BROACH the subject of club legend James Coppinger to Doncaster Rovers manager Darren Moore and he readily admits to being a bit perplexed.
It has nothing to do with quite how League One’s footballing equivalent of ‘Peter Pan’ is looking as dynamic a force as he ever has done during his treasured time at Rovers either.
Instead, it has everything to do with Coppinger not having previously showcased his talents at the top level during an exemplary career that began two decades ago.
Having worked with the likes of Premier League regulars and ex-English internationals Gareth Barry and Jake Livermore at close quarters during his time in charge at former club West Brom – alongside emerging talents such as Harvey Barnes – it is some statement.
Moore’s words arrived after another typically stylish contribution from Coppinger, who turns 39 in January, provided the catalyst for Rovers’ FA Cup replay win over AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday night.
It gave further conculsive proof that Coppinger is excelling under the pure footballing ethos of Moore in the process
A no-nonsense defender in his playing days maybe, but Moore is firmly an advocate of on-the-deck passing football in his second football career in the dug-out.
On how highly he regards Coppinger, given some of the players he has worked with, Moore said: “He is right up there with them. I know he has stepped up and played at a higher level (Championship) for a short spell, but how he has not played at the levels above is beyond me, really.
“Having worked closely with him, he is a tremendous player and a fantastic individual.
“With what we are about this season, he is an instrumental figure within that and that was his fourth goal this season in the cup and league and I cannot even tell you how many assists he has had for goals.
“He is playing a huge part and is fit and strong and wants to lead from the front. I have got loads of respect and admiration for him as has everybody inside and outside the club.
“The amount of opposition managers who say that he defies logic at the age that he is and still contributes in the way he does is testament to him.
“But you have got to have an appetite for the game and he certainly has – and the love for the football club.”
That hunger and refusal to rest upon his laurels in his 16th season at Rovers is another integral part of the Coppinger ‘package’ in the view of Moore.
The great passion of the Rovers chief, who cut his teeth in coaching circles with West Brom’s academy before moving up to work with the seniors, is developing players.
In the case of Coppinger, age is refreshingly no barrier in that regard either.
“He is a wonderful individual to work with and long may that continue in terms of how he is going about his game,” Moore said.
“My desire, as good as he is, is to make him even better. He has bought right into what we are trying to do here.
“He is playing a different role this season, but he seems to have excelled and got stronger with as he plays there.
“Whenever that is going on, we will keep that work going.”
It was Coppinger’s instinctive pass which also helped to make Tuesday evening a significant one for a player at the start of his Rovers’ journey in Rakish Bingham.
Without a club since leaving Cheltenham Town in the close season, the Londoner, who turned 26 last month, started to vanquish memories of a difficult time in his career by affording himself a psychological fillip by way of his maiden goal in Rovers colours in the 2-0 victory over Wimbledon.
In the process, the former Hamilton Academical forward, who recently joined Doncaster on a short-term deal until January, with Niall Ennis and Kaziah Sterling currently sidelined, netted for the first time in a competitive fixture in almost 15 months.
On a rare chink of light in a pretty dark spell in his career, Bingham said: “To get a goal was a great feeling and one I want to keep having now.
“It has been a difficult year on the back of last season and not having a team (prior to joining Doncaster).
“You want to be at a club and training day in, day out, playing and go out there.
“It was difficult being at home watching the scores and I’m glad that is behind me now and I want to kick on.
“It is good to have people close to you who are going to help you and not make you fall off track too far and keep a level head because good things are around the corner if you keep your head and keep patient.
“Luckily for me, that has been the case.”