“He needs a fresh start.”
When James McCarthy suffered a double-leg break against West Bromwich Albion in January 2018, the television cameras panned away to a worried-looking Seamus Coleman sitting in the stands.
The Republic of Ireland captain was still recovering from a similar injury, 11-days away from making his return to the first-team after nine months on the sidelines.
However, at that moment, his only thought was for his friend lying in agony on the Goodison Park pitch and the camera caught the moment Coleman left his seat to make his way down to McCarthy.
Seamus Coleman appears to be leaving his seat in the directors' box possibly going to wait for and be with his club and international team-mate. He of all people will know the pain McCarthy is in right now. #EFC
— Greg O'Keeffe (@GregOK) January 20, 2018
The previous March, he had been in McCarthy’s position. Coleman suffered a double-leg break in Ireland’s goalless draw with Wales at the Aviva Stadium in March 2017.
After a long recovery period, the Donegal-native returned to action at the end of January 2018. Despite playing every minute of Everton’s final 10-games of that season, Coleman has only regained something like his best form over the last few months. Yet, he was back playing quicker than McCarthy, who has had to bide his time.
The 28-year-old midfielder was named on the bench for Everton back in January. But he has seen just 14 minutes of first-team football since fracturing his tibia and fibula almost 18 months ago, coming on as a substitute in Everton’s 4-0 win over Manchester United back in April.
McCarthy was also left out of Ireland’s squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia in March, and again this month for the games against Denmark and Gibraltar. Mick McCarthy has said that the midfielder needs to be playing regularly to be in his plans. And it sounds as though the player is plotting his exit from Goodison Park.
“I think he’ll probably be trying to get out (of Everton), there’s no secret of that. He needs a fresh start,” Coleman told reporters in Citywest Hotel on Tuesday.
The Ireland captain went on to say that McCarthy has impressed in training for Everton, but is still likely to leave Marco Silva’s side.
“What I’ve seen in James, when he came back, if you asked me after four or five weeks how he’s looking, I’d have said ‘ah, he’s doing alright’, but say the last three months, which was good for me to see, he’s been the James McCarthy of old. He was firing into tackles in training, he was getting about the pitch, he was doing his sharp, crisp passing like he’s always done, so it was great for me to see that.
“After what I’ve been through, I could just see something change. Just one training session, I saw something change and I was like ‘he’s fine, he’s ready to go’, and he’s just not been getting in. That’s been his problem.”
Coleman also backed his friend to become a key player for Ireland for the rest of the Euro 2020 qualification campaign. Ireland’s midfield didn’t overly impress against either Denmark or Gibraltar. A fully fit and firing McCarthy is arguably the ideal player to slot in at the base of midfield.
Following Ireland’s 2-0 win over Gibraltar on Monday night, Coleman contacted McCarthy to remind him of his importance to the national team.
“I text him last night and said, ‘Look, you’ve got a big part to play in this Ireland team so get yourself right and get ready to go’, and I’m sure he will do that.”
Coleman knows how difficult the recovery process is from such a severe injury. According to the Ireland captain, after an initial burst when returning to action, a player will experience a slump. He spoke of his own rehabilitation and how long it took to regain match sharpness.
“You come back with a bang,” he said.
“You put so much work into it, so put everything into it, every single day that I was out, days off I was going in, just putting my whole life into recovering. So, you put so much into it that you come back with a bang.
“But then I just think something comes over you, it just drains you again or something, and I definitely felt that. There was a period towards the end of last season where the sharpness wasn’t there, it was leaving me a little bit. And then I went into this season and felt good. But you put so much into back that sometimes you come back with a bang and then hit that little bit of a low, definitely.”
Coleman said that adrenaline gets a player through the early stages of returning from such a serious injury, but a full pre-season of training is required to regain sharpness on the pitch.
However, the defender stated that, despite his injury and subsequent dip in form, he never questioned his ability to perform at the top level of the sport.
“Look, I know that there have been times in my career that I’ve been doubted. There were times before my injury, and after, that I’ve been doubted. But I never doubt myself, and you’ve just got to keep believing.”
McCarthy will need to have a similar attitude if he is to return to top form, either with Everton or another club. If he does, as Coleman said, he can be an important player for Ireland.
Seamus Coleman was speaking at the launch of the SPAR Better Choices Low Fat Protein Milk and Mega Milk.