Seamus Coleman hated the question, but the scene playing out behind him in the Goodison Park tunnel invited it.
As the Everton captain spoke with typical candor, he was tapped on the shoulder by Nathan Patterson, who was heading home. Walking in the opposite direction at the same time was Ben Godfrey, who had just completed a charge. Leaning against a wall and watching was Mason Holgate.
Paterson, who is coming back from an ankle injury, Godfrey and Holgate could all be Everton right-backs in the future, but the reality at the moment is that nobody can do what Coleman does for a team that continues to fight for its life.
But what made this little episode even more remarkable was the idea that Paterson, Godfrey and Holgate were all schoolboys in 2009 when Coleman was snapped up from Sligo Rovers by David Moyes for £60,000 to start his career in Everton.
“These boys are the future and I’m here to support them every day at practice,” Coleman said. “What I want is for Everton to be successful and I’ve seen enough quality in the boys to know they can come at any time. Pato was excellent for the first seven games.
Seamus Coleman continues to prove his worth at Everton as they battle for relegation
The Irishman scored the winner against Leeds on Saturday in a 1-0 win at Goodison
“But I’m a fighter. I want to play; they want to play and we will push each other in the right way. When they play and that time comes, I’ll be there to support them every step of the way, there’s absolutely no doubt about that.”
What is also not in doubt is Coleman’s value to his team. Things tend to go well when he gets a goal, evidenced by the fact that Everton have not lost in any of the 28 games in which he has scored and that run was extended in spectacular fashion against Leeds.
“Was there anyone in the box for me to pass?” Coleman responded with mock indignation when asked, playfully, whether his 64th-minute weapon – which he drilled through the slight opening left by Leeds goalkeeper Ilan Meslier – was a cross or a shot.
“To be honest … old legs struggle to get to those areas, but I got into the area and I knew maybe the keeper was waiting for a cross, so it came half a yard. I could hit it 30 more times and never hit it as sweet, but luckily I did.”
He is 34 now and well aware that those peak years, when he was a force of nature careering up and down the right flank, are behind him, but his importance to the group has not diminished. If there were 15 others with his attitude and desire, the possibility of relegation would not exist.
Fans wonder if the players hurt as much as they do when times are bad, but Coleman is this team’s link to Gwladys Street and is just as fed up with how managers have come and gone. The sacking of Frank Lampard, for example, left him upset.
“We know that when the results don’t go well, managers lose their jobs,” Coleman said. “I take it personally because I’ve been captain of the football team for the last four years, so I’m just as much to blame for what’s going on here as anyone else.
“The coach came in, he’s got experience, he’s tough, he’s got confidence and he’s not getting too high after this win. That’s not to say that previous managers have gone too high after wins – I just need to make that clear because the headlines might be that I’m going to another manager. I would never do that.”
This is true. He is a professional but also has to be rated as one of the best pieces of any Premier League club. How many others have given such service for so little expense? Fate brought him to Merseyside, but Everton were lucky to have him.
Coleman (right) is the pro and Everton were lucky to have him
Coleman insists he is here to help and support those at the club, including Ben Godfrey (right)
He also has to go down as one of the best pieces of any Premier League club
“Listen, I get a reminder every day of what it means to people, whether I’m out walking with my kids or when I’m stuck at traffic lights,” Coleman said. “You see somebody go by and you think, ‘Is it going to be a good look or a bad look?’
“You don’t know what color they’re going to wear – red or blue – but you see them and you see them grit their teeth and their fists pump because you’re on your way to the game. This means so much to the people of Everton Liverpool and we live and breathe it every day.
“There’s no running away from it – it was difficult. That’s only three points and it’s been a very difficult two years, of course it has. But I’m a fighter too [in the dressing room] we have fighters in there. We have an incredible fan base behind us to push us over the line.’
And that fan base will know, more than anything else, that their leader will be pushing just as hard for them.