SEAMUS, T'BE SURE, T'BE SURE...... IS IT Y'SELF THAT'S IN IT?
Mickey Blue Eyes
Look, I know "Seamus" is one of those stereotypical names that incite helpless giggles in grown men. Names such as Igor, Henry, Willy, Jean (the French masculine one), Jeremy, Mungo, Twrgadarn, Leroy and Pak Do Ik do pretty much the same thing. But put your phonetic levity to one side for a moment and listen up. Apparently there is a Very Very Serious Issue for you to consider, in fact almost as desperate as the transfer window rumour circus and its urgent infant play pen. If you listen to some bubble brains - yes, go ahead and take the piss out of them - the fate of our entire season rests on resolution of The Issue. Namely, so to speak, should rookie Seamus Coleman be in or out of the team? Poor lad, he has become a cause celebre for the aficionado mentality. So how do you make up your mind, assuming "the problem" has bothered you more than a fart in a bottle?
Me, I agree totally with David Moyes's assessment, since he has more football knowledge in his thumb than our entire fan base has in its entire connected neuron network. That is, Seamus not in until he acquires better defensive instincts or shows he can play wide right mid or stops listening to mating calls from gnus in the crowd. Put plainly, we have enough problems at wide right mid without compounding them at the back too.
So, consider precedent......
Once upon a time, long long ago, in a galaxy far, far away we had two players in successive eras; one great, right half Jimmy "Gabby" Gabriel......and one promising, right back Peter Scott. The odds are you have heard of Jimmy but not Peter. In differing ways this is relevant to the current quasi-hysterical mini saga because The Issue has an eerie ring of Peter Scott about it, plus an echo of a short-lived and long-forgotten Gabby episode. More of both in a moment. Meanwhile, Seamus's profile on the official website says this:
"Coleman is a right-back and has represented the Republic of Ireland both at Under-21 and Under-23 level, making his international debut for the Under-21s in a friendly against Sweden in 2008.
He began as a central midfielder before switching to full-back.
Coleman signed for Sligo Rovers in 2006 having begun his career at hometown side Killybegs.
The Donegal-born full-back signed for the Blues at the end of the January transfer window in 2009, having had reported interest from Celtic, Birmingham City, and Ipswich Town.
Coleman linked up with Andy Holden and Alan Stubbs in the Blues' reserve team squad, but by the time the 2009/10 season came around he was on the fringes of the first team squad.
But he was dealt a major blow in pre-season when a freak foot infection threatened his career. Coleman battled back though, and was handed a senior start in, of all places, the Stadium of Light in Benfica.
He then played at Bolton and AEK Athens before turning in a fabulous performance on his home debut, setting up two goals against Tottenham in December 2009.
He remained on the fringes of the first team squad before moving to Blackpool on loan in March 2010."
The official website also tells us Seamus will be twenty-two years of age this October. This raises the question of his adaptability. By that age a player is usually settled on his best position and play style, though of course there are always exceptions and there is always something new to learn. True, there are examples of late development but by and large the demands of the game are quite existential and cannot be avoided. You couldn't imagine Jack Rodwell, for instance, not being clear on his playing options in three years time. And it is patently obvious to all except the most benighted that Seamus is no Jack and never will be. It takes more than a sensational display measured in minutes to become an accomplished or great premiership player. Ask Wayne Rooney. Or any long term fan who has seen all this before. In other words, Seamus might still make it, but the clock is ticking. He has a lot of persuading to do. We hope he fully understands this and does the necessary, for himself if not the club. His footy future is at stake and it is mostly in his own hands, natural talent notwithstanding. One thing he might learn is not to stand off during a goalmouth scramble the way he did for Huddersfield's goal in the League Cup match. There is nothing more guaranteed to piss a fellow defender and a manager right off. If he carries on like that then I am afraid the lower leagues beckon, which would be a great pity for him and us. Promise you will buck up, Seamus. We want you to succeed as much as you do.
And so to Jimmy Gabriel and Peter Scott and their relevance.
Gabby played three hundred and four times for us and scored thirty-seven goals. He played for Everton between 1960 and 1967. He left the club reluctantly when Harry Catterick signed a very young Howard Kendall and it became obvious who was going to be first choice. But everyone loved Gabby and his tirelessness and determination, which also brought him two caps for Scotland. Initially Howard Kendall had to work very hard to win the crowd to his side. We won the championship in 1963 and Jimmy was crucial to that great team. The following season we played second division Leeds away in the FA Cup fourth round, drew 1-1 and won the replay 2-0. Gabby scored the first replay goal when he played centre forward; he played there because Alex Young by his own standards had had a difficult season up to then, scoring only nine goals in thirty-three League, Cup and European Cup games. There was a fans clamour to pick Jimmy at centre forward to make up for the shortfall. But it only lasted a few more games, including another score in a winning derby game against Liverpool. Weeks later we signed centre forward Fred Pickering from Blackburn and he scored three on his debut and might have had five. Briefly we went top of the table, but finished the season in third place after throwing away some vital points in the closing weeks.
Peter played forty-eight times for us and scored one goal. He was with Everton between 1970 and 1975 and made his breakthrough into the first team in 1971 after Tommy Wright had a bad time with injuries. He played seven times for Northern Ireland when later he moved to York City. In November 1971 we beat Southampton 8-0 then promptly went on a six match winless run that included four matches in which we scored none.......Football, ey? By then it was obvious the great 1970 championship team was breaking up. Then we played Crystal Palace away in the FA Cup third round, drew 2-2, and beat them 3-2 in the replay. Peter scored in the first few minutes of the second game. By then Harry Catterick had been away ill for some weeks, which turned out to be the beginning of the end for him. When he came back he was mortified to find the team playing like a bull-in-a-china-shop, and Peter Scott charging down the right wing like Alex Scott. He tried to restore the School of Science reputation but it was far too late. We were knocked out of the Cup in the next round, won only two more league games and finished fifteenth in the league. It was the end of an era for us and despite some good runs we never really recovered until Howard Kendall's great teams of the mid eighties.
The relevance of Peter and Gabby to Seamus Coleman is this: both of them were crowd-pleasers because they barrelled forward with the kind of buccaneering runs beloved by crowds across the world, but particularly in England. By and large English crowds don't want to see push and run footy, they want goalmouth action. This is why average Dutch or Italian games would empty our stadia. But Peter's defensive work left a lot to be desired; he tried hard to rectify it but never managed it and soon became a reserve player. Gabby of course was never a centre forward and the patchy experiment was quickly abandoned. In both cases the crowd loved to see them chasing everything and cheered them to the echo. In both cases it was simply unsustainable because there's more to team play than listening to the crowd. Anyone who has played the game will tell you the same. Seamus, beware you don't become just another meteor burning up in the atmosphere. Football crowds can do that to a young player.
So if it came to a straight choice between Tony Hibbert/Phil Neville and Seamus, at the moment Tony/Phil gets my vote every day of the week and twice on Sundays. They have a proven track record, Seamus hasn't and won't get one until he buckles down and concentrates better. If he doesn't learn the lessons he won't make it, simple as. It's a hard but necessary fact of professional football life.
And yes, I have been waiting impatiently to use this as a closer - no gnus is good news.