By Dave Downie
Everybody loves a good comeback. It’s often when a team or individual in sport is given next to chance that we revel in their ability, against all odds, to scale a seemingly unassailable ladder and ultimately succeed.
At Goodison Park yesterday, that very ladder continued to be climbed with a great deal of assurance by Everton’s Michael Keane.
Several days on from the centre-half revealing the almost career-ending tribulations of his first season with the club, the Goodison faithful were witness to possibly his best display in a blue shirt.
It’s a far cry from the summer, when Keane was amongst the individuals tipped by many to be part of the Marco Silva and Marcel Brands fire sale.
It’s only 87 days since the entire Everton fan base were sweating on the arrival of two centre backs as it had become unthinkable for some that the 25-year old had anyything more than a bit-part role to play in the ten months ahead.
Yesterday though, Keane was imperious next to Kurt Zouma against Brighton, a colleague with whom he’s developed an understanding and moulded the solid foundations for his continuing improvement.
It’s so often the people around you that have a profound say in how well you do, and in Keane’s case, Zouma has been just the tonic he needed to rebuild what, just a few short months ago, looked to be a disastrous move to Merseyside for both him and Everton.
For everything the former Burnley man lacks, which is predominantly speed across the ground, Zouma has been able to provide the answer of late.
Keane still has some way to go however, and a real test of how far he’s come will be in how he manoeuvres his way through a difficult trip to Chelsea next weekend as well as adapting to a new defensive partner in Yerry Mina.
But there’s few who could’ve predicted that the Michael Keane narrative could’ve taken such a sharp turn less than a third into the season. He appears to be quicker, stronger and more importantly looks fully committed to the new regime at Goodison.
Furthermore, his manager has entrusted him with responsibility beyond firing hopeful long balls upfield, which he would’ve been accustomed to for the majority of the previous campaign.
Marco Silva is happy for Keane to collect the ball short from Jordan Pickford and is encouraged to find a teammate without putting his (thankfully) comfortable size 10 boots through the ball.
It is true that everybody loves a comeback and for most of the Everton squad who were around last season, the last 15 months will have undoubtedly been amongst the most challenging of their careers. That’s why Michael Keane’s redemption, coupled with the possibility of him never playing the game again, should be applauded by all concerned.
Of course, much like the team, his form may once again dip. It may even plummet to the levels we saw last season – hopefully not. But rest assured, his character, tenacity and professionalism cannot be called into question.
Without tempting fate, Everton look like they finally have the England international worthy of the £30 million price tag they paid last year.