Coleman's giant strides continue

Arguably Ireland's form player in England right now, all Seamus Coleman can do is continue to make an impression with his club Everton to force his way into the international set-up.

Arguably Ireland's form player in England right now, all Seamus Coleman can do is continue to make an impression with his club Everton to force his way into the international set-up.

Giovanni Trapattoni was conspicuous by Coleman's absence as the Irish team struggled to a limp 2-1 friendly defeat against Norway on a depressingly bleak and wet night and an Aviva Stadium in front of only a scattering of supporters in November.

Having mauraded his way up and down the line to telling effect in the Premier League, 22-year-old Coleman cut a forloun figure on the substitutes' bench, while the manager was the subject of catcalls from the drenched support.

The rumblings continued into the next morning's newspapers, with the naturally shy Coleman's name one of the heaftiest stones thrown at an unadventerous Trapattoni by a national media deepening in their frustrations with the rigidity of the straight-jacketed Italian.

A month beforehand, there was a romantic yarn from Coleman after he was called into the Irish senior squad for the first time for the double-header of European Championship qualifiers against Russia in Dublin and then Slovakia away in Zilina.

He had never seen the Irish senior team play a competitive game, with his only trek from Donegal to the old Lansdowne Road being for a testimonial game for another of the county's favourites, Packie Bonner.

Back on Merseyside, Coleman sensibly diverted public opportunities to dismay any disappointment at being overlooked that he may have had and instead funnelled his energies on his exertions with Everton.

That tact is paying off as since that night in November, Coleman has proven himself to be perhaps the Goodison Park club's most consistent performer and has now scored three goals in his last four outings, five in all for the season.

"It was disappointing not to get on of course," Coleman said of his Norwegian omission. "I was looking forward to hopefully getting a cap but at the end of the day I have to realise that I only came from Sligo Rovers two years ago so I have to work hard to get picked. It was probably more disappointing for the people who travelled a long way from Killybegs or wherever to see me.

"When the squads are released I would always have a little look and see if I was in it or not. Of course I'd always be hoping I would be in it, but on the way to Birmingham on the team bus I got the phonecall from the FAI to say I was called up for the two qualifiers and I was delighted.

"I was surprised to be called up. Even though I didn't play in them, it was a great experience to be involved in the squad for competitive games and meet all the lads. Again being involved in the squad for the Norway game made me feel even more part of it."

For all the talk of Trapattoni's seeming unwillingness to take a punt on the likes of Coleman, if anything that has gone before can be used as an indicator the player himself needn't worry.

After all, in his first start for Sligo Rovers he scored an unfortunate own goal in a match with Drogheda United as a teenager but was to recover from the minor blip to be named on the Eircom League Premier Division team of the season.

At Everton, his fiery baptism in the first team came whilst playing out-of-position at left-back in a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Benfica in group stage of the Europa League at the Estadio da Luz, before winning over the Goodison Park faithful less than two months later with a man-of-the-match showing from the bench against Tottenham Hotspur.

With an apparent desire to concentrate himself on matters future rather than past, Coleman's time will come. This season alone, he's ahead of schedule.

In September, his manager David Moyes took the brave decision to had the former St Catherine's player his first start for the club at Fulham's Craven Cottage in a more advanced role than the right-back had been familiar with.

For Coleman, with club captain Phil Neville operating alongside him on the right flank, it was duck to water.

"Every week I am getting used to playing in the first team at right midfield and am learning it a bit more and enjoying it even more. I'm just happy to be playing. At the start of the season the hope was to get maybe 15 games in the first team, as I didn't really know how it would go having just come back from Blackpool and Everton have a strong squad," added Coleman, who already has 21 first-team appearances this season.

"But I just want to keep going well now and keep in the team or in and around the team from now until the end of the season. Last season, Everton picked up a lot of points in the second half of the season after a slow enough start and it might be a similar enough story this season.

"A repeat of that second half of last season would be nice, but I just look at it one week at a time. We have a lot to play for, but I'm happy with how the season has gone so far.

"We've played quite well and dominated possession in a lot of games but we just weren't taking our chances. In the last couple of games we've got back on track and it's been great for Louis Saha to get two goals in the last two games. It's looking like he is coming into a bit of form and that can only be good for the team."

Coleman has matched Saha, a French international and former Manchester United forward, in Everton's last two games with a goal in each. Goals haven't necessarily made Coleman a better player, but they prove a level of confidence in lofty surroundings.

They might also catapult him to the attention of Trapattoni in a more positibe manner than the screaming tabloids, who has made it abundantly clear he prefers to watch football matches on television, possibly in highlighted form, than wander to watch them.

"That's the aim," Coleman said of a possible first international cap next month. "If I can play well for Everton then hopefully the chance will come and it's up to the manager then if he wants to pick me then but it's definitely something that I want to do."

While Trapattoni is often criticised for his single-mindedness, that same facet is one that continues to drive Coleman onto new levels. To date, each one has been, although not seamless, negotiated with diligence and willingness, so the cap will come. He's proven so far in his fledgling career that fairytales needn't always be make-believe.

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