On Saturday, Coleman added the name of Carlos Salcido to the increasing list of Premier League left-backs who have failed to cope with his direct style of play. The Fulham defender resorted to a cynical block in the first-half to stop one trademark Coleman surge while in the second, even as the Cottagers spent much of the half in the ascendency, Coleman still found the time to burst past his marker on a rare Everton attack, having briefly considered lobbing Mark Schwarzer from fully 45 yards. That sort of precocious confidence has defined Coleman’s presence in the Everton squad since an injury crisis in Autumn 2009 catapulted the Donegal native out of the reserves and into the first team.
Coleman made his Everton debut against Benfica in October 2009, a Europa League tie in Lisbon that saw the Toffees lose 5-0 after missing 11 players. Coleman deputised out of position for Leighton Baines at left-back, making the difficult task of debuting against one of Europe’s premier teams even more onerous. His real breakthrough, however, came two months later, when an appearance from the bench banished the memory of that terrible night in Portugal and replaced it with an all-together more positive impression. Coleman replaced the injured Joseph Yobo after 15 minutes against Tottenham Hotspur, joining fellow full-backs Baines, Tony Hibbert and Lucas Neil, a makeshift centre-back pair, in a makeshift back line. Shortly after the break, Everton found themselves two goals down, but the rampaging Coleman proved the catalyst for a remarkable comeback, his cross eventually converted by Tim Cahill with four minutes remaining to restore parity.
It was a home debut to live long in the memory for Coleman but it was certainly not beginner’s luck, as he proved against Carlisle United in the FA Cup weeks later, again entering the game as a substitute and again creating a goal for Cahill. After a month long sojourn to Blackpool, where he helped the Tangerines to promotion, Coleman returned to Everton and this season has shown more than enterprising attacking spirit – at times, his defensive work has been the most impressive aspect of his game, not least in two matches with Tottenham when Coleman and Phil Neville combined to mark Gareth Bale into submission, lending credence to the school of thought that while Coleman is excelling in midfield at the moment, his long-term future lies at right-back. Defensive reliability is not the only new string to Coleman’s bow this season, either – goals have arrived too, with the opening strike against Fulham his sixth of the season.
After joining Everton from Sligo Rovers for £150,000 in January 2009, Coleman’s progression has been startling and justly rewarded with a new four-and-a-half year contract early this year. Showing no signs of losing the bravado that first impressed Moyes, the Young Player of the Year award may be the first in a long line of trophies heading Coleman’s way.