O’Neill hopes Coleman sticks with the Toffees

Ireland manager says defender can continue his rapid progress with Everton and Martinez

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill sees Séamus Coleman’s future at Goodison Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill sees Séamus Coleman’s future at Goodison Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Sat, Mar 22, 2014, 00:12

If Séamus Coleman does disappear up the East Lancs road this summer it seems it won’t just be Roberto Martinez he’ll disappoint, for his international manager Martin O’Neill also appears to see the Donegalman’s future burning brightest at Everton.

The former Sligo Rovers full-back has this week been linked with a move to Manchester United and a reunion with former Toffees manager David Moyes, but Martinez, the Scotsman’s successor at Goodison Park, is loath to let him go. And O’Neill can see his point.

“I think that Everton would be disappointed with that and I think that the manager (Martinez) yesterday tried to defuse all those things,” said O’Neill yesterday. “I think Seamus is pretty content at the moment, not only with how he is doing but with what he is doing and who he is doing it for, Everton.

“They’ve given him that opportunity and you would have to say that for the foreseeable future you can only see him getting stronger at Everton.”

The 25-year-old has blossomed this season into a potent attacking threat from the Everton’s right handside, scoring six league goals, the most recent last weekend’s injury time winner against Cardiff. It has been eye-catching stuff but O’Neill hinted there was still plenty to work on, especially in defence.

“In the game (2-1 defeat) against Serbia, I think he felt himself that once or twice defensively he could have dealt with a few situations a wee bit better,” said the Ireland manager at Mounthawk Park where the FAI was announcing details of their regional development programme. “But I haven’t a problem with him, he’s been absolutely superb for Everton and hopefully when the big games come round he’s perfectly fit for us.”

Thankfully, he said, it’s easier to teach a player how to “be destructive rather than constructive”. He added: “He’s got that ability going forward and as time goes on for club and country he’ll iron out any sort of little things he feels he should be working on.”

Ireland captain Robbie Keane is another the manager appears to trust to make the right decision and if that is to see out his career in America with Los Angeles Galaxy, so be it. Ireland’s record goalscorer said this week he expects his new Major League Soccer contract to be his last.

“Robbie is Robbie, he’s proven himself,” said O’Neill. “Hopefully, gone are the days, where you used to think that if you’re playing in a supposedly lesser league that you’d have lost your appetite, your enthusiasm and, maybe, are not up to the rigeurs of supposedly Premiership football. But I’m not so sure that that’s true now.”

Looking ahead to the summer, O’Neill said he would be “delighted” if Nottingham Forest midfielder Andy Reid was fit enough for the May friendlies against Turkey (Aviva Stadium, 25th) and Italy (Craven Cottage, 31st), and for the trip to the US, where Portugal and Costa Rica are expected to be confirmed as opponents presently.

Like Reid, Darron Gibson has yet to feature for the new manager, but he may well be on the plane in the summer if he has recovered from a cruciate injury and Everton feel the game time would do him good. O’Neill, it seems, will take his lead from the club on that one.

After the summer, O’Neill admittted a friendly before the opening Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia in September would be preferable to help with match fitness at the start of a new season but if it doesn’t happen, it won’t “be the end of the world”.

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