Former Everton and Ireland midfielder Kevin Kilbane believes Séamus Coleman may have to start reinventing himself if he is to see off rivals for his place at right back at the Goodison Park club.
However, the Virgin media panellist feels Mick McCarthy will simply have to find a way of playing both the Donegalman and Matt Docherty when the European qualification campaign come around.
Coleman was left out of the Everton team for the cup win over Lincoln City at the weekend and while Kilbane says he isn’t reading too much into that, he does feel that maintaining the pace and attacking enterprise that has been a trademark of the Ireland skipper’s game over the course of his decade on Merseyside may prove an insurmountable challenge as he moves now into his early thirties.
“I think he’ll be fine,” says Kilbane, “but Séamus’ game has always been about dynamic running, that has been a massive thing in his career. He’s touching 30 now (he turned it in October), so you get to a stage where you have to modify your game anyway, that’s the thing.
“I think he will be fine, his positional sense and everything has improved unbelievably over the last six years, so that is the thing he needs to focus on for the rest of his career. It won’t be possible for him to continue going forward as relentlessly as he gets older.”
Kilbane, a fairly regular visitor to Goodison over the course of this season, says he has never sensed the club’s supporters turning against Coleman but after a year out and with talented rivals pushing for his place, his position cannot be said to be as secure as it once was.
At international level there is not quite so much competition generally but Coleman’s status has still come into question because of Doherty’s remarkable performances for Wolves.
“Matt Doherty’s form suggests he should be in the side but there has to be a way to get them both in, whatever system Mick decides to play,” says Kilbane, who shifted around a fair bit over the course of his own international career.
"If it is a back four, does he play one of them at left back? It would seem Matt Doherty is best equipped to play left back because he has played a lot there before. We have not got an abundance of players playing in the Premier League and he has been our best player, he has been outstanding. I don't necessarily think you can drop Séamus Coleman because what benefit would that be to us? How many players have we had who have been playing at a level Séamus has been at? I think there needs to be a way to fit them both into the side. The logical thing to me is to play Matt at left back."
McCarthy, meanwhile, looks to be on the verge of returning to action after almost exactly a year away but it is far from clear whether Marco Silva sees the 28-year-old as having a significant part to play in his plans between this and the end of the season.
The midfielder has been linked with loan moves to both West Brom and West Ham over the course of the last week or so and Kilbane feels it might be best for the Ireland international to make a switch in order to get back playing regular football again.
“It will be a risk for a team taking him because they have not seen him play at a serious level for a long time,” says Kilbane. “He has only been playing under-23 level. I don’t know if he will get back to that (higher end Premier League) level. If he went to West Ham, it would be a good move for him but West Brom would be a good move too because he needs a consistent run of games.”