Coppell: My debut was beyond a dream

Tuesday 12 April 2022 15:30

Steve Coppell made 396 appearances in total for Manchester United but he'll never forget his first outing.

Unusually for an Old Trafford legend, his debut wasn't made in the Premier League or old First Division, but in the second tier of English football. The Reds had been relegated under Tommy Docherty's management at the end of the infamous 1973/74 season.

"The Doc had promised we'd get promotion and we'd be back [in the top flight] next year and all of this," said Coppell, in his new episode of UTD Podcast.

"They had stormed the Second Division but at the time [of my debut], it was a sticky time for the team. I always remember that."
UTD Podcast: The best feeling ever Video

UTD Podcast: The best feeling ever

In his UTD Podcast, Steve Coppell reflects on his first appearance for the Reds under the great Tommy Docherty…

United had, in fact, only won two of their first six games in the calendar year 1975. The confidence-sapping sequence featured losses to Bristol City at Old Trafford and away to Oxford United (both 0-1) and Aston Villa (0-2), while the side also failed to score against Sunderland (0-0).

The goals had dried up and to remedy the situation, The Doc reached out to economics degree student Steve, who also happened to be a livewire winger on the books of Tranmere Rovers.

"He said to me, 'You'll be sub today.' I thought 'Brilliant.' But my boots were away with the Tranmere team at Aldershot!" recalled Coppell.

"So when we got to the ground [Old Trafford], I was looking at the second and third pairs of boots of all the other players. I ended up playing in Stuart Pearson's third or fourth pair, he let me use them!"

The occasion was 1 March 1975 and it was to be a far from happy Saint David's Day for United's visitors from Wales, Cardiff City. The Reds ran out 4-0 winners but the game was still deadlocked when Coppell made his entrance.

"For an hour, nothing was happening and I sensed I was going to get a shout to come on," said Steve, casting his mind back.

"At the time, there were rumours in the press that maybe The Doc wasn't getting on very well with Willie Morgan, who was a big favourite here of course.
Thirty days after his debut, Coppell (centre) scored his first United goal, in a 3-2 home win over Oldham Athletic.

"He [the manager] said to me, 'Get warmed up, you're coming on.' So I get to the side of the pitch and Willie is dragged off and there's a chorus of half-boos and fans muttering 'What's he doing?!'

"When the substitution was made, we had a corner. So I'm running on to the pitch to this chorus of half-boos, thinking 'What are you moaning at me for? I haven't done anything yet!' It was at the Stretford End and I literally didn't make it to the edge of the box when we took the corner and Stewart Houston, the left-back, scored!

"So it's 1-0 and I'm thinking this is unbelievable. Running on to the pitch, my heart was jumping out of my chest and I could hardly breathe. I joined in the celebrations but I'd done nothing! I was jumping on people's backs and all this, and I was thinking, 'This is just incredible.'

"The first time I got the ball, I had a panic and I thought, 'I'm just going to get rid here.' I crossed the ball into the box and Stuart Pearson scored. I thought this is just beyond a dream! We won 4-0 and I was involved in one more goal, and it was better than heaven. It was beyond [a dream debut].

"After the game, seeing my family, it was just the best feeling ever. It's nice to own things in life but feelings are what make you appreciate life and that one hour or so was just beyond anything you could ever buy from any chemical factory, I'm convinced of that! It was sensational."

The new episode of UTD Podcast, featuring Steve Coppell, is available now in the United App.