Let’s be honest, there were a few people out there - maybe about this time last year - that worried what the future might bring for Seamus Coleman.
After a whirlwind progression that took the unassuming Killybegs native from Emerald Park to Everton, Coleman’s progression looked like it hit the point of stagnation.
Season 2011/12 hadn’t gone well. His plight wasn’t helped by a crude challenge by Carlos Marchena of Villarreal in a pre-season fixture that resulted in torn ankle ligaments and a six-week lay-off.
Footballers have spent longer on the treatment table but the injury meant Coleman was chasing his fitness for what was likely to be his most important season to date.
But even though he was in the party for Ireland’s two-legged Euro 2012 play-off victory over Estonia in November 2011, his place in the squad for the finals wasn’t assured.
He finished the season without a goal or an assist to his name and carried a burden having blamed himself for Andy Carroll’s late winner for Liverpool in the Merseyside FA Cup semi-final ,having fouled Steven Gerrard in the lead-up to the goal at Wembley.
To compound his disappointment, he was not selected to travel to Poland. Instead, Coleman watched Ireland in Fawlty’s Bar in Killybegs, sipping on a lucozade in an Ireland jersey he had worn whilst representing his county.
He would spend the evenings at home kicking football with youngsters on Cummins’ Hill - something that reminded him of his own youth.
Coleman’s rise had been reminiscent of the romantic stories of yesteryear.
He admitted to working twice as hard at training as he hadn’t ever received anything like the level of coaching that some children as early as primary school get in England.
Some of the dynamism possessed by Coleman came from his Gaelic football background. That level of heart and commitment is certainly a positive characteristic, but, occasionally his crime might’ve been over eagerness.
His grounded personality and sense of homeliness wasn’t in line with the way the red-tops splash stories about the stereotypical Premier League footballer. Maybe he was just too nice a guy to make it to the very top of arguably the biggest rough and tumble business in sport.
But although Coleman possesses a pleasant, laid-back and humble exterior, inside he’s bubbling with an unequivocal desire to succeed. It was that craving that made Coleman, then only 17, stand out so much in 20 minutes of a friendly for St Catherine’s against Sligo Rovers one January afternoon in 2006, manager Sean Connor effectively signed him before he could leave Emerald Park.
Everton manager David Moyes had been sensible in not making Coleman walk the plank as an inexperienced right-back in the Premier League initially, preferring first to loan him to Blackpool in the Championship and then introduce him on the right of midfield at Goodison.
Last season, though, Coleman got the opportunity to perform in the position he feels most natural. He looked more composed on the ball, had improved defensively and broadened his portfolio when attacking.
In matches for Everton, particularly towards the end of the season, Coleman was excellent, most notably in the 2-0 win over Manchester City in March and then the scoreless draw at Arsenal in April. Statistical analysis, with use of the following data from EPLIndex can back up Coleman’s fine season.
“Coleman’s tackling accuracy was the highest at Everton, with an 84 % success rate, ahead of Sylvain Distin (80%), Leighton Baines (79%), Phil Jagielka (68), and John Heitinga (63%). Coleman also had the edge in the minutes-per-tackle-won category, winning a tackle every 41.6 minutes. Baines had 46.85, Distin 69.2, Jagielka 73.37 and Heitinga 133.5.
“Posting 80% passing accuracy from 758 passes, Coleman was above the team average – 79%. Testament to the improving attacking qualities, 67% of his passes came in the opposing half with 32% in the final third.
“Attempting 97 crosses, third in the Everton standings behind Baines (353) and Kevin Mirallas (120), Coleman recorded the best crossing accuracy from open play – 25%.
“Registering five assists from 27 goalscoring opportunities, thus level with Marouane Fellaini and Baines; only Steven Pienaar (six) recorded more than Coleman. The assist figures for Baines and Coleman were the best of Premier League defenders”
For someone who failed to board the plane to Poland, Coleman is now the undisputed right-back for Ireland.
Competent against both Sweden in Stockholm and then Austria in Dublin, Coleman’s showing in the 1-1 draw with England at Wembley in May was outstanding.
He’s a sought-after individual and with Moyes leaving Merseyside for Manchester United, there will always be speculation over Coleman, one of the bargains of the century at a mere £65,000 fro Sligo Rovers back in 2009.
And whilst Coleman might’ve cut a disappointed figure 12 months ago, he used that as a spur to get him where he is now.
He’s living not only his own dreams but those of every soccer supporter in Killybegs and in Donegal. It’s been an exciting journey to date and this season could be the best yet.