Coleman needs to get out of Everton while he still can
It can be difficult to decipher how much substance there is to January transfer rumours but if Manchester United really are interested in Seamus Coleman, it's time for him to help make it happen.
Coleman doesn't come across as the type of player who would sulk or under-perform in training and demand a transfer but, at some point, a hard-nosed attitude about what is best for his own career has to take precedence over whatever loyalty he may feel towards Everton.
David Moyes famously signed him for roughly what he now earns every week but, if Coleman hadn't been good enough, that £60,000 fee would have been written off and he would have been bombed out of Goodison Park in the same manner that hundreds of players are let go from clubs every season.
At this point, Coleman owes Everton nothing, but having signed a five-year contract last summer, the club hold all of the power at a point in his career when he needs to find out if he is good enough to make the next step.
This season, Everton have been a shambles, and while Roberto Martinez has been good for Coleman's development, the longer their defence continues to concede goals because of various degrees of ineptitude, the more their collective stock is going to fall.
It has crept up somewhat that Coleman is now 26, an age that's hardly over the hill but one which reduces the chances of successful clubs bidding big money for his services with each transfer window.
Last week, United were linked with a £20m move for Coleman, and it's in comparison to the player who could potentially be a team-mate on the opposite flank that Coleman's relatively advancing years are startling.
Coleman once recalled that his earliest World Cup memory was 2002 and Robbie Keane's famous goal against Germany, which is enough to make anybody over the age of 30 feel pretty ancient.
Last summer, before the World Cup, Luke Shaw was asked the same question. "Frank Lampard took that shot and it went over the line and it didn't count," he recalled. "That was the only one I can remember."
The World Cup he was talking about was in 2010.
When talking about his international retirement, Lampard revealed that he had once spoken to Shaw and referenced Tony Adams but the 19-year-old left-back didn't know who he was. That might speak of a slight ignorance of football history but also underlines just how quickly generations of players move from potential to established to veteran status in what feels like the blink of an eye.
Coleman is now very much in the middle category and may not get many more chances to move to a club where expectation of supporters, greater quality of team-mate and consistent challenging for honours will help him fulfil his potential. With the best will in the world, he's not going to get that at Everton.
His fellow Donegal man Shay Given endured a career where there was always the suspicion that he could make the step into the elite of the Premier League but never got a chance to do so.
Had Given not been injured late in the 2009/10 season against Arsenal, there's every chance he, rather than Joe Hart, would have started the following season as first choice as the Manchester City revolution gathered pace.
Given might have struggled to get a Head and Shoulders gig but would, finally, have been able to test himself with a team competing at the highest level. That was Given's 35th Premier League game of that season for City but he never played another one.
Coleman is a long way off that stage but there can be few things as frustrating as reaching a certain point in a career wondering if you could have achieved more - particularly if that realisation comes when it's too late.
One of Coleman's current team-mates knew it. Gareth Barry had been at Aston Villa for over a decade and, in all likelihood, would still have been there finishing somewhere between seventh and 15th every season, getting knocked out of cups after a few rounds and picking up his wages while being something of a nonentity.
Barry was 28 when he left Villa for Manchester City amid accusations of being a mercenary, which prompted him to write a letter to Villa supporters explaining his decision, even though he had given them 12 good years.
"I have a massive fear of going stale and falling into a comfort zone," explained Barry. "I feel I am joining a club that will seriously challenge to win major honours."
His popularity at Villa Park might be gone but the FA Cup and Premier League winner's medal in his possession probably provide ample consolation.
Manchester United might not challenge for the Premier League this year but, if they are interested in making Coleman the latest multi-million pound block in their re-building project he, like Barry, needs to make it clear that he wants to go.
Martinez, naturally, wants to keep him and has sent out the usual "hands off" warnings which look good in back-page headlines but are usually just a device to eke every penny out of the bidding club.
Martinez himself might be giving everything to solve the club's current problems but, if Arsene Wenger, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho or Manuel Pellegrini resigned in the morning, he would, and should, jump at the chance to replace them if the opportunity came his way.
Loyalty is a nice idea but, for a team game, a player's success is often built on how selfish they are in making decisions. If Coleman has the chance to move onwards and upwards from Everton, he needs to take it while he can.
Tweets of the week
Robin Van Persie (@persie_official): Solid start from @MvG180 Jenkins also a very good darts player. Good match, game on! - The Manchester United striker lends his support to fellow Dutchman Michael van Gerwin at 'Ally Pally' with no interest, it seems, that Liverpool were playing at the same time.
Noel Hunt (@boyhunt): I would like to sincerely thank everyone involved with @Official_ITFC I can't thank the Staff,fans & especially the boys enough - The Irishman expresses his gratitude for those at Ipswich Town after his loan spell ended and he headed back to the mad world of Leeds United.
Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5): Hope you all see in the new year in style. Wishing for a prosperous & healthy new year to you all. #SpareAthought #sarcasm - Given how much abuse he got for requesting that people spare a thought for footballers at Christmas last year, the Queens Park Rangers defender shows that he has a sense of humour.
Wayne Rooney (@waynerooney): A lot of injuries over this Christmas period for all teams. - The United striker stops just short of asking for sympathy. He'd be a long time waiting.
Cillian Sheridan (@CillianSheridan): Just watched "The Interview". North Korea were just trying to do us all a favour, they didn't want us watching a terrible film #SoundLads - The Irishman does his best Barry Norman impression.
Roberto Mancini (@robymancio): Benvenuto all'@Inter @Podolski10! Welcome #Podolski - The Inter Milan manager welcomes his new signing in a way he'll enjoy - by having his name in a hashtag.
Lukas Podolski (@Podolski10): Keeping an eye on the FA Cup today, hoping to see an Arsenal victory! #AFC #FACup good luck... - It won't take long before Inter fans "encourage" their new signing to look forward rather than back.
The question nobody asked
How many of the Liverpool team in which Steven Gerrard made his debut are still playing?
There were lots of future pundits, a few future managers and one future Ireland manager in the Liverpool team that first featured Steven Gerrard.
As his Liverpool career draws towards a close it's a measure of how long he has been around that Steve Staunton was in the starting line-up for Gerrard's first game when he was introduced as a substitute against Blackburn in November 1998.
Jamie Carragher, Jamie Redknapp and Michael Owen have all headed to the studio, as has Gerrard's fellow substitute Danny Murphy, while Paul Ince was the other player, other than Staunton, to head to the dugout.
Of that day's squad, the only player other than Gerrard still playing is Brad Friedel, who was alongside Gerrard on the bench that day.
The team in full was: David James, Steve Staunton, Phil Babb, Vegard Heggem, Stig Inge Bjornbye, Jamie Carragher, Jamie Redknapp, Patrik Berger, Paul Ince (c), Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen. Subs: Brad Friedel, Bjorn Tore Kvarme, Danny Murphy, David Thompson, Steven Gerrard.
The bet you should have done
Birmingham to beat Blyth (2-0 down at half-time) 5/1
Putting money on a team to come back from 2-0 down and win away from home is generally pointless but when the team in question plays its games six divisions above their opponents, it's worth a punt.
That was the situation which Birmingham found themselves in at the break in Saturday's FA Cup third-round clash but, for anybody eyeing a punt on a tricky day, they were certainly worth a half time gamble and, within 15 minutes, had repaid anybody's faith who took the chance.