A salute to Seamus Coleman — Part 1

“You know it's hard for me to say these kinda things, because it ain't my way, but if I could just unzip myself and step out and be someone else, I'd wanna be you. You're all heart, Rock.”

Paulie Pennino, Rocky 4

Given the opportunity to do a similar thing myself, I’d quite fancy fifteen minutes as the bloke sharing half a Frey Bentos with Bella Hadid, but if like Paulie I were to opt instead for a stint inside the skin of someone else who is sheer heart….I’d surely choose Seamus Coleman.

As a field primarily focused on the pursuit of achievements and goals, professional football provides fertile ground for egos to flourish at pace. Unfettered, due to the unique pedestal promising young players are swiftly placed upon, pride in accomplishment combined with the rapid accruement of financial riches can soon lead to humility and modesty being firmly pushed aside. 

Not in the case of Seamus Coleman, Everton’s Captain and longest serving player. Along with hard work and loyalty, they are the very qualities that define the Donegal born defender.

Even Frank Lampard, struggling with the dual stress of a relegation battle and rapidly advancing male pattern baldness, was quick to spot it in his early days as Everton manager.

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“I have never seen humility like it, in my time in football”, Lampard said last season.

“I heard a lot of good things about Seamus before I came to the club. He has gone there and beyond. I have never met anyone who has his morals and standards and he is an incredible player. You talk about legends of football clubs and he is certainly one of those”.

How can a player possibly qualify for true ‘legendary’ status without a single trophy to back up such lofty talk? Perhaps the answer lies in the journey? The road taken along the way?

In a game that long ago evolved from pastime to paid entertainment to prime-time pot of gold, the path Seamus Coleman travelled to reach the promised land of the Premier League, remains one unique in it’s rarity. 

Growing up in the small fishing port of Killybegs, County Donegal, the first sporting love of young Seamus Coleman’s life was not football as we know it, but rather a strange hybrid of hoof-ball, rugby and Teen Wolf.

“Gaelic was always my No1," Coleman confesses. "I played bits and pieces of soccer but I didn't have a serious commitment to it.”

That would all change when, aged 17, he was selected to play for St Catherine’s of Killybegs in a pre-season friendly against League of Ireland side Sligo Rovers. A 5-0 drubbing swiftly ensued but the future Evertonian still managed to stand out, despite featuring for the losing side for a mere 20 minutes. Then Sligo manager, Sean Connor, recalls Seamus refusing to be awed when faced with supposedly superior opposition.

“I remember speaking to one or two of my boys who played against him, and asking them what they thought of the kid. They said he was strong and hard to play against, so straight away after that we started discussions with Seamus and his family.”

A first professional contract soon followed, for the princely wage of €150-a-week, but this was no plain-sailing fairytale from the start. Seamus had to adjust his physicality and abrasiveness in order to acclimatise to a game less aggressive than the Gaelic version he’d grown up playing. In the grounding he had received, “if you get pushed you get straight back up. You don't roll around looking at the referee for a free-kick and you wouldn't get one if you did in Gaelic. It's a fight – nothing too serious, but it is pure determination”.

The kid from Killybegs brought his competitive nature to bear in this new environment, but at one point it seemed fight and bite may not be enough. A new manager through the door at Sligo saw six players placed on the transfer list, one of whom was the then 19 year old right-back. In typical fashion, Coleman refused to lose heart and instead chose to get his head down, redouble his efforts, work even harder and set about proving people wrong. 

Soon, he began to stand out once more, and it wasn’t long before bigger clubs looking to snap up a bargain started taking turns to sniff around tentatively. Celtic were said to be interested, as were Newcastle United. Yet, it was a father simply going along to watch his son play who would prompt the next and most decisive step in Seamus Coleman’s journey.

Sean Doherty was a lively left-winger who had spent his formative years at the Everton academy, before departing aged 16 for Fulham, but by 2008 he was a freshly acquired piece of the Sligo Rovers jigsaw.  He was also the sole reason for his father, Mick Doherty, to make regular visits to ‘The Showgrounds’. At least he was, until daddy set disbelieving eyes on a player he describes as being “like a bomb down that line.”

“When I saw Seamus play I was like bloody hell he’s a talent”, Mick remembers. “He was this young, Irish boy who was raw and there was a lot of work to do technically, but he had great heart and spirit.”

As fate would have it, Doherty Senior soon found himself being invited to take up a scouting role with Everton, and one of the easiest/earliest decisions he made was that it may be worth enduring a ploddingly dreary phone call with David Moyes, just long enough until he could get a word in edgewise and get round to recommending the plucky dynamo from Donegal.

Feeling unusually adventurous that day, Moyes decided to go for it (only mouthing the words ‘Ah dinnae know. Ah dinnae know’ a mere six times in deliberation, or so legend has it) and Seamus Coleman was shortly thereafter on his way to becoming a blue.

The sum of £60,000 was sufficient to secure the young defenders signature and, way back in 2009, nobody would have dared suspect songs would soon reverberate around the stands in recognition of said transfer fee representing the ‘snip’ of all time. Far more likely that such a measly figure must indicate some sort of hidden catch or defect. Perhaps the player was inordinately pish, injury-prone, or came with a series of emphatic warnings not to expose him to bright light, don’t give him any water and most importantly…no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs…never ever feed him after midnight.

However, it swiftly became evident that such fears were unfounded. For all the rough edges, Everton had unearthed a rare bargain, ripe with potential.

Par for the course, there was a pesky blister for the player to get past first. A blister that became so badly infected it could have led to the loss of his big toe if it had progressed any further toward the bone.

Despite its horrific appearance, the rotting case of cellulitis eating away at Coleman’s foot was not picked up rocking around Raccoon City, but rather while reclining in a plane seat en route to a pre-season tour of the US. “According to the physios, it could have been disastrous”, said Coleman. “They didn’t tell me at the time, they told me after it was all all right, but it was quite serious.”

Both feet thankfully still intact, Seamus made his first appearance for the blues as a makeshift left-back in the Stadium of Light against Benfica. It was a game memorable to Evertonians for all the wrong reasons. A 5-0 score line, the clubs heaviest defeat in European competition and the young debutants raw inexperience exposed as Angel Di Maria ran rampant down the right.

His Goodison debut, however, would go decidedly better. Coming on as a first-half substitute for the injured Joseph Yobo, Coleman may have taken to the pitch against Tottenham looking like a more callow McLovin with a worse haircut and a mild case of humpback, but he would leave it with his head held high and a man-of-the-match performance tucked under his belt. He spent the game putting in decisive tackles, driving forward down the flank and skipping past Gareth Bale, even bagging an assist with a brilliant ball into the box for Louis Saha to fire home.

Despite such a devastating cameo, David Moyes still harboured doubts about the fledgling full-backs defensive capabilities and decreed a temporary drop down to the Championship could pay dividends. Consequently, unlike Steve Rogers, a crucial early step in the transformation of Seamus Coleman from eager neophyte to inspirational Captain came not in the form of a convenient shot of Dr Erskine’s experimental super-serum, but rather a fruitful loan stint at outpatient Ian Holloway’s Blackpool.

Initially joining the Seasiders on a one month deal in March 2010, such was the swashbuckling right-backs immediate impact that he remained on the Fylde coast for the rest of the season. Twelve appearances, one goal, three assists and a promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs promptly followed, and the player is still fondly remembered at Bloomfield Road for his brief but productive spell to this day.

The respect is reciprocated, with Coleman realising how fundamental that two month period of regular first-team football, in the proving ground of the Championship, was to his future Premier League success. “I'd done quite well at Blackpool”, he states, “so I went back to Everton with a lot of confidence from that, knowing that I could play at that level and it really did help kick-start my career at the club."

The following season saw him cement his place in David Moyes’s first-team squad, starting 31 games in all competitions, mainly from the right side of midfield. His fearless nature and uninhibited Forest Gumpian forays down the flank garnered praise from the Goodison faithful, his team-mates and gaffer.

“He’s done a brilliant job for us…We didn’t manage him to play so many games this season so he is well ahead of where we expected”, admitted Moyes. “I’ve done very little coaching with him and positional play because we want him to improve his crossing and deliveries and getting on the ball. We don’t want to tell him other things. When he goes back into the back four then there will be work to do in his positional sense and a bit more on defending.”

The David Moyes patented ‘intense defensive drills’ would eventually pay dividends, as the late-to-the-game greenhorn continued to hone his craft, but it was the aforementioned added attacking dimension he brought to the side that served to differentiate Coleman from his peers. At that time, his competition for a starting berth on the right-hand side of the blues back line was twofold: Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville. A pair of solid pro’s, defensively sound, but both more likely to dazzle with ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’ style dashing good looks, than any propensity to drive toward that distant goal at the opposite end of the pitch (though Neville did once score from long-range with a quite unbelievable strike against Newcastle, when he somehow managed to lash a shot with his right foot, against his own left foot, and watched the ball loop off wildly over and beyond the probably ‘prone-due-to-pissing-himself’ keeper).

Once the preventive melded perfectly with the penetrative, then Coleman was propelled to a class above either player. He could stay back and stifle an opposition winger quite capably in a more cautious set up, or he could use his pace to push forward prolifically, on the overlap, when given license to cut loose.

The apex of his ascent came in the 2013/14 season with the arrival of Roberto Martinez as David Moyes’s successor. Under the bloviating native of Balaguer the brakes were firmly removed and Coleman now had permission to burst forward at will. A goal and an assist against Norwich, in the opening game of the season, got things off to a great start. He would hit the net a further 6 times throughout the campaign, including 3 in a 4 game game spell during December and possibly the best strike of his professional career. 

Collecting a pass from compatriot James McCarthy, Coleman hared forward and unleashed a thunderous effort from 25 yards out, that sped past Swansea keeper Gerhard Tremmel at the near post with the force of a NAG anti-tank guided missile. Such exhilarating play would ensure Seamus a place in the PFA team of the year, see him pick up Everton’s player of the season award, earn a 5 year contract extension and establish himself as one of the finest full-backs in the country.

Indicative of his endearingly down-to-earth nature, the Irishman did not let such success go to his head. “I don't think about what I may have done in the previous three games”, he mused back in 2014. “It is about proving myself again. None of what has gone on before counts. That is how I like to play.”

However, despite such admirable sentiment and his continued dependability, it is probably fair to say that Seamus Coleman’s form would never quite reach the same soaring heights again.


Read more Everton related nonsense here: https://thebluebyyou.substack.com

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Reader Comments (17)

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Derek Thomas
1 Posted 12/05/2023 at 08:00:09
Excellent so far mate, I had to google 'Bloviating' though and will now endeavour to drop it into the Friday evening's chat in the pub tonight.
Tony Everan
2 Posted 12/05/2023 at 14:23:36
Great read, thanks John. What’s happening this summer is he getting a one year extension on his contract? The impressive way he has played this year it could make a lot of sense for him to be back up / share duties with Patterson.

Bloviating, “verb Bloviate” The art of breathing through the nose when practicing fellatio”

Dale Rose
3 Posted 12/05/2023 at 16:00:12
Fellatio, wasnt he an italian film director.
This apart Seamus, is a God.
Andrew Merrick
4 Posted 12/05/2023 at 16:52:51
Bloviate, bloody hell
Another feather in the captains cap
Jay Harris
5 Posted 12/05/2023 at 17:40:42
Great read John,thanks.

A true blue legend and one of the most deserving of that title is our Seamus.

Peter Mills
6 Posted 12/05/2023 at 18:34:22
A few random Seamus memories:-

Watching one of his first games in a blue shirt, possibly his debut, in a mini-derby played at Widnes, and confidently predicting he would never make a Premier League player.

His breakneck run along the Bullens Road paddock whilst juggling the ball.

Being amongst Swansea fans with my son when Shay scored the screamer John refers to, and the two of us being unable to contain our glee, to much Welsh wrath.

Our long-time match pal, who sits in front of us, turning round after a particularly raucous chorus of “Sixty grand” ringing around Goodison, and saying “What a signing. How much did we pay for him?”.

James Flynn
7 Posted 12/05/2023 at 18:59:52
As always, JD, good stuff.
Tony Abrahams
8 Posted 12/05/2023 at 20:41:23
That swashbuckling juggling run against Arsenal was absolutely brilliant, but my favourite Seamus Coleman moment of that season was definitely his goal that won us the game against Southampton at Goodison Park.
Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
9 Posted 12/05/2023 at 23:10:00
Bit early in these articles for goal of his career. The one against Leeds this season has to be there for the sheer vision and accuracy – let alone its importance. We are 3 points better off than them because of it.
Shane Corcoran
10 Posted 12/05/2023 at 23:30:31
Great read, John, especially with what's going on in his former sport this week. Looking forward to the next instalment. Not sure about the Teen Wolf bit?
Kieran Kinsella
11 Posted 12/05/2023 at 23:54:47
Hilarious, John, lol.

Very informative too.

Ray Said
12 Posted 13/05/2023 at 18:00:06
A great read, John D.

I always look forward to your contributions especially your take on Moyes which is exactly as I imagine him to talk. Looking forward to the next part.

Mick Davies
13 Posted 14/05/2023 at 13:14:33
My favourite player of the last decade. I do believe that without him, we probably would have been relegated seasons ago, and I'd prefer to be next to him in a trench than any of these so called 'hard case' players. A true legend of Everton Football Club, and I hope Nathan can be a worthy successor when he finally calls it a day
Kevin O'Regan
14 Posted 15/05/2023 at 09:11:59
Nice piece, John. I just love Seamus to bits – and despite him being criticised regularly by some who always know better, he just gets back on the horse, carries the cross and rallies the troops, defying his age and leading by example.

What a warrior and a natural leader who probably never intended to be one – just simply 'doing his job'.

Jack Convery
15 Posted 15/05/2023 at 16:11:44
A wonderful heartwarming write-up of our Captain. Seamus has it all, as a human being and a footballer. We as fans can't ask for anything more.

We had better win something next season so he gets a piece of silverware. That is the least he deserves for his service to Everton and the game in general.

Here's to you, Seamus. Slainte!

Dave Lynch
16 Posted 15/05/2023 at 16:30:43
Seriously... the word 'legend' is used far too much in today's watered down, "I want it now" woke society.

As for Seamus... he's not only a legend, he's our legend. A man amongst men who could've fucked off for a better team and the chance of silverware.

This lad deserves every accolade we can bestow on him, faithful, honest, hardworking, and as brave as a lion.

Seamus, I salute you.

Martin Mason
17 Posted 15/05/2023 at 16:41:47
A mighty man?

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