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David Meyler: Quiet leader Coleman sets the standard as a footballer, father and friend

In this week’s column, the ex-Ireland midfielder talks about his former international team-mate and predicts Saturday’s Merseyside derby.

Having a laugh with Seamus during Ireland training in 2012.
Having a laugh with Seamus during Ireland training in 2012.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

EX-IRELAND INTERNATIONAL David Meyler is The42′s football columnist for this season.

Every Friday, the former Hull City and Sunderland midfielder will give expert insight and his predictions ahead of the weekend’s Premier League action, alongside the latest William Hill prices.

In his latest piece, Meyler waxes lyrical about his friend and former Ireland team-mate Seamus Coleman ahead of the Merseyside derby, before predicting the outcome of Man City’s trip to Arsenal. 

Liverpool v Everton, 5.30pm Saturday

The first time I encountered Seamus Coleman was on duty for the Ireland U21s.

Growing up in Cork, we always regarded people as either city or country. Seamus was a country boy in my eyes.

I didn’t know a lot about him but my first impressions from training were that he was very raw and aggressive. You could tell he played Gaelic football — you could see he had that edge.

A month before I made my Ireland U21 debut in February 2009, Seamus was signed by Everton from Sligo Rovers for the famous fee of £60,000. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that it would turn out to be one of the biggest bargains of all-time or that he would to go on to enjoy such an amazing career at the top level.

It was certainly clear, however, that he always had the hunger and the drive to be successful in professional football. I think that was evident from those early days.

This was a fella who wasn’t going to let an opportunity pass him by.

Even at a young age, Seamus was one of the players who would stay after training and work on improving his game. A lot of us didn’t realise the importance of that then but he did.

He will always make sure to get every last ounce out of himself on the pitch. While he has bags of ability, that will only get you so far and Seamus possesses desire in abundance as well as a strong character. They are qualities I’ve learned from him.

seamus-coleman I first met Seamus while playing for Ireland's U21s. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Seamus is a quiet guy who keeps himself to himself but we got to know each other well through representing Ireland. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t go to nightclubs, he doesn’t gamble or doing anything that might have a negative effect on his career, and that is largely down to his upbringing in Killybegs.

He’s very family orientated and is best friends with his two brothers, Francis and Stevie. Prior to the pandemic, they would go over and watch him regularly. Whenever Seamus went back to Donegal, they’d be out doing stuff together. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting his family at Ireland games over the years and they are really close-knit.

On international trips, Seamus has always roomed with his former Everton team-mate James McCarthy. James would have been absent at times due to his injury issues but no one else replaced him in the room.

I’d often drop by and there have been times when we would be up ’til all hours the night before the games watching Midsomer Murders or some other random programme. We’d be sitting there in the room, picking each other’s brains and just chatting about football and life in general.

For me, Seamus sets the standard  — as a footballer, a husband, a father, a son and a friend. 

I remember when he broke his leg against Wales in 2017, some people may have believed that would be the end of him but I never for a second doubted that he would come back as strong.

Current Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti clearly rates his club captain and has compared him to greats such as Paolo Maldini, Sergio Ramos and John Terry when speaking about his leadership qualities. 

Seamus is definitely someone who demonstrates what he wants from his team-mates with his actions.

He has had injury problems this season and missed the Euro 2020 play-off with Slovakia, but made himself available for Ireland’s Uefa Nations League games against Wales and Bulgaria and the friendly with England despite only returning to fitness.

He pulled up in training, however, and was forced to drop out of the squad. I’ve been in  similar situations when you know you’re not 100% and end up re-injuring yourself because your body’s not right.

Seamus puts the team before himself in the way he plays and the way he leads. People might read this and say that’s a bit stupid, but it is testament to his character. It’s the way we were brought up — you do everything you can to make yourself available.

britain-soccer-premier-league Coleman and Fulham's Ademola Lookman during the Premier League meeting last weekend. Source: Jason Cairnduff

He was performing excellently prior to that and has returned to the Everton line-up in recent weeks. If they are going to knock on the door for European spots, Seamus needs to be playing. Mason Holgate has been deputising during his absence, but when the Toffees start with Seamus at right-back and Lucas Digne on the left, they are a far better side.

At 32, he’s obviously getting on and it will be important to look after himself but there is still fire in his belly and he has a lot to offer them.

The Merseyside derby is one of the proper rivalries in English football. The matches are rarely classics in terms of a spectacle, and I can see this Saturday’s game being a tight, scrappy affair.

Liverpool haven’t been in great form by any means but Tuesday’s win over RB Leipzig will be massive for them psychologically. The Reds are used to playing teams who are sitting deep, but their Bundesliga opponents set up with a high line and tried to press. That opened the game up for Liverpool to go and attack in the manner which we’ve become accustomed to seeing them, and it was a real confidence-booster.

With Carlo Ancelotti in charge, you would think that Everton are going to respond after the disappointment of the Fulham loss and the midweek defeat to Man City. That said, Seamus won’t want to hear it and I know my predictions haven’t been fantastic lately but I expect Liverpool to nick a 1-0 win.

Arsenal v Man City, 4.30pm Sunday 

arsenal-v-manchester-city-carabao-cup-quarter-final-emirates-stadium Man City forward Phil Foden and Dani Ceballos of Arsenal. Source: PA

I think it’s hard to look past Man City at the moment — 17 straight wins in all competitions — and I believe they are only going to go from strength to strength.

Kevin De Bruyne is back now and Sergio Aguero has also been trying to regain full fitness after returning to the squad.

I know Arsenal had a good victory over Leeds last Sunday and Mikel Arteta will be delighted to see his captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, among the goals again after scoring a hat-trick but I think Pep Guardiola’s side just look too strong.

I’m going to say 3-1 to City with Raheem Sterling getting on the scoresheet.

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