Of all the emotions Seamus Coleman has endured since his serious injury in March 2017, be it pain or loss, the one that’s lingered most is guilt.
It’s an intriguing admission given the Ireland captain knew nothing of the fate to befall him when he sprinted into the Wales half latching onto a loose ball.
Neil Taylor’s wild lunge not alone scythed down his raid but shattered his right tibia and fibula, condemning the skipper to 10 months on the sidelines.
While the customary surgery and rehabilitation followed, so did the range of regrets at what he was helpless to prevent in front of him. Everton, his club since 2009, descended into farce, resulting in Ronald Koeman losing his job. On the international front, the World Cup campaign also ended ignominiously in the play-offs with a 5-1 pasting by Denmark.
Coleman was with his team-mates in both camps every step along the way, trying to empathise with the pain of a different sort being suffered. Mentally, they weren’t alone.
Along those drives home to his wife Rachel and two young children, the 29-year-old would ponder the what-ifs. Could he have stopped the deluge of Danish goals at Lansdowne Road on that fateful November night or maybe his calming influence before and during games might have curtailed the Toffees’ decline.
Even now, back in fine, yet not quite full, fettle, Coleman wonders aloud. Not that he’s any reason to beat himself up over an injury-enforced prolonged absence.
“There was a massive sense of guilt,” he confesses. “Throughout my whole injury that the Denmark second leg was the hardest night because I was so gutted and felt a fully-fit me could have made a difference.
“It was heartbreaking to see James McClean afterwards, he was in bits. I know that’s not the way I should feel but I did. I felt guilty when Ronald Koeman lost his job, believing I could have helped had I been around. Nowadays, to players, managers are just come and go but I don’t like seeing people losing their jobs.
“Ronald Koeman did a lot for my career and showed great commitment by flying over to Donegal after I got the injury.”
During that downtime, Coleman also got to absorb the naysaying. Firstly, he was astounded to read some reports of his career being over and, more as a source of motivation, that the peak form he’d shown for club and country couldn’t be recaptured.
“Soon after the injury, I was reading headlines about me never playing again, which was a load of nonsense,” he said.
“It was all fuel to the fire. You just want to prove people wrong and come back as good and as strong as ever.
“There’s never a good time for it to happen but I was feeling great at the time. I want to get back to where I was at and though I’m physically there, I still need to regain my sharpness. I had five or six chances for Everton during my games towards the end of the season that I should have did better with.
“The same happened last week for Ireland against the USA when I shanked a shot inside the box. I’ve no doubt that I’ll get there.”
With his international commitments finishing last weekend, the Donegalman has a family holiday in Spain booked before returning to his first pre-season since 2016.
New manager Marco Silva will be waiting for him. The old adage of needing to prove yourself to a new boss resonates with Coleman, albeit he has his reservations.
“I’ve spoken to David Meyler about the new manager (Silva) whom he played under at Hull City and, by all accounts, he’s very good,” said Coleman.
“We’ve to go back and show our worth to him which I find tricky because it shouldn’t take a new manager to come in for you to make people step up their game.
“James McCarthy is making good progress on his broken leg. He probably prefers if people weren’t asking about it all the time but when I last spoke to him he was very happy with his recovery. We’ve badly missed him for both Everton and Ireland. It will be like having a new Ireland player when he returns.”
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