Bobby Copping seemingly had it all. At 19, he was embarking on a career as a professional footballer with Peterborough, dreaming of one day making it to the Premier League. And then, just like that, it was all gone.
Copping still hasn’t fully come to terms with the events of last year. How two seemingly innocuous headers could flip everything upside down.
How lying in a hospital bed with no visitors during a pandemic could make it feel like his whole world had come crashing down.
How seeing the effect his career-ending injuries had on his family and everyone involved in his career would make him feel.
Copping explains what happened: “In July last year I was in a training session. I went up for a header, landed and I lost all my vision. The left side of my body went numb.
“As you can imagine it was quite a scary time. I got rushed straight to hospital because at that time we thought there might be a bleed or something like that. I was in hospital for four days, having various scans and things like that.
“Everyone thought it was a freak accident, a one-off. It took me about five months to get fully fit again. I was on the bench for the first team and had Luton in an under 23 game. In the warm up for that, I went up for a header and the exact same thing happened. The loss of vision, the numbness down the body.”
It was after the second episode that Copping, along with his family and the club decided he should stop playing to protect his long term health.
This was supposed to be his breakthrough season. He modelled his work ethic on Cristiano Ronaldo’s, often turning up for training two hours early. But it was all taken away from him in the space of a few months.
“After we had the big meeting with the club, I went into a two week period where I sat in my room in the dark, curtains closed, eating rubbish all day thinking: ‘What am I going to do now?’.
I was in quite a bad place because everything had come crashing down. Football is and was my life…
“It just goes to show that one thing can change everything. What I would say to any young player is don’t take anything for granted because any game could be your last”.
For Copping, hearing how his mum, dad and gran were affected by his injury was one of the hardest things to deal with. They had spent hours driving to watch him play in Manchester, when he was playing for Bury. They too were deeply invested in his career and he felt as if he had let them down.
The 19-year-old has been offered support by both the PFA and Peterborough United. He’s now working in business operations at the club, something he says he is incredibly grateful for, despite its challenges.
“It is very tough”, he told Sky Sports News.
“My office is facing out onto the football pitch, so seeing them go out and training and playing is tough. I am sitting there thinking ‘that should be me’. But you have to take the positives from it. I wouldn’t have what I do now if I wasn’t a footballer.”
After a serious head injury, dementia will always be in the back of Copping’s mind. He knows first hand how cruel the disease can be because his grandfather had it.
Copping is now turning his attention to supporting others, by helping players and families affected by mental health issues within the game. Despite his career-ending injury just a few months ago, he still insists there is always light at the end of the tunnel.