COPPELL,  Stephen James  [b. 1955]

Steve Coppell was born in Liverpool’s Walton Hospital on 9th July 1955, the son of Jim and Ena Coppell. His first home was a ground-floor flat in Liverpool’s first high-rise block of flats, Coronation Court, Sparrow Hall Road L9. His family later moved to 41 Abdale Road L11. 

In an era  when it seemed that many top flight English footballers could barely string together a couple of coherent sentences Steve Coppell attracted much publicity for having continued to study at university whilst pursuing his fledgling soccer career. He had begun his course in economic history at Liverpool University whilst playing with Tranmere Rovers and when he joined Manchester United in 1975 he told then manager, Tommy Docherty, that he was prepared to give up his studies. To his credit Coppell’s new boss would not countenance this and Coppell went on gain his degree. 

Steve Coppell started at Quarry Bank High School in 1966. The school was some distance from his home in Norris Green, but his primary school headmaster, David McKay had recommended it because Joe Royle had been a pupil. He found Quarry to be “a posh school in a nice area that drew boys from good homes” and was clearly a little conscious of his supposedly humbler background. He recalls that in a technical drawing exercise he depicted his end-terrace house as a semi-detached lest he be “singled out and…be thought of as poor or different”.

Joe Royle’s footballing prowess had overshadowed all his schoolmates but for Steve Coppell this was not the case as he had – as he put it himself “stopped growing altogether and remained under five feet while my contemporaries were six feet and more”. Notwithstanding his struggles to make the school team, his former headmaster Mr McKay arranged for him to enter Liverpool schoolboy trials. Alas, Quarry Headmaster Pobjoy vetoed his attendance, ironically because he was conscious of how much school time Joe Royle had lost through playing for Liverpool schoolboys. McKay got him an introduction to Liverpool F.C.’s youth coach, Jeff Twentyman, but one sight of the diminutive Coppell was enough for him to make up his mind and the aspiring lad was despatched even before he had put his boots on. It was again down to McKay that he later trained with Everton but again this came to nothing. Typically, the self-deprecating Coppell felt that both clubs were right to reject him as he simply was not good enough at that time. Eventually it was his appearances for Norris Green Boys’ Club which were to bring him to attention of Tranmere Rovers and the rest, as they say, is history.

Football was not the only area of achievement in which Coppell attributed his relative failure to his lack of height. Despite being in that first group of Quarry pupils to experience the excitement of co-education he felt like a boy amongst men and hence “took far less interest in girls than the rest of my mates (and) knew little of the fumblings and gropings which went on behind the bicycle sheds and the playing pavilions”.

Success in his O levels was followed by a Sixth Form syllabus of English, History and Economics and then a place at University. Happily when at University, with the kudos of playing for Manchester United and a wage which put his finances considerably ahead of the average undergraduate, Coppell acquired a greater degree of confidence with the opposite sex and it was at this time that he met his future wife, Jane Humphreys.

Even before the days of the Premier League multi-millionaires, footballers have always been considered to be well-off by the public at large. It is interesting to note that when he joined Manchester United Tommy Docherty agreed to double the what he had been getting at Tranmere Rovers outing him on the princely wage of £60 a week ! (Author’s note: In 1975 I was working as a Higher Executive Officer (HEO)  in the DHSS on about £75 a week. £15 better off than a Manchester United first-teamer. In 2018 the maximum rate for an HEO is just over £32,000 p.a. and the average wage for a Premier League player is £50,000 per week ! How times have changed.

Coppell’s career, brought to a premature end after a knee injury in 1983, was not littered with club success, his F.A. Cup winner’s medal gained against Liverpool in 1977 being his sole major honour, He did, however, play for England on 42 occasions, scoring 7 goals. After retiring from playing he went on to manage a variety of teams.

Coronation Court, Sparrow Hall Road L9

Steve Coppell's home at the time of his birth in 1955.

41 Abdale Road L11

The Coppell family home at the time he started at Quarry Bank High School


There are various potted biographies of Coppell on the internet. The Wikipedia entry gives a good summary and career statistics. His 1985 autobiography Steve Coppell: Touch and Go [Willow Books] includes a chapter on his early years.