Sheffield born right half Ernest Coopland began his football career with local junior club Birley Carr, from where he signed for First Division club Arsenal in January 1920, making his Football League debut, and only appearance for The Gunners during his three seasons at Highbury, in a 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa in February 1920. Signed by Exeter City manager Fred Mavin in February 1923, the local press reported his signing:
“WING HALF BACK SECURED FROM THE ARSENAL
On Tuesday Mr Fred Mavin journeyed to London, and secured the signature of Ernest Coopland, a native of Sheffield, who was in his third season with The Arsenal. Coopland arrived at the London club as a left-wing forward, but was drafted to the intermediate line, and has been a big success. The Arsenal F.C. have loaned Coopland to Exeter City till the end of the season; his position will then be reviewed. Aged 23 years, he stands 5 ft. 11 inches in his socks and weighs 12 stone. According to Mr Knighton, the Arsenal manager, Coopland is fast and absolutely fearless, and is ready, if necessary, to “go through a brick wall.”
He made his debut for The Grecians against Bristol City, 24 hours after signing, and made 9 appearances for Exeter through to the season end. However Coopland was not retained by Exeter at the end of the season and he signed for Aberaman Athletic in the close 1923 season, but never made their first eleven and his subsequent football career is unrecorded.