Doncaster Rovers midfielder James Coppinger is to be honoured with the prestigious Sir Tom Finney Award at the 2021 EFL Awards later this evening.
Announced live on talkSPORT this afternoon, the 40-year old has racked up more than 800 career appearances, having played at almost every level of the English game over the past two decades.
In a career that has so far spanned 21 seasons, Coppinger has made more than 650 appearances for Doncaster Rovers alone. From Sunday League to the Premier League, he has a wealth of accolades to his name across Sky Bet League One & Two, and also tasted success in the EFL Trophy in 2007.
The Sir Tom Finney Award is presented to a player who has had an outstanding career and contributed an exceptional amount to the EFL and football in general, something that Coppinger can certainly lay claim to doing.
The Award, renamed in honour of Preston and England legend Sir Tom following his death in 2014, recognises Coppinger’s talent, commitment, and model professionalism throughout his career.
Reminiscing on his career to date, Coppinger said: “It's been a huge part of my life, 17 years at one football Club is a lifetime. Twenty-three years as a player, and to spend 17 years of that in one place, it means everything.
"To be at a Club like this and to have all the special moments and to share it with so many special players, managers, and fans, it's meant everything to me.”
Arguably Coppinger’s career-defining moment came in 2013 at Griffin Park, with a final-day promotion-deciding fixture against Brentford in League One.
Needing a point to seal automatic promotion, the award of a Brentford penalty in the 94th minute threatened to derail any hope of finishing inside the top two. Instead, Doncaster went from agony to ecstasy in a matter of seconds.
Not only did the home side miss the spot kick, but Doncaster would break, allowing Coppinger to tap in from close range. In that moment, he had sealed promotion with the last kick of the game, but also secured the League One title.
“We've spoken about this many times at the Club; you couldn't write a better script than to score the winning goal in the last minute of the last game of the season to win the league and go up as champions.
“For me personally, and collectively with the group that we had, we worked so hard. To win the league and to be champions, not many people experience that throughout their career, so for me to do that at Doncaster Rovers was probably the most special moment I've had.”
A glittering career, with his name forever synonymous with Doncaster Rovers, the 40-year old is preparing for what lies next.
He explained: "I've been preparing for this for a long time, when you get to 40 it is not a surprise that you have to retire. I have almost felt like you do people an injustice when you're feeling fit and you're performing to retire.
"I've got other things going on, I've been working with players and mentoring them on mental performance, a kicks franchise and kicks academy, which all excite me when I do retire.”
The EFL Awards take place on Thursday 29 April live on Sky Sports Football, when winners from across all three divisions will be recognised for their achievements, both on and off the pitch, including the announcement of the Sky Bet Player of the Season for the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two.