Worrying times for Seamus Coleman.
And, by extension, Mick McCarthy.
This isn’t the first time that the Ireland skipper’s club form has been a source of angst for Evertonians but his demotion to the bench since New Year’s Eve — replaced in the side by 21-year-old local boy Jonjoe Kenny — hasn’t made for a promising start to 2019.
Kevin Kilbane spent three years at Goodison Park detecting the vibes, good and bad, that descended off those famous stands and he has been a regular visitor to the blue side of Stanley Park on media duties this season.
Thing is, he hadn’t detected any major waves of dissatisfaction towards Coleman from the masses. Not in the way he had done when the likes of Ross Barkley was the rotten apple of their eye for a time.
Whatever about the fans, Marco Silva clearly wasn’t impressed.
“Was he dropped or was he left out to give someone else a break? He’ll be fine, but Seamus’s game has always been about dynamic running, that has been a massive thing in his career. He’s touching 30 now, so you get to a stage where you have to modify your game anyway, that’s the thing,” Kilbane said.
“I think he will be fine, his positional sense and everything has improved unbelievably over the last six years, so that is the thing he needs to focus on for the rest of his career. It won’t be possible for him to continue going forward as relentlessly as he gets older.”
Coleman had started and captained the side for all 12 games between the Leicester tie back in October — after which he made a return from injury — and the re-run with the Foxes during the festive season before making way for Kenny, who started again against Lincoln City in the FA Cup last weekend.
Rumblings as to Coleman’s effectiveness, or lack of, had been building for some weeks and Kilbane certainly hasn’t witnessed the dynamic Coleman of old. What he wonders is whether that could be down to management as much as Mother Nature.
Coleman was given the freedom to do as he pleased under Roberto Martinez and the fruits of that could even be spotted regularly on weekly match highlights as the Donegal man zipped down the sideline or loitered in the box waiting for scraps.
His straitened circumstances don’t make for the sort of news that McCarthy will welcome as he begins his second stint in charge of the Republic of Ireland but, with Matt Doherty tearing it up at Wolves, could it solve a dilemma as to who to play at right-back?
“That’s a tough one but Matt Doherty’s form suggests he should be in the side, that is the way it is, and there has to be a way to get them both into the side, whatever system Mick decides to play,” said Kilbane. “If it is a back four, does he play one of them at left-back?
“It would seem Matt Doherty is best equipped to play left-back because he has played a lot there before. We have not got an abundance of players playing in the Premier League and he has been our best player. He has been outstanding.
“I don’t necessarily think you can drop Seamus Coleman because what benefit would that be to us? How many players have we had who have been playing at a level Seamus has been at? There needs to be a way to fit them both in. The logical thing to me is to play Matt at left back.”
International football is likely not the first thing on Coleman’s agenda right now as he contemplates a way back into favour at club level and the same can safely be said for clubmate James McCarthy as he returns from a broken leg.
It’s coming up to a year now since the midfielder suffered the injury against West Brom but a lack of any first-team football since has seemingly given the Baggies a case of cold feet after reports that manager Darren Moore was contemplating a loan bid.
Kilbane would be happy to see McCarthy end up at the Hawthorns with WBA currently fourth in the Championship table and just five points adrift of leaders Leeds United but that absence of game-time on his CV lately won’t help him.
“It will be a risk for a team taking him because they have not seen him play at a serious level for a long time,” said Kilbane, a Champions and Europa League analyst for Virgin Media. “He has only been playing U23 level. I don’t know if he will get back to that level.
“Who can know because there have been lesser injuries than the one James McCarthy has had who have not got back to a good level and, then again, there have been players who have had more serious injuries who have returned to the level they were previously at.
“He needs a consistent run of games because, on form, and on his day, he is certainly good enough to get into the side. But he has not really even been performing consistently enough in an Ireland jersey even before the injury. That is the thing that goes against him as it is.”