got to be mentally prepared for disappointments whether that be on the pitch or off it. You’ve got to know how to deal with it and put things in place so you can deal with it and I believe that gives you a better opportunity to have a more successful career at a higher level.
"I’m not the only one who had problems, or will have problems as a young footballer. It depends on what your support network is. I didn’t really have one and that’s no disrespect to anyone but I was on my own and I had to work it out by myself.
"I’ve been able to learn, adapt, turn it into a positive and then reignite my career at 24 and now at 39 I still enjoy my football.”