By Damian Spellman, PA
Everton defender Seamus Coleman admits he cannot imagine how Ukrainian team-mate Vitalii Mykolenko is feeling as he watches Russia’s ongoing invasion of his homeland from afar.
The 22-year-old Ukraine international joined the Toffees from Dynamo Kiev in January and has found himself looking on helplessly from Merseyside at horrific images of the raging war.
Coleman, currently on international duty with the Republic of Ireland, said: “Myko, he’s a fantastic lad. He’s a quiet lad, he’s a really good lad.
“You can’t even imagine how he’s feeling. You’re there for him, you try and support him as best you can, you let him know that you’re there for him, the club are there for him, but you know his family and all are back there, so it’s very difficult for him.
“We’re there for him. I’m sure it’s hard for him to focus and do his job, but he is, he’s coming in training every day and doing what he can.
“He’s got the support of his team-mates, any little support that we can give him.”
Ireland and the Ukraine are due to meet home and away in the Nations League in June, although the hostilities mean those fixtures may not now take place – the Ukrainians were due to meet Scotland in a World Cup play-off semi-final this week.
However, Coleman knows football is a secondary priority.
He said: “We’re sitting here talking about them going through a lot and, really, we don’t know how much and how troublesome their life is over there, and for Myko in our place, how he actually feels, how he sleeps at night.
“I’m not going to sit here and pretend I know how it feels to be there or in their situation. I’m sure football is the last thing on their mind over there.”
In the meantime, both men find themselves at a club fighting for its Premier League life with only three points separating Everton from the relegation zone and 11 games to go.
Coleman said: “We had a massive result against Newcastle and then unfortunately against Crystal Palace, it wasn’t to be.
“I know the fans were frustrated and I know it’s a difficult time for everyone at the football club. But belief, hard work, fire in your belly and full determination to get out of that situation that we’re in, that’s all we can concern ourselves with.
“We’ve got 11 games left, we’ve just got to give it everything.”