Nothing particularly new in this, but just a reminder of what a signing Seamus has been for both Blackpool and Everton also the type of man he is. Love the guy.
‘Sixty Grand, Sixty Grand, Seamus Coleman’ – the making of an Everton hero
Greg O'Keeffe and Patrick Boyland May 2, 2020 10
“Sixty grand, yeah. I supposed in the grand scheme of things you think, ‘Jesus, sixty grand. They could have got a better deal…”
Seamus Coleman’s friend and former team-mate Gavin Peers chuckles. He’s thinking about the song Everton fans love to sing of the ridiculously meagre transfer fee David Moyes’ side paid for their future captain in January 2009.
It’s one iconic element of Coleman’s story that supporters love to savour. Something that adds context to just how brilliantly rare his journey is in modern football.
Had things turned out differently, Coleman’s association with Everton could have been over before it had even properly begun.
Behind stalwart Tony Hibbert in the pecking order at right-back, the Irishman headed out on loan to join Championship side Blackpool in March 2010, initially with the aim of impressing enough to secure a permanent move away from Goodison.
“I still remember the first day Seamus arrived at Blackpool,” Blackpool team-mate Keith Southern recalls. “He must have known I lived in Liverpool and in that lovely soft Irish accent he’s got, he asked me if I could take him in to training.”
Every morning, Coleman would get a taxi from south Liverpool to Southern’s home in Kirkdale, before hitching a lift to Blackpool training. During their journeys up the north-west coast, Coleman would regale Southern, an Everton academy graduate, with tales of his experiences at Goodison and the pair would reminisce about those they had worked with at the club, like kit men Jimmy Martin and Tony Sage.
There was a mutual fondness for a club close to their hearts, but, at one stage, Coleman was close to following a similar path to the former Blue. “Seamus said to me at one point: ‘I’m only coming on loan with a view to putting myself in the shop window and leaving Everton this summer’,” Southern says.
Coleman did impress. So much so, in fact, that he convinced his parent club to give him a new long-term contract.
“He was a breath of fresh air,“ says Southern. ”There was no fear and a real character about him. He just skated up and down the right-hand flank in the Championship that season without a care in the world. He’d dribble past three or four players and was unlike anything we’d seen at our level for a long time.
“I think it took Everton about eight weeks to realise they couldn’t let Seamus go and they gave him a new deal. He actually then gave me some petrol money for taking him in, which was nice!”
The season ended in personal and collective success as Blackpool beat Cardiff City in the play-off final at Wembley to secure promotion to the Premier League. Soon after, Coleman returned to Everton to renew the fight for the right-back jersey at Goodison, but he had left a lasting impression on his former team-mates.
Coleman (second left) celebrates Blackpool’s play-off final victory (Photo: Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images)
“I just knew he’d be a success. He had all the right ingredients, and was so humble,” says Southern. “He was so quick and raw because he’d come from Irish football and not had that academy background. In a weird and wonderful way, that was great for him as he just played off the cuff.
“His behaviour and the way he conducts himself is a credit to his family. We met them all after the win at Wembley and they were so down to earth. I remember speaking to them, telling them how proud they should be of their boy.
“I’ve kept in touch with him ever since. If anyone deserves success in football, it’s him.
“Did I think he was going to captain Everton and Ireland? Maybe not. But it’s hard to doubt such a determined and hard-working young man. He’s improved and adapted to Premier League life, watched some big personalities leave Everton and gradually just stepped up. What a wonderful captain and ambassador he is for Everton.”
January 31, 2018. Amid a deluge of rain, Everton’s long-term right-back is once again turning heads; this time by defying the odds in the most emphatic way possible.
Almost 10 months after sustaining a horrific double leg break on international duty with Ireland, Coleman has returned to Everton’s starting line-up — and is promptly proceeding to put Leicester to the sword with his tireless running and combination play with new signing Theo Walcott.
There are, for those in attendance, scarcely any tangible signs that the Irishman has been away at all. Certainly not for such a lengthy period of time, in any case.
One lung-busting run late in the game almost leads to a comeback goal and prompts a standing ovation from an astonished Goodison crowd. It is a performance that surprises everyone apart from those that know Coleman best.
It had been a long journey back for the Killybegs native, but the speed with which he made his mark on the pitch on his comeback spoke volumes.
Under the supervision of then-head of rehab Matt Taberner and physio Carl Howarth, Coleman had stringently followed a performance-based recovery process that focused on his own individual needs. His running-load demands were tailored to his status as an energetic full-back and, with each target he hit, confidence grew that he would make a full recovery.
A recovery was one thing, but the performance against Leicester was a different matter entirely.
“The run he made in the last few minutes of his first game back tells you everything you need to know about Seamus,” a former colleague says. “He is dedicated, committed and loves playing football with a passion. A true professional.”
It is a sentiment that plenty others who have come into contact with Coleman would echo wholeheartedly, with Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin recently describing the Ireland international as a “great example in terms of how to conduct yourself as a professional”.
“It is something I’ll never take for granted. It’s probably not something I ever thought would happen. To now be Everton captain is a massive honour for myself and my family. I’ve got my own standards that I live by and to captain this club carries responsibility”
In the summer of 2019, after a decade of service, Coleman was named Everton’s official club captain, replacing Phil Jagielka who had left for Sheffield United.
The 31-year-old is, to borrow a phrase used to describe current manager Carlo Ancelotti, a quiet leader who aims to set standards across the whole club, from the dressing room to the club’s charity, Everton in the Community (EITC).
Every year, Everton players sign a pledge to participate in EITC schemes throughout a season, but, as captain, it is Coleman who leads on initiatives. He is an active participant and generous with his time, making phone calls to vulnerable and isolated supporters affected by the coronavirus pandemic as part of the ongoing Blue Family campaign.
The acts of goodwill do not step there. In April 2019, Coleman donated £5,000 to a GoFundMe page set up to raise funds to bring a six-year-old Irish Everton fan suffering with Apert syndrome over to Goodison for a game. Earlier this year, he gave around £20,000 to a fundraising campaign created to provide meals for frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and was also credited with making a donation to the League of Ireland Emergency Fund.
“He is as kind-hearted a player as you’re likely to see. Everton are the perfect club for him and he embodies the club. He just gets it,” says one source.
Speaking to The Athletic recently, Michael Keane credited Coleman, alongside team-mates Leighton Baines and Aaron Lennon, with helping him get through tough periods early on in his Everton career.
Sensing all was not well with Keane, who was battling a nasty foot injury, Coleman was one of several team-mates to take the struggling defender to one side and offer guidance.
“It really helped, because they’ve been through tough times as well,” Keane said. “To have that togetherness in a team is massive and I’ve been lucky since I’ve been at Everton that all the lads are brilliant people.”
Interventions of that nature are not unusual for a hands-on captain who has earned the full respect of the dressing room. Such is the role of a captain, not every skipper is able to command almost universal popularity to the extent Coleman does.
“He makes it his business to set aside time to talk to players individually and support them to check they are fine,” a source says. “He speaks to them to help when things aren’t going well and gives them praise when they are performing.”
“Seamus is a top guy, a great professional and a winner. He’s great in the dressing room,” adds a former team-mate.
John Conwell, 39, is a father-of-two who grew up over the road from Coleman on the Cummins Hill housing estate near St Catherine’s, Coleman’s first football team.
St Catherine’s are a proud old club. Formed in 1896, they play an integral role in the community with a track record of producing strong teams through the age groups. Like Coleman, many of the Cummins Hill boys play Gaelic football at local clubs such as Killybegs during summer and then “soccer” at St Catherine’s in winter.
“When we were kids, I’d play outside on the estate with Seamus and his brothers,” recalls Conwell, who went on to coach Coleman and those other friends in St Catherine’s under-16 side. “Even then, he had to be tougher than the rest because he was quite small of stature. But he really got stuck in. He’d be this mop of blonde hair whizzing around, determined to win.
“I always say tenacious. He’d keep digging away until he got the ball. It was an attitude he had from day one and I think it’s what helped him become the player he has.”
A young Coleman (back row, far right) strikes a pose…
The game that signalled Coleman’s first step on the road to the Premier League is now part of St Catherine’s folklore. League of Ireland club Sligo Rovers came to town for a pre-season friendly in 2006, and Coleman marked their experienced centre-forward Sean Flannery out of the game. Afterwards, Sligo’s manager Sean Connors went straight to his opposite number Brian Dorrian.
“He asked to speak to Seamus and his parents, who were there watching,” Conwell says. “They went into the clubhouse and he said he wanted to take him to Sligo. He said he’d arrange accommodation and a small wage.
“Finn Harps, another League of Ireland side, were interested as well, but they couldn’t even offer travel expenses, so Seamie went to Sligo. The other thing is Sligo is only an hour and 15 minutes from Killybegs and he’s a home bird.
“He’s always been like that. When he was going to Liverpool for the first time after agreeing to join Everton, I went with him and his brother on the drive to the airport. We dropped him off and had only got about 40 minutes from the airport when he phoned us to say bad weather had cancelled the flight so could we go and get him again.
“We turned around and when we got there he had this big smile on his face as if he’d been over there for months and was coming home for the first time.”
Even after joining Everton, Coleman would still return to Killybegs, a fishing port, during post-season. But it was not to let his hair down away from the limelight.
“He has a house in Killybegs and it overlooks the sea beside Fintra beach,” says Conwell. “I was on the beach one day and this old boy came over to me and goes, ‘Jesus Christ I’ve just seen Seamus Coleman and he wasn’t jogging up those sand dunes — he was flying up them’.
“You might get others who would go on the beers for a week in the summer, then slog it out in pre-season but Seamie just keeps going the same all-year round.”
Coleman’s legacy stretches across the town, but most vividly in the changing rooms and Astroturf pitches of St Catherine’s, where he is hero-worshipped.
“Once when he was home, he saw me in the street and I was heading to take a training session,” says Conwell. “He asked where I was going. Then, when I was there setting up the drills, he turns up and said he’d help.
“Here’s this Premier League player and the lads are a bit star-struck, but he didn’t cut across me. He was just there tapping them on their back and giving them encouragement. I can give it out a bit sometimes and I just heard his quiet voice going, ‘I see you’re still as grumpy’.
“The kids adore him. Whenever he’s here, they ask him loads of questions and he sits down and answers them all.
“Killybegs is a small town with work that can be heavily seasonal. We don’t get much spotlight, but thanks to Seamie we’ve had the captain of our country and Everton. There’s immense pride in him.”
“I gave him my place,” jokes Gavin Peers, who shifted to the right side of central defence shortly after Coleman became Sligo’s new marauding right-back.
Peers, now 34, roomed with Coleman and team-mate Keith Foy in Crozon Crescent, a short drive from the town centre while the trio played at the Showgrounds stadium.
“He scored an own goal on his debut,” laughs Peers. “I remember he was furious with himself. The ball came across the box and hit him and went in. Obviously he’d wanted to make a good impression and he was fuming, but the gaffer Cooky dealt with him really well.”
Under Liverpool-born manager Paul Cook, Coleman’s prospects had started to look up. Rob McDonald, Connors’ successor as Sligo manager, had not been convinced by the raw youngster from Killybegs, but he in turn was replaced in 2007 by Cook, who instantly saw in Coleman what others had in that friendly a year earlier.
“Like most of the lads who’ve played a lot of Gaelic, he was really fit,” says Peers. “There’s an attitude and work ethic where he’s from and he encapsulated that. Seamie is teetotal. We had a good craic in the house, but after the game at weekends, he’d stay out of me and Keith’s way and drive home.
“In the week he’d play Pro Evo in the evening and keep his head down. On the pitch, we linked up really well. He loved to get forward even then and I’d fill in for him when he bombed on.
“He was pretty shy, so you couldn’t say he’d have definitely been a captain, but on the field he had the intensity from playing Gaelic. We’d joke that lads who weren’t good enough to play football played Gaelic, but it served him well.
“He just had this knack of making things happen. He didn’t score many, but I remember this one goal; he set off running and went past about four fellas. The ball’s bouncing off their shins like in a GAA game, but Seamie was still keeping it, then suddenly he was through on goal.
“That will to win was what set him apart. I remember I suffered a bad cruciate injury at the same time he had his double leg-break and I wasn’t surprised how dedicated he was to getting fit and playing again.
“It’s hard to get back completely to how you were, but he’s gone on to be a regular in the Premier League again.”
Peers, who is now a sports coordinator for FAI and still playing for Glentoran, was selected for the Republic of Ireland under-23s together with Coleman and remembers how his friend left Sligo shortly after being dropped by his country at that level.
“He didn’t make a squad, but he had these opportunities to go on trial in England. Celtic and Birmingham were interested in him, but Everton offered him a deal. Mick Doherty, who was on the scouting team there, liked him.
“It was such a good opportunity for him and he never looked back. When Sligo got £60,000 for the deal, it wasn’t unusual. It wasn’t long after the banking crash and that money probably helped keep the club going.
“I think the fee rose a fair bit over the years in clauses, but you do laugh about it compared to what he went on to achieve. Back then, though, who would say he was going to do what he’s done? It was a one-in-a-million shot.
“All you could say: he was, and is, a great fella who’d run through a brick wall for you. The rest he made happen for himself by taking his luck when it came to him.”
Everton’s former assistant manager Alan Irvine recalls how far removed Coleman seemed from the academy-bred youngsters around his age when he first arrived at the Premier League club.
“I was there for the early part of his time at the club and I have to say, at first, he looked a way off being in the first team,” he tells The Athletic.
“But he has been an unbelievable servant and a guy you are delighted to see make it at every level because he is such a classy man and model professional.”
Coleman (right) in Salt Lake City with his new Everton team-mates (from left) Jack Rodwell, James Vaughan and James Wallace on the club’s pre-season tour in 2009 (Photo: Clayton Chase/Getty Images)
“He has made the most of what he’s got. Seamus won’t look back on his career and think, ‘I maybe could have done a bit more’. There are plenty who do and they might have been more naturally gifted than him. Or maybe they came through the more standard, easier routes into the professional game. He has maximised everything.”
Irvine admits he took a shine to the quiet young man because he knew, to some extent, the size of the task he had taken on in swapping semi-professional football in Ireland for one of Europe’s top leagues.
“It was such a huge step,” he says. “It was actually interesting for me because I made a similar sort of step up albeit in a different time. My last game in Scotland was for Queen’s Park at Cowdenbeath. Then I went to Everton and my next game was against Inter Milan in Japan.
“So I looked at Seamus, coming over from Sligo and suddenly at a Premier League club and wondered how it’d be for him. It’s hard to appreciate the magnitude of the step up. From my point of view, I never thought I’d make that step. I told myself to enjoy it and seize the opportunity to play professional football but at the same time I was prepared to go back to being an insurance broker.
“I left Everton before he broke into the first team, but I always kept an eye on his career. It’s so rare to do what he did. Did I look at him when he first came over and see a future Everton captain? If I’m honest, no! Knowing the size of the task I thought it would be a magnificent achievement for him to have played for Everton at all. For him to do that and then become so important in the club’s history is remarkable.
“I don’t know his parents but they’ve done a good job because you speak to anyone in the game and they talk about his humility and class. The way he handled his injury was full of class. A lot of people could have been bitter or angry but he wasn’t. You see how he was with Son Heung-min after the tackle that saw Andre Gomes so badly injured (Coleman consoled a visibly distressed Son). He’s the type you love at your training ground, the example he sets.”
The financial landscape at Everton was very different when Irvine was there in various roles. It was the era of penny-pinching and forced ingenuity in the transfer market with budgets so tight.
Even so, what does he make now of that fee? Sixty grand. Most of Everton’s first team earn that in a week.
“It was a little punt for Everton,” says the coach who is now back at West Ham with Moyes. “The club wouldn’t have had huge expectations, probably not to have got a player who would have had this career and longevity.
“They would have said ‘It’s only £60,000, this is a lad who we’ve been told has got something, so why not?’ Full marks to the people involved in making that decision. It’s the sort of deal you would maybe have got in the Championship or League Once, but not usually in the top flight.
“I don’t think we’ll see deals like that anymore because of the demand for instant returns and the type of fees you see being paid now.
“Aye, they got their money’s worth.”
I thought there would probably be too many words for you.
Nevermind you got 4 pictures.
Pity you can't colour them in
Leesthedaddy wrote:I got bored, when I FF down the scroll I’m glad I didn’t give it much time. 👍Ignoramous😡
Magic147 wrote:Brilliant player.And really nice bloke. He spent a few minutes talking to Will when we met him after a game.