Friday 20 September 2019

Coleman's loyalty in fickle business remains an enduring characteristic

Ireland captain Seamus Coleman. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland captain Seamus Coleman. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

He will mark a decade of service at Goodison in January, this son of Killybegs. In less privileged days of yore, this automatically granted a player testimonial, a chance to top up a modest salary with a pension-boosting pay-off.

For obvious reasons - 60,000 of them, ironically, in Coleman's case, his purported weekly wage neatly symmetrical with the bargain fee paid to Sligo Rovers in 2009 - such niceties are rarely required in the rarefied air of the Premier League these days.

Still, Coleman's loyalty to his club is nevertheless noteworthy in an age when that particular currency is often questioned.

And not just in the club game either.

The wearying Declan Rice saga - perhaps soon to be succeeded by a Michael Obafemi soap opera - reminds us that players are now just as likely to face a choice as to what anthem they wish to sing as much as what club badge they may want to kiss.

For Rice in particular, it seems that the decision is balanced upon whether or not the emotional value of playing for one country might be overwhelmed by the financial price that can instead be accrued by playing for another.

Even in Coleman's own case, one might wonder how much more he might be paid were he an Englishman at Everton or, indeed, if he might still be playing at Everton at all.

"If you're a young English player asking for a new contract you may get more money than a young Irish player asking for one," explains Coleman succinctly before offering a subtle illustration of the difference in recognition.

"Take the example of Shane Duffy at Brighton. He has been playing really well but if he plays three good games in a row he won't get as highlighted as much as Harry Maguire. I'm not saying all this applies in Declan's case but generally it's a point."

And a point worth making.

As captain, Coleman has a role to play in welcoming potential recruits to his country's cause but he can only do so much.

"I've spoken to him just to say 'look, it's your decision you have to go with what's right for you basically. We love you and you've been great for us.

"Declan was brought up in England and lived in England. But when I seen him play for Ireland, get man of the match against Turkey, embracing his father in the tunnel, I saw someone who was extremely proud of playing for Ireland.

"So it's definitely not as straightforward as being one or the other. He was born in England was proud to play for Ireland. What's he going to do? I don't know."

The question of nationality, and one's conviction, in football is a complicated business these days, as James McClean is re-discovering.

He may yet run the gauntlet on Thursday against Northern Ireland.

Again, Coleman can only do so much in his role, except to be as supportive as he can.

"I spoke to James and I suppose it's the same every year, we have come to understand it.

"I'm not going to sit here and say I feel uncomfortable with it, I've not really been brought up with the history of it.

"James is from Creggan and it's quite close to him and his beliefs. It should be respected.

"I don't know if there are other players who feel pressured into it. If they are, you would like to think they would not be."

Returning to his own sense of allegiance, even though there may have been fleeting links with bigger clubs, such as Bayern Munich and Manchester United, there is a sense that such a career move has passed him by.

Not that he seems repentant; rather, his regrets stem from the fact he still pines deeply for success with Everton.

Interest

"I was never close to going. There was interest from numerous teams but I never looked for a way out.

"Everyone is different. You can look back and people can say you need to push on, you need to win things, you need to go to the top.

"Loyalty is not really a thing any more as such, but for me I feel good there. I feel they have done a lot for me. To win one cup there would mean more to me than winning it somewhere else.

"That chant is something I'm proud of. I know it was 10 years ago but it's a nice story for me to have come for that price and to have given the club quite a lot of appearances."

When the mood music in his sport is often discordant, such loyalty - and longevity - is to be admired.

"From day one I feel like I have to prove myself every single day.

"You just have to treat every day in training as if it's your first, never get comfortable. I think the day you get comfortable or you take your position for granted, that will be the downfall.

"So just respect the job and give it your full commitment and that's the way I've always been."

Irish Independent

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