Coleman talks coronavirus response, Everton captaincy and longevity, his successful Blackpool loan spell and his horrific leg break in 2017
Monday 4 May 2020 13:42, UK
Everton captain Seamus Coleman is leading by example in unprecedented times.
Just nine months into his captaincy, Coleman has had three different managers and a football shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic - events he could have hardly predicted when taking over the armband from Phil Jagielka last summer.
"It's been different most definitely, with everything that's going on at the minute," he told Sky Sports. "Changes in managers are never nice to see. As players, you should hopefully feel partly responsible when a manager loses their job. They're the ones that put us on the pitch and we have to do the business when we're out there.
"It's been tough but being a captain of this club, you know it's not going to be smooth at all times. You've got to get on with it and enjoy the good times when they come.
"Jags was a great captain for the club and an unbelievable player, one of the best centre-halves that I've played with, and Phil Neville was a great captain before that too.
"It's not something I campaigned for or went knocking on the door asking for, I just go about my business as normal every day and thankfully for me, some managers see the attributes I have to be a captain. I work hard, I have got standards for myself and everyone else, and I just want the best for everyone at all times."
His hard-working and humble attitude on the field has translated into the strangest of scenarios, with Coleman at the forefront of Everton's 'Blue Family' initiative, which aims to maintain contact with fans and support the most vulnerable in the local community.
As the Republic of Ireland captain, he has also extended his support to vital workers back at home, contributing to the 'Feed the Heroes' campaign which is raising funds to deliver food to healthcare staff working to fight coronavirus across the country.
"Playing for Everton, early on you realise it's a family club and a community club and the work that they do is second to none," Coleman said. "From when this all started, the club got in touch with different scenarios, like ringing elderly fans or birthday messages. I know a few of the lads have been doing home training videos to keep people entertained.
"I was more than happy to get on the phone to a few elderly fans or a few season ticket holders, just make sure they're doing OK. For us, it's picking up the phone for five minutes but it can mean a lot so I think it's so important that the players do that. That really is part of what Everton are.
"Back home in Ireland, we've got our frontline workers working very hard and putting their lives at risk every single day for the country. Someone made me aware of 'Feed the Heroes' and the campaign for that and I made a donation towards it.
"I'm never sure whether to put my name to a donation or not because you never know what kind of reaction you'll get - you'll always get some people saying you're doing it for the wrong reasons - but sometimes I think when you put your name towards something, it gathers momentum and publicity and then we can raise as much as we possibly can for people who are putting their lives on the line."
Coleman has also been involved in #PlayersTogether, a campaign started by Premier League players to help donate money towards the NHS.
He added: "I'm sure all the clubs would have straight away wanted to help in some way with the NHS. Leighton Baines and I had been talking about ways to do it and I spoke to the group about donating some part of our wages to the NHS.
"As we were speaking about that, Jordan Henderson got in touch about his idea for things and he put a plan together for a few of the lads. I think if you can do it as a whole rather than individually, we can hopefully raise quite a few quid for the NHS, which will be massive.
"As players, we all want to help and I'm sure clubs were doing it individually but if you can do it together, it carries a bit more weight."
Coleman is into his 11th year at Everton - a tremendous feat for any player - but how has he maintained such longevity at one club, and what does it take to be a successful Premier League right-back?
"It's probably the principles I've kept from when I first signed or from when I first kicked a ball - work hard and never take anything for granted," he said. "People ask you about when you think you made it, but I never think I've made it.
"Every day when I come into work, I want to improve on what I've done the previous day. In my 11 or 12 years, I've had some very bad training sessions and some very bad games but one thing I've never lacked in those is effort and giving my full commitment. I think those attributes stand you well and to be at a club like Everton for so long is something I'm very proud of.
"For me, especially in the Premier League now with how good players are, positional sense is so important. I got a lot of praise in my younger years for my attacking attributes and as I've got older, it slows down ever so slightly, but David Moyes would have hammered home the defensive side to me as well. I think over the years, I've improved a lot in the defensive side of my game.
"I would say don't hang your hat on one thing - either attacking or defending - I think you've got to work hard on both sides of the game because there will be certain games where you can't attack as much as you'd like and you could have Raheem Sterling inside you and Benjamin Mendy outside you and you don't know whether to go in or out.
"It's about learning the game and learning positional sense, so for me, being in the right position is so important for a full back."
In his early Everton years, Coleman spent half a season on loan at then-Championship side Blackpool, playing in a successful Wembley play-off final in 2010 that saw the club promoted to the Premier League.
Speaking about his time at Bloomfield Road, he said: "That was an incredible spell and it's probably not until now that I'm getting to the later stages of my career that I look back and realise how amazing that really was.
"I think I had about six games for Everton at the time and I wasn't sure about going out on loan, I thought I would be on the bench and get a couple of games here and there in the Premier League, but David Moyes thought it was a good idea to send me out.
"I couldn't have gone to a better club. I think we were just outside the play-offs and we were doing really, really well and I had a manager there in Ian Holloway who said 'enjoy yourself, no pressure'. We played a very attractive style of football actually and we galloped over the line. We came on really strong in the end and to get to the play-off final against Cardiff was amazing, it was such a brilliant game as well.
"I'd done quite well at Blackpool so I went back to Everton with a lot of confidence from that, knowing that I could play at that level and it really did help kick-start my career at the club."
From one end of the career spectrum to another, Coleman suffered a horrific leg break while on international duty with the Republic of Ireland in March 2017, with a tackle from Wales' Neil Taylor putting him out of action for 10 months.
"It was obviously a tough time," Coleman reflected. "The immediate aftermath of it was probably the toughest, in the first few days after. You've got a lot of medication in the system, in a lot of pain and you're a bit drowsy most of the time so you can get a bit low.
"I think I was in hospital for four or five days before I got back to Donegal for a month and as soon as I got there, it was a case of this injury has happened and it's unfortunate, but the only way I can get over it and come back stronger is to use my mental strength that I knew I had. I looked at it as another challenge that I needed to overcome.
"In a weird way, I really started to enjoy the rehab and the challenge of getting back. I look back at that time as a massive learning phase for me and it sounds mad but it's probably something I wouldn't change. It challenged me as a person and it's something I really enjoyed at the time, which sounds quite strange."