Denis Irwin feels time is right for Séamus Coleman to move up from Everton
Regular European football a must for full back according to Manchester United legend
Séamus Coleman joined English Premier League side Everton from Sligo Rovers in 2009. Photograph: PA.
The Donegal man has been repeatedly linked with Manchester United over the last couple of years after emerging as one of the brightest defensive talents in the Premier League but at 26 he is already two years older now than Irwin when he moved there from Oldham to embark on a hugely successful 529-game career.
Highest levelIrwin says it’s not that the younger man should necessarily move to Old Trafford but rather that he needs to play regularly at the highest level if he is to be remembered as someone who did battle with the best and held his own.
“Séamus has progressed in every year since he came across, particularly in the last two years,” says Irwin, who was speaking at an event in Dublin to promote Setanta’s hugely expanded rights to the Champions League.
“For him to be world class (however), and this is no disrespect to Everton, he probably has to move to a club that plays regularly in Europe. That is no disrespect to him either but it is the next stage of his progression because he has gone from Sligo, to Everton, on loan to Blackpool and has got better at Everton year on year.
“He has years of experience under his belt now. He is at a good age. At 25, 26, you are starting to get comfortable as a footballer. Most things have happened to you on a football field and you can deal with them. They are probably the best years of your life because you have still got your fitness.”
Everton, as it happens, have struggled this season compared with last and Coleman has had a spell on the sidelines due to injury. He is back playing now but the right back has not quite hit the heights of previous years. Still, Irwin believes he has done enough in his time at Goodison to attract offers from the Premier League’s very best.
“The last two years have seen him linked to top-four clubs,” he says. “They play a very attacking style at Everton which suits him because he is fantastic going forward. He played wing at one stage. If he keeps going of course he is going to be linked with teams in the top echelons of football.
“I know he is very comfortable there, they play good attractive football, sometimes too attacking. They are a good footballing club . . . a good club for learning.”
Irwin now works for his former club’s in-house broadcaster MUTV and there is the clear sense when he speaks that he identifies very closely with United. He avoids the slightest hint of criticism and is positive about the team’s future under Louis van Gaal.
“He’s an experienced manager, players love playing for him, I know that, they enjoy training and you can see that in the spirit of the side, in every game really but . . . their goalkeeper has been their best player this year, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.
‘Tightened up’“There were a lot of matches earlier in the season, Leicester away, MK Dons away in the League Cup, where they were short defensively. I think over the last 17-18 games, they’ve really tightened up at the back. They’re still getting a bit of stick but I think they are the third best team defensively in the league.
“I think the problem in the last three or four months has probably been scoring goals away from home. It’s a battle. It’s a new era and a bit of a change going on but the club are battling hard to qualify in the top four.”