When 38-year-old James Coppinger bagged a goal for Doncaster Rovers this weekend, few were surprised.
Now in his 20th season as a professional, the former Newcastle United trainee is a regular on the scoresheet wherever he plays. He’s now bagged in 15 consecutive seasons, all of them spent with Doncaster Rovers.
Players have come and gone, managers too, but James Coppinger has been a constant at the Keepmoat and Belle Vue before that. He’s a part of the furniture at Rovers, but is his input still as important as it once was?
Is he like a fine wine, or will this season be the one where he turns to vinegar? Or spotlight piece attempts to find out.
We’re going to look at the season so far for Coppinger, but it would be remiss to start anywhere other than a fascinating fact; he’s seen ten different managers come and go across his time with the club and yet every time he’s kept his place in the squad and scored goals. For us to be even mentioning him as a first-team player in 2019 is a testament to his longevity and ability.
He struck in the 39th minute of Rovers 3-2 win against Fleetwood Town, their first win of the season and his third appearance of the campaign. He’s obviously a key player for Darren Moore even with a summer of recruitment behind the former West Brom boss.
It’s not just about goals with Coppinger though; he’s already created one for a teammate as well, making Kieran Sadlier’s goal against Gillingham on the opening day. Those important numbers already point to him being a key player and just as important for Rovers as ever.
In his three matches this season he’s assisted in 2.12 shots per game, a good number and certainly better than many forwards. He’s unselfish, can score goals but is also looking to create for his teammates. Sometimes, as a player gets older, he lacks that pace to exploit areas but can see patterns of play emerging using experience and knowledge. That certainly seems to sum up half of Coppinger’s play.
Slightly disputing that is his dribble statistics. This isn’t a 38-year-old man static to a point looking to pull the strings without exertion. He goes on 3.53 dribbles per game, proving he’s still just as willing to get on the ball and carry it as he is creating openings for other players.
His passing numbers are good too, he makes 3.18 passes into the box per game, proving he’s always looking to conjure something up for his beloved Rovers.
James Coppinger might be 38 and he might have given the newspapers something to write about with his goal this weekend, but there are no signs at all that he’s fading in relevance. He’s every bit as important now as he was when he signed for them back in 2004.