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Coleman taking life in the fast lane one step at a time

THESE are exciting times for Seamus Coleman. Nervous times too, but the pros far outweigh the cons.

The softly spoken lad from Killybegs is not a fame seeker, preferring to go about his business without any fuss. But his life is changing. He's a Premier League player now and is spending this week with the Irish senior squad for the first time. Fuss comes with the territory.

A head-spinning couple of days. On Friday, he was on the bus to Birmingham, already happy with the knowledge that he would start for Everton the following day, in a game they went on to win.

The phone rang, with Pat Costello from the FAI on the other end of the line to inform the ex-Sligo Rovers star that he was needed as cover for the Euro 2012 qualifiers with Russia and Slovakia.

Coleman (pictured below) proceeded with a planned visit home on Sunday, taking in the Donegal county final between Killybegs and Naomh Conaill.

Considering he was a talented GAA player in his teens, when he excelled in a number of sports, he could have been involved if fate and, most importantly, prodigious talent hadn't pushed the 21-year-old in the direction of the 'foreign game'.

He was disappointed for his pals when their big day ended in defeat, but there was no time to join in the post mortem. Instead, he prepared to meet his new Irish colleagues on Monday, struggling to believe he would share the same dressing-room with people he previously only knew from the television.

Players like Robbie Keane, whose shirt he sought after the Premier League clash last winter that announced Coleman's arrival to the English game.

"It's a bit strange to be honest," admits Coleman. "I don't know if it's sunk in yet. I was thinking about that today. That I was watching (Keane) at the 2002 World Cup and now I'm training with him.

"But it's what I wanted. I'm a bit nervous, meeting new people and that, but I'm delighted to be here. I'm obviously surprised but, at the same time, I was hopeful of getting a call."

So were his growing fanclub. Coleman is unsurprisingly a crowd favourite, with his refreshing approach to the game setting him apart from contemporaries.

He is a full-back who loves to get forward, a provider and a scorer of goals. Last season, he was dispatched to Blackpool for the final furlongs of their campaign, and Ian Holloway told his new recruit to change nothing about his approach. His cameo resulted in a thrilling promotion.

At a higher level, those attacking urges need to be tempered. We still don't know if Giovanni Trapattoni will ever view Coleman as a safe option at full-back, given that the Italian has displayed a preference for bigger, stronger individuals who can operate in the centre of defence rather than the nippy overlapping style of Coleman.

In fairness, David Moyes clearly also feels that Coleman needs to hone his defensive skills before he can be entrusted with Premier League responsibility in his natural position, for his emergence in the last fortnight has been on the right side of midfield.

The player himself admits that he must adapt his game to be effective on the biggest stage. He was able to get by in the Championship and in the League of Ireland, but the top level is far less forgiving.

"Yes, definitely, I know that myself," he says, when asked if he must change his style to play at right-back in the Premier League.

"Sometimes, I'm my own worst critic. I need to know that I can't always be bombing up the wing as someone who can sneak in and get a goal. It's the same with every player; you need to work on every part of your game.


"I read somewhere that he said that playing right midfield will help my game at right-back in the future.

"To be honest, I'm a right-back. But, and I know players always say this, if he wants me to play anywhere I will."

Realistically, the next week will be about watching and learning the Trapattoni way. It would be a huge surprise if the Irish boss pitched Coleman in at any stage of the significant qualifiers with Russia and Slovakia.

Next month's visit of Norway to the Aviva Stadium is a far more plausible setting for a senior debut.

There's plenty to look forward to in the interim.

When this international window is out of the way, the first Everton fixture is the Merseyside derby.

"It would be amazing to be part of such a big game," he says, before asserting: "And I definitely want to be a part of it." He may be reserved, but it shouldn't be confused with an absence of confidence.

This story is only just beginning.

Irish Independent