Coleman: I just believe we’re going to qualify

Coleman: I just believe we’re going to qualify
Ireland’s Seamus Coleman screams in pain after a clash during Monday’s Euro 2020 Group D qualifier against Gibraltar. Having overcome a serious injury and a loss of form, the Everton man is as hungry for success as ever. Picture: Ryan Byrne.

Seamus Coleman is asked to offer a player’s prescription for a cure for a downturn in form, like “the sticky spell,” as he describes it, which he himself went through with Everton around last Christmas.

“Just, don’t doubt yourself, keep working hard,” says the Ireland captain.

“That’s how I’ve always been throughout my career. Even when things are going well, it’s head down and keep driving forward. Every training session, I give it my all.

"That’s what I did and the harder you work sometimes the luckier you get. And eventually, my luck started to come from January onwards.”

He worries, though, that the fantastic material and financial rewards on offer in football nowadays can serve to stunt the motivation of the game’s rising generation, an issue Conor Hourihane raised last week when he expressed dismay at the sight of young players who seem happier to be relaxing with a game of table tennis than putting in extra time on the training pitch.

“I actually read that interview with Conor and spoke to him afterward,” he says.

I thought it was brilliant. He is right. The game’s changing. There are so many different personalities but I do think that drive probably isn’t the same anymore in kids.

"Probably because they’re getting rewarded for not really doing quite a lot. They can be sorted for life before they have even played 10 Premier League games.

“I think that’s wrong. And I don’t think that’s fair on young players.

"They’re not going to turn it down and you wouldn’t blame them. The whole idea of being a footballer for me is to play in the Premier League. It’s not to have a nice car or have a nice watch. That comes with it if that’s what you’re into. But it’s to be a Premier League footballer, to be as good as you can be.

"There will still be some young kids who have that desire but I do think they are given far too much too soon.

“And it doesn’t help them because, even if you don’t play on a Saturday, you’re still picking up a nice wage and living a nice life. For young 18, 19, 20-year-olds, for me, it’s not ideal.”

For the 30-year-old Donegal man, experienced Premier League player and captain of his country, the motivation now is to maintain high standards, stave off competition, and stay at the top for as long as possible.

“I’m not getting any younger and there will come a stage where I won’t be in the teams,” he acknowledges.

“But I’ll keep fighting every single day in training. And you know,Jonjoe Kenny has just gone out on loan so you would imagine we’ll be trying to sign another right-back and, as I said, every single day in training I’ll fight.

"It’s the same with Ireland where I’ve got probably the best right-wing back in the Premier League fighting with me in training.”

Which nicely tees up the topical conundrum of how Matt Doherty and Seamus Coleman might be accommodated in the same Irish team.

Mick McCarthy seems to think it can’t be done. Naturally enough, Doherty thinks it can. And Coleman?

“I think we could, yeah, definitely. I know the manager did say that but Matt’s a top player and showed it this year. We play differently as well, he plays higher up than me at right wing-back. I think there’s a lot of talk that it didn’t really work in Gibraltar but I wouldn’t massively think that it didn’t work.

"Not a lot did go right on the night, but I wouldn’t say we were the worst two players linking up on the pitch. If the manager sees it (as an option) in the future then it would be great to try it out, or if it’s a case of me and Matt vying for the right-back position that would be no problem either.

“Just speaking on Matt’s character, I was with him after the game the other night. He’s been in for three weeks and he didn’t play in two of the games so far and, after the season he’s had, you’d think there might be a bit of a chip on his shoulder but he’s been fully supportive of me and the lads, so all credit to him.”

And, while we’re on the subject of options available to manager, let’s not forget James McCarthy who, like his club mate Coleman, has had to battle back from devastating injury but who is still waiting for his light to go green again for club and country.

Ireland's Seamus Coleman and Jayce Olivero of Gibraltar. Photo Credit: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne.
Ireland's Seamus Coleman and Jayce Olivero of Gibraltar. Photo Credit: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne.

“I think he’ll probably be trying to get out, there’s no secret of that,” says Coleman.

“He needs a fresh start. When he came back, if you asked me after four or five weeks how he was looking, I’d have said: ‘Ah, he’s doing alright’. But the last three months, he’s been the James McCarthy of old. He was firing into tackles in training, he was getting about the pitch, he was doing his sharp, crisp passing like he’s always done.

“After what I’ve been through, I could just see something change. In just one training session, I saw something change and I was, like: ‘He’s fine, he’s ready to go’. He’s just not been getting in, that’s been his problem. You know, I texted him after the game on Monday and said: ‘Look, you’ve got a big part to play in this Ireland team so get yourself right and get ready to go’. ”

While Coleman fully accepts that people are entitled to criticise the performance against Gibraltar, he remains convinced that, under McCarthy, the Irish players have what it takes to get the necessary results against the group’s top sides and qualify for the Euro 2020 finals.

“We don’t for one minute think we played well the other night, and we know we can improve,” he says.

But I also do think we’re better sometimes against the likes of Switzerland or Denmark where we have to defend for a bit and then maybe we can break.

"And maybe when we’re not expected to win — which, take out of that what you want, maybe that shouldn’t be the case — the lads play with a bit more freedom. I just believe we’re going to qualify.

"And I won’t be changing that opinion.”

SPAR ambassador Seamus Coleman was speaking at the launch SPAR’s new Better Choices Low Fat Protein Milk and Mega Milk.

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