Everton have had an impressive season so far. The emergence of young starlet Ross Barkley has given the English fans dreams of the future. Romelu Lukaku is akin to a younger Didier Drogba, and seemingly the sky is the limit. Roberto Martínez' attractive attacking play has indicated his potential as a top manager in years to come.
However, it is Seamus Coleman who has been one of the breakout stars of the season so far. While any viewers of the game via an English medium are expectedly given a focus on the potential of young Barkley, Coleman's contributions to Everton's impressive season so far have been simply more substantial by comparison.
Even by being part of the leagues strongest defence statistically speaking is sure to garner praise, he is not just a simple member of the team, but a consistent contributor in all areas. As said previously, by being a part of a team with consistent clean sheets, is worthy of attention, Coleman's potency in attacking areas is also impressive. His impressive goals in addition to his exciting attacking nature have drawn the headlines lately, but it should be noted that Coleman's path to the Premier League is certainly not a conventional one. This is what makes his performances all the more worthy of recognition.
Coleman was born in Ireland's foremost fishing town, Killybegs, County Donegal, a region not exactly known for its promotion of soccer. As such, like many other youngsters, Coleman devoted much of his time to Gaelic football in the earlier years of his life. He was first given a contract by Sligo Rovers, a mid-table side in Irelands top division, located an hour and a half or so from his hometown. His potential talent was not noticed, and subsequently poached by the numerous football academies of Britain, which has been the case for decades. This is very much the norm for Irish footballers, whereby the best talent makes the transition overseas before even playing competitively in the Irish senior leagues.
However, the success enjoyed by those such as Shay Given, Roy Keane, George Best and others is not guaranteed. It is apparent that many of the players that constitute the top tier of the Irish division are made up of players who struggled to make the breakthrough at any upper echelons of the English game, and thus returned to their native land. Also, there are the other players who never left the country at all, by working their way through respective Irish youth systems to reach an ultimate destination of the Airtricty League.
Coleman could very easily have fallen into the latter category when told in 2007 by the Sligo Rover's manager that he was no longer needed, and was asked to move to the second tier of Irish football to Finn Harps. However, a change in management gave Coleman the confidence he needed to demonstrate his potential. Paul Cook, he plied his craft with Sligo Rovers until a more advanced age, relatively speaking. He had to be patient for his big break, and may have thought, at the age of 21, his chances of transitioning to even to the 2nd or 3rd tier of English football, would be slim at best.
However, his talent spoke for itself. Supporters may be forgiven for having sporadic memories of 'Seamie' at this point in his career, as that he was a member of the first team for only a short time, after coming through their youth-system. In 2009, a fee of £60 thousand was agreed with Everton and this was to be a bargain price, if Coleman was to fulfil his potential. For Sligo Rovers, it was a fair deal, considering the scarcity of finance in the Irish leagues in recent times, as a result of the collapse of the Celtic Tiger, which has led to the disappearance of other clubs around the country simply due to a lack of financial security.
However, upon arriving at Everton, Coleman was not guaranteed of success. He was never guaranteed a starting position, or even a place on the first team bench. Like many others, he had to prove his worth despite having not come through the English youth system. A teenager coming from a predominantly rural part of Ireland may become overwhelmed by it all, as so many have before. Much potential can be either, unrealised, or, unfounded in the reserve and/or lower leagues of the English system, and it can be hard to distinguish oneself at lower levels. This may subsequently lead to a career at a lower league, or a ticket home, and back to square one.
After three substitute appearances in his first season at the club, Coleman was loaned briefly to Blackpool, where he helped Ian Holloway's side achieve promotion. Coleman returned to Everton and was to be considered ready to consistently represent the first team. Since this his form has improved gradually and consistently, culminating in what has been his best season to date, statistically, in offensive areas, and defensive ones.
His competence in attacking and defending consistently at a high level led to his continued selection for Everton under David Moyes, and presently, under Roberto Martínez. 'He was doing very well anyway - but this season he's stepped up even more' says Robbie Keane, another Irish success story. The new era for the Republic of Ireland national side under Martin O' Neill should see also see Coleman becoming one of the star players for his country. Coleman's performances for his club have also been seen as cause for hope for the future for Irish fans, much in the same way that Ross Barkley's have achieved similar resonance with the English public.
Coleman's path to being regarded as one of the best right backs in Europe has been unconventional, but inspirational to many Irish football fans, who have had little to cheer about in recent times. 'Seamie' from Killybegs is about to enter the best years of his career, and has made a thriving start, giving Everton and Irish fans alike, a likeable, exciting talent capable of playing at the highest level.
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