Doncaster Rovers v Peterborough United: James Coppinger motivated to lead Rovers survival battle

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IN his epic stint of close to 11 seasons of service at Doncaster Rovers, club legend James Coppinger has never once strode out in the bottom division of the Football League.

To say he does not want that to change come August is putting things mildly.

James Coppinger.

James Coppinger.

Rovers’ record appearance-holder has seen it, done it and got the T-shirt, having sampled the good, the not so good and the plain bad – though mostly the good – in 484 appearances for the club which he calls his own.

The 35-year-old, who recently signed a new one-year deal with Rovers, is very much cast in the role of elder statesman these days, with his role not just exclusively reserved to doing his bit on the pitch.

Off it and more specifically in the dressing room, the north-easterner is a wise port of call for players given his considerable longevity at one club.

More especially at times of crisis like now, with bedraggled Rovers listing in stormy relegation waters ahead of today’s important game with Peterborough United.

A descent into the Football League’s basement –- the division that the club left shortly before Coppinger joined in May, 2004 – is a distinct possibility if things are not arrested quickly.

Bereft of confidence, Rovers are plumbing the depths after a desperate 11-match winless streak, which has accrued a similarly desperate three points from 33 points.

The fightback simply must start somewhere if Rovers are to battle their way out of trouble, with now not the time for feeling sorry for themselves or cowering away, according to Coppinger.

He should know, having experienced dark times ahead of joining Rovers and having drawn strength from forging a strong friendship with motivational speaker Terry Gormley.

Even in grim situations, pride and fight has to come to the fore from the individual to deliver the template for a recovery and the veteran believes that a positive mental approach is vital if Rovers are to stop a fraught season becoming a truly disastrous one.

Coppinger told The Yorkshire Post: “I have spoken to a lot of motivational people and psychologists and people who give you tools for people to help themselves.

“Everyone goes through adversity and things that go wrong in their lives. You have to go through that. For me, body language is massive. You communicate over 65 per cent through body language, not what you say. It’s how you do things.

“Just by looking at people, you can see that people must start realising that. Sometimes when people are watching, they don’t look interested and aren’t doing this and that. They actually are, but there’s a lot that goes in people’s minds that they are not aware of.

“On Saturday, it’s a massive thing and little things can make a massive difference.

“A lot of players (in my career) have been technically good, but have had poor body language in terms of people looking at them and not thinking that they are interested.

“Then, you have a lot of players who aren’t technically good, but have great body language and run around, tackle, put their foot in and give 100 per cent and everyone loves them and gets them on in the game. It’s a massive part of anything.”

Frustratingly sidelined recently with an ankle problem, Coppinger is hell-bent on making up for lost time to do his bit in Rovers’ survival quest and assuming his share of responsibility will come naturally.

Having sampled relegation from the Championship twice with Rovers, he does not want to taste that bitter pill again.

He admits that going down this season would comfortably represent the worst demotion of the lot.

Coppinger added: “I think it would be, definitely. I didn’t sign a contract to be here for another year in that division. I wouldn’t even contemplate doing that.

“You can talk and talk but we now have 10 games to put things right.

“It has got to break at some point and we have got to get a win. There’s 10 games to go. Everyone is aware of it and doing what they can.

“No-one likes being in this position and we have to get ourselves out of it. I am looking forward to it.

“I feel a lot of responsibility, full stop. I am a senior member of the club and have been here 12 years and I thrive on that responsibility.

“That is what you play football for and why I have played 20 years of football for and have all this experience of.”