In an interview that originally appeared in the matchday programme ahead of Saturday's win over Crystal Palace, Seamus Coleman discusses being part of a “different dressing room” at Everton, the challenges of not taking his work home, his incessant hunger to improve, and the ethos that underpins his behaviour in football and life...
Seamus Coleman has just sat down for this interview at Finch Farm when he overhears an Everton youth player is about to sign his first professional contract in the media auditorium next door.
“Is he there now?”, Coleman enquires of Club photographer Tony McArdle and, after receiving the nod, politely asks for a few minutes to congratulate the youngster before we get started.
Almost 14 years into his Everton career, Coleman’s virtues as a player and a captain are well documented, but such gestures are illustrative of the humble, inspiring leadership the 34-year-old brings to Everton Football Club each day.
“Never mind being a leader or captain, I just want to be a good person,” says Coleman, as our conversation gets under way.
“I want lads to feel at home here as much as possible but, at the same time, have standards on top of that.”
In an interview in these pages for Everton’s previous home game against Manchester United, summer signing James Tarkowski explained how a text from Coleman welcoming him to the Club “made such an impact”.
“It was great to know there was someone there for me as a new lad," the centre-back added.
For Coleman, signing a player of Tarkowski’s ability, confidence and temperament is evidence of the Club recruiting smartly and moving in the right direction.
“It feels like a different dressing room this season,” says Coleman. “We’ve got a great group.
“James is a big part of that. He’s been unbelievable since he came in. He’s a great player and he’s a great character, too.
“It's hard to mention James without mentioning Conor Coady in the same breath. Again, he’s such an infectious person – he’s so full of life, full of personality and enthusiasm all the time.
“We’ve learned a lot from last season and the manager is trying to build his own philosophy and his own standards around the building.
“Slowly but surely, I believe it will all come together.”
Saturday's game against Crystal Palace was the first meeting between the sides since that unforgettable May evening when Everton put to bed weeks of tumult, tension and angst by recording a dramatic comeback victory to seal Premier League survival.
Coleman admits those final months of the 2021/22 season took their toll.
“If you had my wife sitting here and you asked her about it, she would understand,” he says.
“It sapped everything from us in our private life. The manager will be the same, the players here will be the same. It was tough.
“There’s no getting away from it. It affects your mood and your routine. You try to keep it away from your kids, of course you do, but there’s no getting away from it – the mood’s not the same at home.
“You can try to leave work at work but, because of the situation we were in, it was too hard.
“You need to have thick skin to play at this level and you need to keep grinding it out. We did that and we got what we needed in the end.
“Thankfully, I have good family around me. My wife is great and, honestly, the kids definitely take your mind off it at times, but it was still so tough.”
A father-of-three and a family man to the core, Coleman’s face lights up when chatting about his children playing football and coming to watch him in action at Goodison Park.
“My eldest girl has got a match today, so I can’t wait to hear how she got on,” he says.
“The two girls [aged six and four] love going to the games. They are big Everton fans and it’s the highlight of their weekend.
“The little man is only 18 months, so he’s a bit too young to understand it at the moment.
“He’s already kicking the ball around the house and the garden, though!”
Coleman moved to Merseyside from Ireland in 2009 but there is no sign of any Scouse twang as he speaks to us on a crisp autumnal afternoon at Finch Farm. His daughters, however…
“They both have Scouse accents! They definitely have. It’s strange, my wife and I are both Irish, but we don’t even think about it. It’s when we go home as a family and people go, ‘Oh my God!’
“With my accent, I think I have softened it a bit since I first came over.
“I remember in my early days here, on a Saturday night, I’d be ringing Steve’s chip shop for a takeaway, and they didn’t have a clue what I was saying! I had to slow it down!”
Coleman’s enduring quality is highlighted by the fact he is just 11 appearances away from hitting the 400-mark for Everton. He would become only the 19th player to reach that milestone in the Club’s 144-year history.
It is clear his passion for the game still burns as brightly as when he arrived at Everton as a fresh-faced 20-year-old.
“This is the dream,” he says. “To play professional football is a dream I don’t take for granted, especially for a massive club like ours.
“I know it’s not going to be forever and I just want to be the best I can every day.
“I’ve never lost that fire in the belly.
“I just want what’s best for the Club. I work hard every day to make sure the Football Club is getting better.”
It is that attitude which led Frank Lampard to salute Coleman as “one of the best men I’ve ever met in football”, and you would be hard pressed to find an individual in the game with a bad word to say about the Everton skipper.
Roy Keane – unfairly, in Coleman’s opinion – is typically viewed as a somewhat fearsome individual, both for his combative exploits in his playing days and his uncompromising television punditry.
Keane has never spoken with anything but warmth towards Coleman, though. Having worked with the full-back while Republic of Ireland assistant manager, Keane said of Coleman: “He leads by the way he plays, and that’s by being a brilliant player and a good lad.”
High praise indeed.
“With Roy, it probably depends on the personality you are,” Coleman says. “If he’s not happy with something, he’ll say it.
“For me, I came through with David Moyes here and, if you did something wrong, you were told. You took it on the chin and moved on. Roy’s someone I really enjoyed working with.
“He’s someone you’ve got to take something from because of the career he’s had. I think, off the pitch, there’s a much nicer side to him. He’s very humble and he’s a good man.
“Growing up, he was a Premier League icon, a great captain, so to have someone like him speak highly of you is very flattering.
“Again, there’s no secret to it. I just work hard, train hard, play hard. I just want what’s best for my teammates and probably don’t look for excuses too much. Maybe that’s what he liked.”
And in Everton boss Lampard, Coleman has a manager with whom he is entirely on the same page.
“There’s massive respect from me towards him,” he says.
“Not just for the player he was, but how he’s come in here, how he’s took to Evertonians and the Football Club, and the standards he sets.
“You can’t pull the wool over Evertonians’ eyes. He’s really bought into this football club and they’ve took to him, too. He was a top player, and he wants to be a top, top manager.
“He wants us to be better and every day he’s on to us about where we can improve.
“He knows when the right times are to be a bit tougher on us, too.
“He’s loving being Everton manager, and Evertonians are loving having him.
“We just want stability for the few years with the manager leading us forward.
“We’re a massive football club and we’re starting to attract players who understand Everton.
“We need to stay solid, stick with a plan for the next few years, grow the Football Club and hopefully get back challenging.”
The emerging talents coming through the ranks at Everton will hope to play a central role in a bright Blues future under Lampard’s stewardship.
Coleman says he has been encouraged by the “maturity” of those who have stepped up from the Academy in recent months to train with the First Team.
Coleman is frequently hailed by Everton’s young players for offering guidance and helping them acclimatise to the senior environment.
He explains: “You want them to be themselves early doors. You don’t want them to be nervous.
“I remember being nervous coming up to train with the First Team – and you’re already starting on the back foot… You want them to go out and produce, to be the best player they can be.
“Then, you just want to see that work-rate, that humility, listening to older players, the manager and coaches and taking everything on board.”
Aged 34 and with vast experience in the game, Coleman still views every day as an opportunity to improve.
“I think you can always learn. Definitely. Whether that be from the youngest member of the squad or the oldest, the manager or a coach.
“For example, ever since Tarky and Conor came on board, I’ve learned so much from them in a short period of time.
“That could be how they are after a result, how they interact with others, how they act before training to get the spirits and the mood high…. They’ve been great on the pitch and they’ve been unbelievable for things that maybe the fans don’t see.
“I’m so happy they are at the Football Club.”
Coleman is convinced working at close quarters with the new leaders in the Everton squad will be of great benefit to the young Toffees players forging their path in the game.
This is particularly pertinent, Coleman says, in an era with intense and unrelenting media exposure.
The snap verdicts and fierce criticism of performances on social media also has the potential to negatively affect players, he believes.
“I think that can be an issue, but it’s probably all those young lads have ever known,” he says.
“When I was coming through, you’d get the Liverpool Echo and your player rating and that would be it until the next week. Now, it’s an instant judgement… Even at my age, I think it’s something you have to blank out.
“I was on Twitter many years ago, but I probably stopped for that reason. I think you need to choose what you’re going to let into your mind, really. For me, as I got older, I realised I didn’t need it.
“I must say, there is a lot of good that can come from social media, too, as we’ve seen.
“There is going to be criticism, there’s going to be praise. Leighton Baines told me very early in my time here, ‘Don’t get too high, don’t get too low’. That was very good advice and something I’ve always took forward with me.”
Coleman wore a special multicoloured captain’s armband for Saturday's game against Palace as Everton showed its support for LGBQ+ campaign, Rainbow Laces.
The joint initiative between the Premier League and LGBT+ charity Stonewall promotes diversity and inclusion in football, and mirrors Everton’s All Together Now campaign.
“It’s something I’m very comfortable with,” says Coleman.
“As the years have gone by, I think the Premier League and football in general has got so much better at backing campaigns like this and supporting those people.
“We want to have equality across the board.”
An exemplary ambassador for Everton on and off the field, for Coleman, it all comes back to one simple thing.
“It’s just about being a good person. It’s not hard to be a good person.
“Treat people correctly and – like I said when talking about people joining Everton – you want people to feel they can be themselves straight away.
“It’s the same with this campaign. You just want people to feel happy and included.”