Monday 21 August 2017

Coleman now box-office star

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

FOR Seamus Coleman, a trip to the Theatre of Dreams is a fitting juncture in a year that has developed into a fairytale.

He was on the bench when Everton visited Old Trafford last season, waiting for his chance and enchanted by the magic of the venue.

"I'd love it if I got some time against them," he reflected, ahead of his journey to take on Manchester United today. It's an odds-on chance that he will.

Coleman's star is rising. The secret is long since out. He's box office in Everton now; it was the unassuming Donegal lad who took on the job of delivering Easter eggs to the Children's Hospice in nearby Bebington this week.

It was his face that shared a portion of the 'Liverpool Echo' front page with Kenny Dalglish yesterday, the caption claiming that for Coleman, it was 'Blues before Ireland.'

wrench

Fear not, it wasn't a Stephen Ireland-style outburst. Rather, the 22-year-old was observing that pulling out of the squad for last month's Euro 2012 qualifier with Macedonia through injury was a necessary wrench with a view to ensuring he didn't spend too long on the sidelines with his employers.

After all, they pay the wages; and his weekly pay has multiplied during his meteoric rise this season.

Coleman is now in the £25,000-a-week bracket, so he knew that attempting to struggle through the Macedonian game with an ankle problem could potentially have been very costly.

"I didn't want to leave the Ireland camp at all," he reflected. "I was desperate to stay, but I knew that it wasn't right.

"I'd be the type of player if I was maybe 70 or 80pc fit, I would try to play, but it just wasn't right and I had to be honest.

"At the end of the day, Everton is the most important thing to me. They pay my wages and I had to come back and get on with it. It's natural to worry about losing your place while you are out. I got in because someone was injured."

The Killybegs native has progressed from being a stop gap, however. There was some good news to soften the blow of a brief spell on the sidelines. A nomination from his peers for PFA Young Player of the Year knocked Coleman for six.

He remembers taking a call from his father, who urged his son to log on and take a look at the PFA website immediately.

Coleman's name was on the shortlist alongside Gareth Bale, Nani, Joe Hart, Javier Hernandez, Samir Nasri and eventual winner Jack Wilshire in an elite gathering.

"The first thing I did was ring my brother and I couldn't wait to spill it," he said. "I wasn't expecting it at the beginning of the year. It would never have been on my mind.

"It was just nice to be mentioned among those names. I was scrolling the web page looking at the other lads nominated with me and it was sinking in."

It is company in which he has gradually become more comfortable. Even still, he concedes that the football fan in him will relish the challenge of locking horns with the title favourites today.

His natural instinct when the fixture list comes out is to have a look where Manchester United figure, for he remembers the schoolyard battles between the United and Liverpool followers.

"Old Trafford has got a special excitement for me," he says. "The first fixture I look out for is the derby but the United game is next.

amazing

"I was on the bench at Old Trafford last year and it was great. The lights were on and the atmosphere was amazing. I've played at a good few stadiums since I broke into the team, but United's would be up there among the best."

Everton come into the game looking to stretch their unbeaten league run to eight, indicative of another season where they have spluttered out of the blocks before coming with a late flourish.

"It would have been better at the start of the season," mused Coleman. "We wish it had come earlier but we just need to make sure it lasts until the season is over now.

"If we knew what to do to stop a slow start, we'd have done it in the summer. I can't put my finger on it."

Either way, Coleman bears no responsibility. He benefited from the tardy opening to become a permanent fixture. Next season, he could set the agenda.

Manchester United v Everton

Live, Sky Sports 2, 12.45

Irish Independent

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