Sunday 22 April 2018

Captaincy will not change me, insists Coleman

Ireland's new skipper ready to lead by example, writes Cian Tracey

Seamus Coleman Picture: Sportsfile
Seamus Coleman Picture: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

He may be a man of few words but when Seamus Coleman does speak, his northern dulcet tones command the attention of his audience.

Ireland's assistant manager had his own captaincy style but Coleman (pictured) is of a different ilk and is determined to do things his own way.

Coleman has assumed the captaincy duties since Robbie Keane retired and since John O'Shea has been fighting for his place in Martin O'Neill's side.

The Everton right-back, who is one of the first names on the team sheet for both club and country, was surely an easy enough choice as successor.

While he has captained Ireland in the past, this evening will be the first time that Coleman will lead out his country in a competitive game at the Aviva.

O'Neill has always spoken highly of the Killybegs man and he singled him out for praise after Ireland's stunning 1-0 win over Italy during the summer.

The Ireland manager used the word "inspirational" to describe Coleman's "little speech" that he gave the players on that famous night in Lille but it was his performance that really set the tone.

Coleman might not follow Roy Keane's explosive captaincy style but his crunching tackle on Italian defender Mattia de Sciglio in the early stages was certainly reminiscent of Keane's infamous bone-shuddering challenge on Marc Overmars in 2001.

Barely 60 seconds had elapsed when Keane set the tone against Holland. Coleman took just 14. Different eras. The same results.

While Coleman will continue to learn and develop his own leadership style, he will always let his performances do the talking.

"Look I try to do everything the same and just not change," he says.

"I'm not going to suddenly start shouting and roaring at people, I'll just be the same. Train well, train professionally and do things properly - and that's what I'll continue to do."

Coleman's commitment to the Irish jersey has never been questioned and that was solidified when he battled his way back from an ankle injury to play - and indeed captain the side - in Serbia last month.

His clubmate James McCarthy faces a similar scenario this evening as he attempts to recover from a groin injury.

The midfielder hasn't played since August and with O'Neill confirming that he is in contention to start against Georgia, Coleman reckons McCarthy can still play a key role.

"As a player, you just want to play," Coleman says.

"Your club want you fit, country want you fit, but at the end of the day, as a player, if I'm fit and not feeling any niggles, no problems or no concerns, I'll play, whether that's for Ireland or Everton.

"There's no complications about it, if I'm fit I'll play."

Coleman has been given a new lease of life under Everton manager Ronald Koeman and O'Neill will be hoping that his skipper continues his good form for Ireland.

While Coleman was reluctant to criticise previous Everton boss Roberto Martinez for his perceived defensive mindset, he did admit that he had been given more freedom to venture forward under the new boss.

"It's set a few standards that should have happened in the previous campaign," he explains.

"You know, time-keeping and that - make sure people are in on time is the standard.

"This year is a little bit different: the wingers are coming inside allowing me to go outside a bit more and get in the box a little bit more."

While his defensive solidity is a key component of Ireland's game-plan, so too is Coleman's attacking instinct.

In a typically modest manner, Coleman is reminded that he will win his 40th cap this evening - an impressive tally for a 27-year old.

"Look, to play 40 games for Ireland is a great honour, I didn't know that," he blushes.

"Hopefully we can finish it with a win. You're always trying to improve yourself, and to get to a tournament was a big achievement for us all. We all learnt a lot from it.

"Playing under different managers as well has improved me in different ways.

"But you always want to do better, you never think you are the finished article and you just want to keep improving, keep learning and try and get to this World Cup."

Irish Independent

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