No drama and no sulking for Coleman – just dreams of Brazil
The Killybegs man just wants to keep his head down and his eyes on the prize
It was six years ago, but you get the feeling the memory still burns a little for Seámus Coleman. Called in to the manager’s office. Told he had no future at the club. Best to move on.
“My Dad dropped me over. I went in. Rob McDonald says: ‘Look, you’re not in my plans, I want you to go to Finn Harps’. Came out. I don’t think I even told my Dad. I couldn’t bear to.”
So, he was left wondering if he had a future in football at all, having chosen it over Gaelic football after he was signed by Seán Connor for Sligo Rovers.
“But he left soon after and the new manager didn’t fancy me from day one. But he was gone soon enough, Paul Cook came in, and he made me feel like I was the best player in the League. It just makes such a difference when you have a manager who believes in you.”
But, as a teenager, how did you handle that rejection?
Determined to prove him wrong?
“Massively,” he laughs. “I would be that kind of character. I didn’t sulk about it. I just got on with it and worked hard. Luckily, I had a year left on my contract so he couldn’t force me out. And, thankfully, he left before I left.”
So, it was almost like the record company that turned down the Beatles?
“Ha, yeah! But to a smaller scale,” he insists, modestly.
That, then, is the story he recounts when you ask him how’s he coping with life after David Moyes, the manager who gave him his break in England after he joined Everton in January 2009. He’s not, he says, unfamiliar with having to start afresh, which is how he views his situation under Moyes’ successor, Roberto Martinez, despite having made the Everton right-back position his own last season.
“Starting all over again, that’s the only way I would look at it. If you take your place for granted, you could be in for a shock.
“The new manager is a completely different character. David Moyes was a tough man, any bit of praise you got from him you knew you’d done something right – he wasn’t one of those to tap you on the back every day and say ‘well done’ – and he’d let you know if things weren’t going well. So, you worked hard for him. I’d only have good things to say about him, he gave me my chance in England. It was disappointing to see him go, but I will always be grateful to him.”
Footballing life goes on, though, change, he says, inevitable. And there was plenty of it on transfer deadline day for Everton. “I was sitting there for the night in front of Sky Sports News. A few of the lads went to the cinema, but I couldn’t leave, I wanted to see could James’ [McCarthy] move get done, so I was delighted when it did.”
“He’s a great lad, he’ll fit in brilliantly. We’re roommates with Ireland, we’re probably best mates in the squad, so it’s brilliant for the two of us.”
“I thought we did very good business. The [Marouane] Fellaini one was hanging over the club for a while, but we got good money for him, got James in, and two more great signings, Gareth Barry and [Romelu] Lukaku. Exciting times.”
And after a busy enough spell with Ireland, during which he was named man of the match in the draw at Wembley in May and briefly captained his country in August’s friendly against Wales, he comes back refreshed, his trip home, he says, the highlight of his summer.
And on his return, he was greeted by what is now a regular sight: a bunch of mini Séamus Colemans on his Killybegs estate. “Aye, little kids running around in Everton jerseys with the ‘Coleman 23’ on the back. No matter how long you’ve been over in England, or how many games you’ve played, when you see it, it does take you aback a bit. But it gives you a great feeling.
“You still feel like a kid yourself, so it makes you smile. I was there in the summer, must have been outside for an hour and a half, had a big kickabout with all the kids, it was great.
“I’m very proud of where I come from. They’ve been difficult times for Killybegs, especially with the fishing. There’d be a few of my friends who’ve left for England, a few in America, Australia, but I don’t get treated any differently by the ones at home. It’s just like I’ve been away for the weekend. It’s not Séamus Coleman the Premiership footballer, it’s the lad they played Gaelic with. Grew up with. They keep me grounded. My family do too. Any chance I get I go home.”
He watched the 2002 World Cup in the Fleet Inn back home “as a young lad”, Euro 2012, when he missed out on selection, in Fawltys. His dream, he says, is to play in a major tournament with Ireland.
“It would be nice to have a bunch of people in Fawltys and the Fleet Inn watching me in Rio,” he smiles.
Much as he misses home, though, he’s “well settled” in Liverpool now. “It was very difficult at the start, but thankfully I was 20 when I went over, some kids go over when they’re 15, 16, that’s something that I probably wouldn’t have been fit to do. I got to do small things, like go to my Debs, stuff like that, things that you’d miss out on if you’d have gone over at a young age.”
“My girlfriend Rachel [Cunningham] lives with me now, she moved over from Killybegs last year. I’ve been going out with her since school, so we’re well settled. But even when we have a couple of days off we try to get back home, we’re homebirds,” he smiles.
“It’s a good city Liverpool, I’m really happy over there,” he says, when asked about his ‘party animal’ status. “But I’m in England to play football, it’s what I love doing. I’m not one of the lads for going out and about that much. When’s the last time I was out in Liverpool? Probably about a year ago. I enjoy playing football and coming home and watching it. That’s just my life, really.”
Your whole life?
“Well, it wouldn’t be football 24/7,” he adds, lest you concluded he was obsessed. “We’d go to the cinema, we’d go for a stroll around the park, play a bit of miniature golf . . . which gets quite competitive.”
In a relationship-threatening kind of way?
“A couple of times, yeah,” he nods.
But, head down, no sulking, no moaning: He’ll work hard at his miniature golf. Just like he does with his football.
With thanks to Three, primary sponsor of the Irish football team.