Everton captain aiming to do better with club and country after tough season
The new season is still only days old and yet the questions and challenges keep coming for one of the longest-serving players in the Premier League.
Everton have had a dismal start to the season and there’s been no chance for their captain, Séamus Coleman, to play a part as he’s only just back from an injury sustained on Ireland duty in June. At international level, Coleman now has a €24m player, Nathan Collins, to add to the competition for his place and already the indications are that his fight at club level will be a relegation battle. Another one.
That’s on a personal level for Coleman – from a wider angle viewed through Irish eyes, the mood music around the Premier League season is depressing with just three players eligible for the Republic starting for their clubs in the first two series of games this season. Yet the veteran is taking it in his stride, his ears long trained in the ability to drown out the noise with club and country.
“I’m not 22 anymore. Yeah, turnarounds are tougher than they were 10 years ago but at the same time you get a great kick from being out there, putting your body on the line and helping as much as possible,” says Coleman.
“I’m at the stage now of enjoying getting myself out there and doing all that I can at the age that I am. I’m not 37, I’m 33 and will be 34 soon. I like still being at this level, still having to fight and prove myself every day.
“I suppose when I feel that I can’t compete any more at the level that I am at, I am not going to just hang in there for the sake of it, I have to feel like I am of value to whoever I am playing for, whether that’s Everton or Ireland. I’ve not looked too far ahead,” he says, while admitting that the extended playing careers of comrades like Glenn Whelan (still playing in League One at 37) and Wes Hoolahan (still in club football at 39) are paths to follow.
“I have planned for the future, you’d be stupid not to, but it’s about going in tomorrow and trying to be the best player I can be in training. You can see the likes of Glenn Whelan, what they have put their bodies through in their careers and to be still playing in the leagues that they are at. Wes Hoolahan as well, but I don’t think you can do that without having the love for it as well. I still have that, long may that continue and see how far that brings me.”
Right now he has to cross the hurdle of winning his fitness battle and getting back into the Everton side.
A hernia injury which flared up in Ireland’s June series in the Nations League led to surgery and he missed the club’s pre-season, though encouragingly he was fit enough to take a place on the bench for last week’s defeat at Aston Villa.
While Jurgen Klopp appeared to be unhappy with how Caoimhín Kelleher’s injury was handled while he was on Ireland duty in the summer, Coleman says his club have no issue with the fact that he got injured while he was away with the Republic.
He’s close now to a return to the side. “That’s up to the manager now as I’m fully fit,” he says, having watched two defeats in two games for Everton. “It’s important not to hold onto any hangover from last season and just judge the two games on what they were.”
But he admits there’s nothing to celebrate in the club’s feat of narrowly avoiding relegation. “I never once said ‘celebration’, in my interviews,” says Coleman. “It might look like celebration but it was relief, relief because a Premier League club at this level shouldn’t be in that situation.
“A lot of people, players included, have to ask why we got ourselves into that situation. We have to make sure it never happens again. Of course we want to have a more successful season than last season for sure, and that will be the aim, but with respect it is a very tough league and nothing can be taken for granted, you got to work very hard to be successful.”
The same applies to his Ireland career, desiring more than has been done. “There have been a few results that we are very, very disappointed in and as players we know we should have done a lot better.
“You are always under that scrutiny. We see it over here with England. It happens at that level. It is just about blanking out the noise and believing in what we do. As players, no, we don’t really take much notice,” he says.
“The group is happy, the group is eager to learn from the manager. When the results are good and we play well, it’s very satisfying, and there’s been a few results that we’re very disappointed in, ones where we should have done a lot better.”
He admits that the severe lack of Premier League talent available to Stephen Kenny will mean a reliance on Championship players.
“The Championship is a very competitive league and there’s no reason why they can’t come over and do well for the national team as well.”