(Photo credit: York Football Club).
Former Doncaster manager, Dave Penney, says the club nearly missed out on signing James Coppinger in 2004.
The midfielder, who bows out of professional football this weekend, was unwell in the build-up to the game in which Rovers were scouting him.
Ultimately, he did feature in the match and the rest is history, as he moved to South Yorkshire for £30,000.
Penney, who managed Doncaster between 2001 and 2006, said: “I already knew of him because he’d gone to Newcastle for big money. He had ended up playing for Exeter but being from the North East, I don’t think he was happy down there.
“I knew the Exeter manager and had a decent relationship with his agent, so I went watching him at Kings Lynn. Apparently, he wasn’t too well in the build-up, but he played and did alright, so we signed him.”
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Penney states as soon as he saw Coppinger in training he was impressed, and believes he will go down as one of the club’s all-time great signings.
“His first touch, awareness and ability was better than anything else we had at the club during that particular time, and 17 years later it’s probably the best money Doncaster have ever spent.
“He’s been a fantastic servant and compared to what they pay now it’s peanuts. I’m sure he could’ve been sold for a lot of money at some stage, but it didn’t happen because either he didn’t want to go, or the club didn’t want to sell.”
Coppinger joined Rovers at a time when football was modernising.
Penney believes the midfielder was part of a group of players who really benefitted from the advances in the game, which looked beyond physical performance.
“We had a good group of talented fit footballers who had the same work ethic and fitness levels which took the club up. We also brought in a sport scientist and some people got a lot out of it. James took to that, and it’s helped him with the mentality side of thing which is massive.”
Penney puts Coppinger’s longevity down to his physique and the good shape he has remains in.
“He’s played so well because he is fit, as he doesn’t carry any weight and has the right body type. It’s helped him to carry on as long as he has, the 40s are the new 30s.
“It’s difficult to compare era to era, but in the last 15 years he has to be at the top with everything he has done, including the goal he scored at Brentford to get Doncaster to the Championship.”