Having read Steve Coppell’s 1985 autobiography Touch and Go earlier this year, I was interested to read the 2009 biography on him, by Stuart Roach, On a wing and a prayer – searching for the real Steve Coppell. Apart from his autobiography, Coppell has been a very private person in his life and given little away in the majority of interviews that he gave.
I have to say that, for this book, Roach did a good job looking back at Coppell’s life in football, especially his managerial career. Roach put in a great deal of time and effort in finding players and coaching staff who played and worked alongside and under him during his career in football. For Manchester United fans, the interviews Roach did with Martin Buchan, Lou Macari and Tommy Docherty all gave a decent insight into Coppell’s time at United. The 1990 FA Cup Final and Replay, when Coppell was Crystal Palace manager against his former club United, is also covered in real detail in the book. The parts about the rest of his managerial career will also still be of interest to United fans, especially those who can remember him playing for United.
A lot of jokes were made about Coppell’s very brief spell as Manchester City manager in the 1990s, especially by United fans who were enjoying seeing City struggle. After Coppell’s departure, the feeling was ‘Once a red, always a red’ amongst United towards Coppell at the time of his departure. Reading through Roach’s writing about Coppell at City, it seems that Coppell was under real pressure in his life at the time and as a result, this chapter of his life has never really been discussed by Coppell. After City, Coppell would, as he did before at Palace, go on to achieve promotion to the top flight with Reading and also keep them in the top flight for more than just a season, which shows that the time at City was just a blip for him.
It is a shame that little has been seen or heard of Coppell in the last year, since he left his position as Director of Football at Portsmouth, though it is hoped that he is enjoying his break from football after over 40 years involved in the game. Having read the book, Roach gives a good insight into Coppell’s time in football as a player and manager. Hopefully we will see Coppell return to the game in some capacity again in the future. Does the book find the real Steve Coppell? In a way it does, which the author deserves credit for.