James Coppinger: Doncaster Rovers midfielder on life as a League One player during the coronavirus pandemic

James Coppinger has played more than 600 games for Doncaster

James Coppinger has played almost 800 professional games, and experienced most of football's ups and downs. But during 21 seasons, Doncaster's veteran midfielder has never experienced a campaign quite like this. He speaks exclusively to Sporting Life about being a League One player during the coronavirus pandemic.

What do you want to happen this season?

I think if you asked any professional footballer, take everything aside, you'd want to go back to football but that isn't the case. It's something that nobody really knows what's best, nobody's got the answers, nobody's going to wave a magic wand and (suddenly) everyone's going to be happy.

From a player's perspective, first and foremost you've got to do what's right for you and your family and make sure it's safe to go back. We have people employed at the club - doctors, physios - who look into it a bit more deeply than you do as a player.

If I got asked to go back into training, I'd have to analyse and look at it, and you put your faith and trust in the people at the club who make those decisions. So if I got the ok and the green light from the club I think it's something I would do.

What's the mood amongst the Doncaster squad?

It's different because players are at different stages of their lives and careers. Our captain Ben Whiteman has been fantastic in the way that he's communicated things with the lads, taking ownership by communicating on the group chat throughout with all the players, and I've been speaking with him more or less every day on the phone. I've also been speaking with the club, the manager, the chief executive, and between us we've been passing on what are the right things to do.

Really, just making sure everyone is ok because the biggest thing is the uncertainty. You're hearing this, hearing that, and as a 39-year-old I don't really listen - you can lose a lot of energy, you have to focus on what you can control. It's something I've been able to do over the last 10-15 years, so that's been what I've tried to pass on.

It's been a great opportunity to build resilience by training on your own, developing your fitness, and then having that resilience to fall back if when football comes back things don't go your way. That's the message we've been pushing out. Everyone has programmes to do and they've been setting times and competing with each other and pushing each other.

It's important to stay positive and understand that things will get back to normal, it might be a little bit difficult and out of your comfort zone, but done in the right way it can be a positive.

What if the season ended with Doncaster ninth in League One?

Nobody knows how to deal with it. People will deal with it differently, It would be disappointing and frustrating if we don't get the same opportunity of the play-offs like we last season, but we've still had a fantastic season.

We had a new manager come in and lost a lot of players, the team developed and the environment has been great - no one can take that away from us.

If the season does end as it is, then we just go again next season.


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