Life had probably settled into a reasonable routine for future England international Steve Coppell in early 1975.
He was 19, playing regularly for Third Division Tranmere Rovers and studying for a degree in economic history at the University of Liverpool.
He was even finding time to coach the university football team.
But all that changed dramatically when Manchester United and their ambitious manager Tommy Docherty set their sights on the speedy, versatile and hard-working winger.
Coppell was made an offer he couldn’t refuse. The transfer fee was set at £60,000 and Coppell’s wages were doubled. United also agreed that he could continue his degree.
On March 1st 1975 – St David’s Day – Coppell found himself coming on as substitute at Old Trafford in United’s 4-0 win over Cardiff City.
The Red Devils were in the Second Division at the time – but that didn’t last. United bounced straight back to the First Division after relegation the previous season, winning the league with 61 points.
Coppell played 10 matches during the campaign, scoring a single goal. It signalled the start of life in the big time, both for Manchester United and England.
Born in Liverpool in July 1955, Coppell quickly built up a reputation as a youth player while attending Quarry Bank High School in south Liverpool.
Everton striker Joe Royle had been a pupil there along with former Beatle John Lennon. In the year above Coppell were comedian Les Dennis and future FA chief executive Brian Barwick.
A few clubs were looking at the teenage Coppell, but he chose Tranmere as it was close to the University of Liverpool where he was taking his degree.
In all, he made 38 appearances for Tranmere, scoring 13 goals, before moving to United.
After his debut season for the Red Devils, Coppell featured in 39 matches and scored 10 goals in the 1975-6 campaign – back in the First Division. The team finished third in the league with 56 points, four points behind champions Liverpool.
Docherty’s young side also reached the 1976 FA Cup Final against Southampton. They lost 1-0 when against more wily and experienced opponents.
There was no mistake the following year when United played treble-chasing Liverpool in the FA Cup Final and beat them 2-1.
By now, Coppell’s raids up the Manchester wing were coming to the notice of England manager Don Revie, who picked him for the World Cup qualifier match against Italy.
England won 2-0, but it was too little, too late, as far as the qualifying group was concerned. The Three Lions missed out on the 1978 World Cup finals and Ron Greenwood took over as national coach.
Coppell kept his place in the team and scored one goal and made another in England’s 3-1 victory over Scotland in May 1979, much to the dismay of Scottish manager Jock Stein.
Coppell scored again in the 2-0 victory against Scotland at Hampden Park before the 1980 European Championships, in which he also played. He was also in the England team for the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain.
In total, Coppell was capped 42 times for England from 1977 to 1983, scoring seven goals.
Injury brought a premature end to Coppell’s playing career at the age of 28 after he’d made 373 appearances for United and scored 70 goals. But coaching and management swiftly followed.
He became one of the youngest managers in Football League history when he took the helm at Second Division Crystal Palace in June 1984.
After making some very shrewd signings – including Mark Wright from non-league football – Coppell led Palace to promotion and the FA Cup Final of 1990.
Palace’s opponents at Wembley were none other than Coppell’s old club Manchester United, now under the guidance of Alex Ferguson.
The match, the first played at Wembley in front of an all-seater crowd, ended at 3-3 after extra time. Wright, who came on as a substitute, very nearly swung it for Palace with two late goals. Palace lost the replay 1-0.
Coppell went on to manage Palace no less than four times, as well as Manchester City, Brentford, Brighton and Reading in a career which eventually took him to India in 2016.
He last managed ATK (Atletico de Kolkata) Football Club from 2018 to 2019.
*Hundreds of remarkable pictures from around Britain during World War II will feature in Clive Hardy’s latest book The Home Front – available soon from publishers iNostalgia.