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Wednesday 26 July 2017

Mental battle key to Seamus rehab

Coleman has dark days ahead but will have help from squad
Ireland captain Seamus Coleman being stretchered off with a broken leg. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Ireland captain Seamus Coleman being stretchered off with a broken leg. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Rarely has a point won in qualification meant so little.

Seamus Coleman's long road back from his moment of despair at the Aviva Stadium against Wales is all anyone has been thinking about since.

Coleman was in the very, very capable hands of Gary O'Toole when medics set about piecing his tibia and fibula back together and there is no doubt that things have moved on since Jimmy Beglin had to deal with a particularly bad double fracture back in 1987.

Those old enough will remember turning away from graphic images after Gary Stevens tried to detach Beglin's left standing leg from its socket and the audio which clearly picked up his agonised screams.

Beglin made it back to fitness but did some damage to cartilage in his knee which hastened his exit from Anfield to Leeds where he soldiered on, helped them win promotion but finally called it quits in 1989.

A shorter trip down memory lane recalls Serge Blanc, a workman pro for Lyon who clashed awkwardly with Henrik Larsson and inflicted a very similar break to Coleman's in a UEFA Cup game in 1999.

Foreboding

Larsson was back in eight months and despite all the foreboding about how well he would recover, he went on to have his best-ever season in the SPL with Celtic after a spectacularly successful rehab.

There will always be a doubt, especially with Coleman who lives by his pace and has, over the last 12 months, become Ireland's main player.

More than Robbie Brady, Wes Hoolahan or anyone else, Coleman is the spark Martin O'Neill built this campaign around and there has to be a concern now that his missing contribution will damage the effort to qualify.

He will not play any part in the remainder of the qualifying series which means that everyone will be watching Cyrus Christie closely, beginning against Iceland tomorrow.

Henrik Larsson recovered from a compound fracture eight months after sustaining the injury back in December 1999. Photo: PA
Henrik Larsson recovered from a compound fracture eight months after sustaining the injury back in December 1999. Photo: PA

A big part of Coleman's recovery will be how he copes mentally and he will have plenty of reference points within the Ireland squad, notably O'Neill's No. 2, Roy Keane.

That now infamous moment with Alf Inge Haaland in October 1997 left him staring into the abyss. In his various books, Keane spoke about the black moments he endured while in rehab after knee surgery.

It was a full ten months later before he knew for sure that he would be as formidable a player after the injury and Coleman is certain to think similar dark thoughts.

Contact from Keane during the next ten months will be important and if Beglin, one of life's gents, was up for the task, a call or two from him would help.

It should be noted that without Keane in the 1997/98 season, Manchester United threw away an 11-point lead and allowed Arsene Wenger to win his first title as Arsenal boss.

It should also be noted that in the following season and with Keane back, United won a Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League Treble.

Coleman cannot hope for a similar return in Everton colours which raises the issue of his future and how this awful leg break will impact on that.

The first of many club Twitter accounts to send good wishes to Coleman was Arsenal who even beat Everton to the punch. Maybe the Gunners had an extra interest in the Ireland skipper.

Quietly, some speculation has been building about Coleman and Jose Mourinho but fully-fit, he is a natural fit for just about any top club in Europe.

Everton and any suitors know now that Coleman won't be going anywhere in the summer, some small consolation for Ronald Koeman. It can only be imagined how he felt late on Friday evening.

If he was watching at home with his feet up and a beer in his hand, he would have been delighted with Martin O'Neill's common sense approach to James McCarthy.

But he must have been incandescent when he saw one of his best men all season lying broken.

Koeman refused to meet with O'Neill over McCarthy when an approach was made recently. Zero chance that it will ever happen now.

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