Seamus Coleman's PFA nod is just reward
There were few surprises when the Professional Footballers' Association awards were dished out on Sunday evening. Aside from Cardiff's David Marshall, there were no glaring omissions or oversights in the team of the year, although giving the young player of the year award to a proven international that cost upwards of 30 million pounds is kind of missing the point.
Since Southampton's Luke Shaw displaced Leighton Baines, it was left to Seamus Coleman to ensure there was a royal blue shirt among the league's so-called best eleven -- although a costly own goal in your last match is not the best way to usher in your selection. In truth, though, there was a lack of genuine competition, a result of Coleman's impressive form and a division short on in-form alternatives.
As the latest chant from the terraces aptly recalls, Coleman cost just 60,000 pounds. Acquired from Sligo Rovers, the Donegal-born fullback is the best value for money purchase of former manager David Moyes' Goodison Park tenure.
Coleman has come a long way since his baptism by fire at Benfica in 2009, thrust into an earlier than expected debut in a team decimated by injury, in the unfamiliar surroundings of left back. Despite masquerading as a midfielder for a period under Moyes, Coleman always looked best suited to the right back role.
Renowned for his attacking exploits, only Romelu Lukaku (13) and the sidelined Kevin Mirallas (eight) can point to more league goals for the Blues this season (six). Two assists and 44 chances created -- the latter is a figure bettered only by Mirallas (61) and Baines (46) -- nicely round off the creative picture.
Regularly rampaging forward, creating space for teammates as opponents are wary of the threat facing them, Coleman has taken his attacking output to the next level under the guidance of current boss Roberto Martinez, adding goals to his game.
At one point, the defender seemed intent on having his own goal of the season contest. Either side of a two far post tap-ins and two rather fortuitous swishes of his right foot, there was a trio of excellent goals from distance against Swansea, Southampton in the league, and Queens Park Rangers in the FA Cup.
It is, however, in defence in which the biggest improvements have materialised. When bursting onto the scene (after the Benfica episode), earning a man-of-the-match award having orchestrated a 2-2 draw from 2-0 down against Tottenham, he represented a cavalier wildcard amid the comparatively meek choice of Phil Neville or Tony Hibbert.
Though Moyes' cautious approach may have also been a factor, it was the difference between the players defensively that meant Coleman had to bide his time, learn his trade. There was a loan spell at Blackpool, and a brief stint on the right wing upon his return.
There were audible naysayers accompanying the right-back's arrival on the first team scene, with many supporters unconvinced, doubting the ability of the young upstart to progress to the high defensive standards required at this level.
Coleman began, steadily, to disprove those knocking his credentials. Ironing out those early flaws, with positional sense chief among them, what remains is the archetypal modern day fullback. Boasting a tremendous work ethic, though that is something of a must in a side that relies heavily on its fullbacks, Coleman is equally adept in attack or defence.
Injury may have impacted recent performances; Coleman has not hit those same heights since returning from a spell on the treatment table. Displays remain at a high level, notwithstanding the weekend -- they are just not quite at the ultra-high standard achieved beforehand.
Excellent in the first half of the season, and only marginally below that since while recovering from the hamstring injury picked up in January, Coleman looks set -- if the results in the early stages of voting are anything to go by -- to add Everton's player of year award to his PFA team of the year place.
Though not my pick for player of the year -- Coleman was third behind James McCarthy and Gareth Barry -- the accolades being lavished upon the former Sligo Rovers player are still thoroughly deserved.