Seamus Coleman: We have quality to finish the job and qualify for World Cup

In an era when his Ireland team are backboned by Burnley regulars rather than the big guns of the Premier League, captain Seamus Coleman still feels Martin O’Neill’s team carry ample components to finish the World Cup tilt they’ve begun ablaze.
Seamus Coleman: We have quality to finish the job and qualify for World Cup

Ireland sit proudly on top of Group D yet the absence of any squad members within the upper echelons of the top-flight continues to raise questions about their prospects of completing the mission.

Coleman has, and continues to, possess the loftiest standing for an Irish player with seventh-placed Everton.

He could even leap a spot in the pecking order if yesterday’s latest speculation linking him with a move to Manchester United materialises into a bid.

That the 28-year-old, a right-back, is the highest scorer too with four goals triggers another topic of concern too.

Still, the oft-floated argument of club status equating to international success is fraught with anomalies, evidenced by some of Ireland’s rivals for the golden ticket to Russia.

Gilded with top-class talent Serbia may be but their goalkeeper, Vladimir Stojkovic, is being kept out of the Nottingham Forest side by Stephen Henderson, a stopper not even deemed worthy of a place in one of O’Neill’s bloated squads.

While Ireland could only dream of having a representative these days with Tottenham, a calamitous display in November by Austria’s Kevin Wimmer, crowned with a mistake in the lead-up to James McClean’s sublime goal, showed we shouldn’t crib much about our equivalent left-back, the trusty Stephen Ward, operating at unglamourous Turf Moor.

“Look, it’s a different game to years ago when the Premier League wasn’t recruiting the number of talented, foreign players that they are now,” argued Coleman, whose career started in the League of Ireland with Sligo Rovers.

“It is just so difficult for young players from any country to break into a first team at Premier League level but there’s other ways.

“Just because an Irish talent doesn’t become a Premier League player at 18 or 19 doesn’t rule out it happening at other levels.

“The Championship, League One, Scottish Premier League and even the League of Ireland are all good standards. In my situation, I’d played 55 times for Sligo Rovers before coming to England. I was playing for points, learning how three points meant so much to everyone — the fans, the players, the manager. Players had bills to pay. They needed those points to help get another contract. The motivation was there.

“So you had to work so very hard and I brought that attitude with me when I came across to England.

“There was a huge benefit to playing so many games in front of fans — and there are benefits for players who came a different route, whether it is the lower leagues in England, or wherever.

“My point is that you can only make the choice that is front of you. It is a tough one, because if you are a 15 or 16-year-old and a club comes in for you, say it is Manchester United or Everton, it’s very difficult to say no.”

Results and performances from 2016 has the Irish public convinced qualification for the World Cup is possible and Coleman is not one to dampen the feelgood factor.

“As a group, we became even closer during the Euros, it brought us all closer together, and we have nothing but good memories of what happened there, especially in Lille for the Italy game,” he explained.

“As soon as the tournament was over, however, we were all looking forward to being in the squad again. As footballers you want to play in World Cups, European championships. The squad’s bond is a special one.

“And really that comes down to the belief the manager has instilled in us. He is a great man-manager, a great way of putting belief into you, a great way of speaking to you on a one-on-one basis as well.

“And he knows when the time is right for you to be told something as well. Playing for him and Roy has been a great experience.”

Seamus Coleman was speaking at the launch of the SPAR Better Choices ad campaign. The Republic of Ireland captain stars in two separate ads for the new campaign, which showcases the SPAR Better Choices healthy eating initiative.

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