Paddy Boyland: Coleman’s injury is a major blow to Everton- but Blues can cope in his absence

It’s a testament to Seamus Coleman’s popularity in the game that within minutes of last night’s horror tackle by Neil Taylor, tributes had already started to pour in from across the footballing world.

Indeed, Wayne Rooney, Stan Collymore and former captain Phil Neville were just some of the figures to take to social media to send well-wishes to the Everton defender following the sickening incident at the Aviva Stadium.

The ramifications were also felt closer to home, with Blues manager Ronald Koeman issuing a statement this morning that perfectly reflected both the gap vacated by the 28-year-old’s misfortune and the club’s palpable desire to support him through the long rehabilitation process.

“Seamus will be aware that the thoughts of his teammates, the coaching staff, everyone at the Club and all Evertonians are with him at this time,” he told Everton’s official site. “No-one ever wishes to see something like this happen to any player, much less one of our own.

“Seamus will face a lengthy recovery period and we will support him throughout this.

“He is a really strong character and he has a great family around him and we, his extended family at Everton, will be here for him to help him get through this over the coming days, weeks and months.”

Lots, of course, has been made about the tackle itself, with debate mostly centring on whether Taylor intended to cause damage to his opposite number.

Given the extent of the injury, such a conversation seems more or less totally futile, but it must be said that at this moment in time, Taylor’s apparent sadness at the consequences of the tackle will make no difference at all to how Seamus is feeling; nor will it help compensate Everton for his loss.

Some have already raised the possibility that the Killibegs-born defender may never properly return from the blow. They may well be right. Suffice it to say, though, that such a scenario would be a travesty for a player who has so much left to give at the top level. For now, any further speculation beyond that seems counterproductive.

For regardless of what is to follow, Coleman’s absence leaves Koeman with a big gap to fill ahead of season-defining games against Manchester United and Liverpool. As Arsenal start to falter, there is still a realistic chance that the Blues could force their way into the top-six with a strong end to the season. Make no bones about it, that task has been made significantly harder by the injury to one of their star men.

The £60,000 signing from Sligo Rovers has developed into one of the best full backs in the country since crossing the Irish Sea, with his marauding runs forward and keen eye for goal regularly offering an extra dimension to Everton’s attacking play.

Sure, there are rough edges to his game. One only need look at his erratic crossing to see how his lack of technical coaching- Coleman didn’t come through the academy system at a Premier League team- can at times limit his impact in the final third.

Yet such deficiencies shouldn’t for one minute mask his overall influence on the club, which has been steadily on the rise under Koeman.

Captain at international level, the right-back has also appeared to assume the default role of leader for club too as Phil Jagielka continues to drift in and out of the side. In December’s Merseyside derby, for example, Coleman was the sole figure to rush to the defence of Ross Barkley after a late tackle from the midfielder threatened to spark an ugly melee.

It’s hard to see who else in the current squad would have done likewise- and that’s exactly the type of attitude Everton will miss in the coming months as they aim to get under the skin of the league’s leading lights.

With surgery on the double leg break said to have gone as planned earlier today, attention now turns to finding an adequate replacement.

The obvious candidate is Mason Holgate, who filled in admirably for his teammate during the early part of the campaign. Pacey, composed and with sound defensive instincts, the ex-Barnsley man arguably already possesses the ability to play week in, week out in the Premier League.

He performed so well during that period that the reinstatement of a fit-again Coleman even raised eyebrows among the fanbase. Not so long ago, an injury to the Irishman would have been close to a disaster for the Blues. Not now.

Another who could profit from his colleague’s misfortune is Jonjoe Kenny. A key performer for David Unsworth’s table-topping Under-23 side, the tenacious defender has often drawn comparisons with Coleman due to his energetic approach and steely determination.

Should he get his chance in the weeks to follow, he’s also done enough to suggest he wouldn’t let Everton down. In fact, I’d expect him to thrive if thrown in at the deep end at Anfield.

In that regard, the Blues are lucky that they have enough quality to go some way to offsetting Coleman’s absence. Were the same thing to happen to, say, Romelu Lukaku, it would almost certainly signal the end of Everton’s season.

And that’s why, despite how it looks currently, Everton WILL get through this.

So all that’s left to say, then, is: ‘Get well soon, Seamus, we’re all behind you’. The warmth and generosity shown by the majority of the sport can attest to that.

Once a blue, always a blue.

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