SPEAK to Doncaster Rovers supporters and their fingers will be collectively crossed that James Coppinger does not hang up his boots any time soon.
The evergreen midfielder turns 38 in January and is heading towards the halfway point of his 15th successive season at the club, but age is far from diminishing his talents.
Coppinger’s talismanic qualities came to the fore in the 3-2 win at Rochdale when he set up all three Rovers goals.
It was a reminder that the Guisborough-born player’s instincts remain razor-sharp, but also that his class and guile cannot be relied upon forever.
For his part, Coppinger has spent some time thinking about the next part of his professional life.
Coaching and management hold a certain appeal and, given his exemplary service at Rovers, Coppinger says: “I would be very surprised if I walked away from football. It has been in my life for so long. I sit down at a night and watch every game that is on although my wife does not like that. But I genuinely love football.”
On the prospect of entering the dugout Coppinger, contracted at Rovers until the end of this season, added: “It would be nice to get into it. I take my two kids’ teams and they have gone really well.
“I really enjoy seeing them develop and I do like to pass on my understanding on what it requires to be a professional footballer.”
Coppinger has taken plenty from working with some influential figures, learning much from a revered technocrat in Sean O’Driscoll and also holding a lot of respect for the likes of Darren Ferguson and others, including the club’s present manager Grant McCann.
Given his epic service he is also perfectly placed to suggest just what attributes are key to a manager being successful. He believes it is mainly down to good old-fashioned man-management.
I really enjoy seeing them develop and I do like to pass on my understanding on what it requires to be a professional footballer.James Coppinger
“People just think it is ability, but it is definitely not,” Coppinger observed. “You have got to know how to communicate with people. You must understand what it requires to get the best out of players and it is a big quality to have.
“You look at the Rotherham manager at what he has done. He comes across as a positive person and everything is based around team spirit and camaraderie and with every team I have been successful with it is no coincidence that is the main ingredient.
“I remember when Dioufy (El-Hadji Diouf) came to Doncaster and he obviously did not get on. He would harp about not getting on (with certain players) at Liverpool. But there you are playing at a different level where you have players who are extraordinary. At a certain level you need to all buy into what you are doing and get on. I think it is a massive part of football.”
A leading member of what many believe to be Rovers’ greatest line-up in the late Noughties under O’Driscoll, Coppinger has seen two former team-mates already dip their toes in management in Richie Wellens and Adam Lockwood.
Wellens’s own managerial progress was somewhat harshly cut short at Oldham when he was sacked in the summer, but his time is likely to come again.
Coppinger added: “Richie did well and I speak to him regularly. He is the type of character who does not care what people think, which is a massive for a manager or a coach.
“You have to do what you think is right and have to take responsibility and not be scared of failing, which is another quality. I think he will go on and be a really good manager.”