Near the end of Ireland’s scoreless draw in Stockholm, as he was shaping up to take a free-kick, he was seen to exchange some seemingly sharp words with assistant manager Marco Tardelli before goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly stepped forward to calm things down.
Up in the press box, not everyone could resist the temptation to discern the seeds of one of those management-player face-offs which have been a recurring feature of the Trapattoni era, perhaps another example of things getting lost, or maybe even getting heated, in translation.
But alert to a lurking headline, Coleman is quick to snuff out the danger. “It was nothing, he [Tardelli] was just telling me to sharpen up a bit,” he explains. “He probably saw the ref coming before I did so I just had a word back. But it was nothing to speak about, it’s football. He wanted it taken quicker and he was right because the ref was coming. There is no story to be made from it. I wasn’t wasting time, there wasn’t a lot on and I didn’t want to take a short one because there wasn’t long left. It’s just one of those things.”
It was the first time, says Coleman, that he was ever booked for time-wasting, something he could never be accused of in his nascent international career now that, if a little belatedly, he has nailed down the right-back spot for his country. It might have taken Richard Dunne’s injury and John O’Shea’s redeployment inside to finally free up the space but, such has been the speed of Coleman’s progress since then that, already, it’s unthinkable anyone else could rival the Donegal express for the role. And with all the other changes in the Irish squad since the Euros, he appreciates that, for himself and his fellow young guns, their time has come.
“We lost a lot of big players,” he acknowledges.
“Dunney is injured at the minute and will be welcomed back into the side but Duffer is a massive player, I’m sure he could still play for Ireland, he’s that fit. We, the younger lads, need to step up now and show we belong on the international stage. But you saw on Friday why James McCarthy is playing international football. He’s a top player, James McClean was brilliant and then there’s the likes of Robbie Brady wanting to get in.
“We’re not that young now, we’re 22-23, so we need to step up and be counted. We’re all confident now. We’re playing in the Premier League week in, week out, which is a great league. We needed a chance to get in (to the Irish team) and when you’re in, you need to impress to stay there.”
Dismissing the notion that Giovanni Trapattoni likes to keep the handbrakes on, Coleman suggests, rather, that his instructions are really no different for club and country.
“He (Trapattoni) likes me to get forward as much as I can,” he says. “It’s the same as Everton. I don’t just go flying off up the wing every chance possible. If (Leighton) Bainsey is going down the other side, I have to tuck in. On Friday, we were away to Sweden so I had to pick and choose when I went forward but there’s nothing saying I can’t go forward or holding me back. That’s probably my main attribute, getting forward, it’s what I like to do, but you have to be sensible about it too. If Marc Wilson is gone on the other side, I’ll not be going anywhere. That’s the role of a full-back.”
Tonight, Coleman’s ability to drive the team on from the back will hopefully help yield the one thing that was lacking in Stockholm — a goal.
“I thought we played well all round,” he reflects, “but we got no goals and we need them now in this game. We’ve got good players — Longy had a good chance on Friday and I’m sure he’ll be mad to score. Playing at home is always an advantage. I think if we play with the confidence we did on Friday, we can win the game, A draw wouldn’t be the end of the world but we’re not going in to draw.
“Austria won’t be easy but we’re going in for the win.”