Although his ambitions of making football’s big time may have bitten the dust, Keiran Coupe has still managed to establish himself as a permanent and popular part of Mansfield Town’s first team scene.
The 20-year-old from Sutton knew in his own heart that he wasn’t going to make it any further when his three years in the Stags youth team came to an end.
But he was determined to forge a career with his local club and his winning personality has earned him a job as the Stags’ equipment operative while he also continues to play to a high standard at local non-League level.
His enthusiasm for Mansfield Town knows no bounds and, apart from his daily tasks of getting everything ready the players need for their training sessions, he can also be found helping out with everything from pitch maintenance to serving behind the bar – always with the same cheery attitude to life.
A talented right back, like so many other youngsters, Coupe, now of Kirkby, had a burning ambition to become a professional footballer.
“I went through six to eight trials to get into the club through Mark Lynk and Mark Hemingray,” he said.
“I was 16 and I’d just left Ashfield school. I did every trial and it was on the last day with Adam Somes that I got took on. I played three seasons for the youth team, the second season with Adam Murray and Richard Cooper.
“The last season I was under John Ramshaw and, although I was on the bench for a couple of reserve games, I knew by then I wasn’t going to be first team standard.
“But I wanted to stay at the club and I had a chat with the gaffer and asked if I could get involved with coaching. They put me through my Level 2 coaching badge and told me they’d keep me on in some capacity with the first team.
“My job is now equipment operative. That involves getting all the equipment ready each day. If the players need anything I am there for them.
“I look after the water bottles, the cones, cleaning boots, anything needed of me.
“I got involved during the Championship season, doing jobs for the first team, and have been around them ever since. I have travelled to away games and stayed overnight with the first team too.
“Adam Murray and Richard Cooper always wanted to push me forwards and I am very grateful they made it happen for me under Paul Cox here.
“I’d like to thank Tina and Paul Broughton for helping me get these jobs here too.”
Coupe admits it was difficult to face up to the fact that he wasn’t going to make the Stags’ first team, but his cheery nature has helped him see it as a ‘glass half full’ and he is grateful he has been able to stay on with the club in other capacities.
“I was a Forest fan when I was young, but I always looked for Mansfield’s results back in the Liam Lawrence days.” he said.
“I played for Drezden Colts under Mark Stevenson, which is where Alex John-Baptiste came from. You always want to play for your local team so there are regrets.
“Those three years went by so quickly. But you have got to have a manager that likes you and be very dedicated.
“I was dedicated, but maybe I was putting my efforts into the wrong areas. When I stayed behind to practice corners and free kicks maybe I should have been in the gym doing weights and building myself up physically.
“I guess I knew it was coming and I was planning what else I wanted to do.
“We knew it was right for both parties. You have got to have every attribute and, although I was a good communicator and a good leader, I don’t think my pace or technical ability were good enough to step up to the next level.
“But they always told me don’t stop playing. They said play part-time and earn a bit of money where you can. The gaffer and ‘Coops’ understand, being former players themselves. They said play as long as you can.
“I know I still have a lot to learn. But it’s great working with the first team in the week as I get to see what the gaffer is doing. I get to see the training sessions they put on, which are of a really high standard, and I can hope by watching them that I can add bits to my coaching and move forward.
“This year I have also been asked to help out with the U13s with Neil Bainbridge, thanks to Mark Hawkins.”
Stags groundsman Michael ‘Mez’ Merriman has also been showing Coupe aspects of his side of the job and teaching him other skills.
“Mez has played a massive part too and taken me under his wing,” said Coupe. “When he is doing the ground work I am always asking him questions. He has been a massive help and I have picked up a lot of things around the ground.
“I still help out in the bar too. That’s just because I like the people at the club and working for the club. I feel like I am part of the furniture down there now and hopefully people like me being around too.
“I have a lot to give back to my mum and dad, Martin and Sue, from what they have done for me over the years and hope to make them proud with my coaching and other stuff.”
But, away from Mansfield Town, Coupe has continued to play and, at 20, still has years ahead of him.
“When I got released from Mansfield I played for Rainworth under Scott Rickards, who was superb with me,” he said. “I played in The Notts FA Senior Cup final against Carlton for them.
“I spent the last half of last year with Heanor Town and I have now signed for Teversal this coming season with Dean Short.
“I want to try to establish myself as a player that starts week in, week out. Dean Short is a really good manager. I was with him at Rainworth when I played every week at Evo-Stik League level and now I have dropped down to Northern Counties East League level. So I am hoping I can have a good season, help keep some clean sheets, and see where we go from there.
“Teversal have some massive plans and have some good players going there. They’ve had grants for the ground. They are looking forward and I want to be a part of it.”
Mansfield Town press officer Mark Stevenson said: “Keiran’s work ethic and people skills were soon made known to the club’s directors after his spell with our youth team.
“We were keen to use his variety of skills in an array of roles at the club, which he now performs with the same vigour and enthusiasm as he did for our youth team some seasons ago.
“Keiran is a genial and well-rounded young man and is well liked by staff and supporters alike.”