Doncaster Rovers: Ben Whiteman hails James Coppinger's influence ahead of Rotherham reunion
James Coppinger might just feel his age when he leads out Doncaster Rovers against Rotherham United tomorrow - almost 11 years on from starting the last meeting between these two sides.
But the in-form 36-year-old is certainly showing no signs of slowing down.
And, according to on-loan Sheffield United midfielder Ben Whiteman, Coppinger will be a key creative threat when Rovers and the Millers renew their rivalry this weekend.
Whiteman, pictured, 21, has shown plenty of maturity himself as Rovers continue to adapt to life back in League One, earning himself a nomination for the PFA League One Player of the Month award for October.
Ahead of the South Yorkshire derby, the Blades youngster hailed the influence of Coppinger and warned Rotherham he has lost none of his magic dust.
“I’ve said it numerous times, Copps is just unbelievable as a person and as a captain,” said Whiteman, who missed last weekend’s FA Cup win at Ebbsfleet United with a neck strain after coming off the bench to score the winner at Bury the previous Saturday.
“Being here for this amount of time shows what a good player he is.
“He’s played in all the divisions and showed his loyalty to this football club and obviously the fans respect him huge amounts.
“I’ve been here three or four months and you can just see what he brings to the club, on and off the pitch.
“If you need any advice, he’s always there to lend a hand, drop a text or a little phone call to try and help you improve your game.
“He’s different class.”
Boss Darren Ferguson is expected to stick with the 3-4-3 system which employs Coppinger and Tommy Rowe just behind lone frontman John Marquis.
Both Coppinger and Rowe scored twice in the 6-2 win at Ebbsfleet.
“I’d say it’s getting the best out of him and Rowey,” said Whiteman.
“They’re so creative when they’re on the ball, anything can happen.
“We know that as players, so it’s about trying to get them on the ball as much as possible and hopefully they can make things happen.”
The last meeting between these two sides was back in January 2007 when Rovers, including Coppinger, ran out 3-2 winners at the Keepmoat.
Absence is unlikely to have the made heart grow any fonder - and Whiteman knows exactly what to expect when the first whistle blows on Saturday.
“I know it’s a massive game and it’s been spoken about around the club all week,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll send the Rovers fans home with a win.
“The atmosphere will be right up there, hopefully the game will be too, and hopefully we’ll come out on top.
“I think there’ll be a lot of physical tackles and that’s what you should expect from a derby game.
“The fans will be at it from both sides. It’ll be a good occasion.”