DONCASTER ROVERS legend James Coppinger says he has no axe to grind after announcing his departure from the club he loves – although he does harbour one genuine regret.
The 33-year-old, arguably the best value-for-money buy in the club’s history after joining from Exeter City for just £30,000 in May 2004, is looking for a new club for the first time in 17 years after announcing the end of his decade-long Rovers association.
Coppinger had verbally agreed a new three-year deal pending John Ryan and Louis Tomlinson’s takeover of Rovers.
But following the dramatic collapse of that bid earlier this month, the Guisborough-born player – not offered fresh terms by the existing board after his last deal expired in June – is now seeking pastures new.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances of his exit, Coppinger respects the decision of the existing board not to offer him a new deal, with his main source of regret not being able to break the club’s appearance record after becoming just the fourth player in the club’s history to clock up 400 appearances late last season.
Coppinger, who had been training with the club ahead of saying his goodbyes on Wednesday said: “I wanted to surpass the record for appearances and that was always in the back of my mind. Having been there that long, it would have been nice to do that. But it’s not to be.
“I have still had a fantastic 10 years there and the club have been great to me. I totally understand where the club want to go and respect that and have got to move forward.
“I was made aware of the way the club wanted to go in terms of the budget and how they want to bring the young lads through and that there would be nothing there.
“I have got my testimonial at Doncaster and I am looking forward to that next year. Hopefully, I will get that sorted and all the fans will appreciate what I did for the club and come out and give me the support.
“I will look forward to coming back next year.”
Coppinger has confirmed he has some interest from Championship clubs, with the playmaker also on the radar of several League One sides, with Barnsley understood to be among them.
Addressing his immediate future, Coppinger said: “I have had dialogue throughout the summer, but it was never in my mind to move until now. Especially after being offered a contract with the takeover.
“Now it’s time to talk to other clubs and get sorted and I am raring to go really.
“I am more than confident. I am as fit as I have ever been and have played 410 games in 10 years, so that is 40-plus games per season.
“I am speaking to a few Championship clubs, but it’s about doing what is right, at the end of the day. A lot will be dependent on what the deal is and where it is.
“I’ve never been in this position in terms of being out of contract in my career in 17 years.”
Meanwhile, Rovers manager Paul Dickov, who insists he will not walk away from the club despite his playing budget being significantly reduced in the wake of the takeover collapse, has confirmed that Richie Wellens and Paul Quinn are unlikely to be used for the rest of pre-season, with the pair likely to activate relegation clauses to leave.
The pair did train with the club yesterday along with midfielder Paul Keegan, another whose Rovers future is in serious doubt.
Despite the hugely difficult circumstances he finds himself in, with a number of targets lined up pending the takeover completion having now gone elsewhere and the club forced to scramble around for signings with just 15 days to the big kick-off, Dickov is refusing to bemoan his situation.
Dickov, yet to make a summer signing, added: ““I love being here and love working with everybody involved at the club. It (leaving) has never crossed my mind.
“It’s a difficult situation, I am not going to lie. There’s been a little bit of disruption over the past week, but you deal with it and get on with it.
“Through nobody’s fault really (here), we are left in the situation where the takeover fell through, which nobody was expecting.
“But I had a long meeting with Terry (Bramall) and David Blunt on Tuesday and the budget has been set for me and as a club, you deal with it and move on.
“As the manager, you make sure everyone sticks together because from the outside looking in, it looks as if it’s an unstable club.”
Finding a new goalkeeper is a big priority for Dickov, with Ross Turnbull having linked up with near-neighbours Barnsley.
Trialist goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown is no longer at the club, although ex-Crewe and Colchester custodian Ben Williams is still training with Rovers, along with striker Nathan Tyson, who is being tipped to join, Jon Otsemobor and Cedric Evina.