Roberto Martinez has spoken of his delight at being able to welcome back midfielder Darron Gibson after nine months out with injury.
The midfielder made his comeback appearance in Tuesday's pre-season friendly at Tranmere Rovers, playing the entire second half as the Blues recorded a 2-2 draw. A Republic of Ireland international, Gibson only made two competitive appearances under the Blues boss last term before sustaining serious knee ligament damage in October while away with his country. And having been impressed by his showing at Prenton Park, Martinez admitted his joy at finally having the 26-year-old back in contention. "Darron looks really strong," the Blues boss told evertontv. "It's been very frustrating for him to spend such a long time away from the football pitch. But when you see him using that technical ability he has and the quality he brings to the side, he is like a fresh player coming back to us. "We need to make sure we give him the right amount of work now and I think we'll enjoy seeing Darron Gibson's football this season." Also earning runouts at Prenton Park were a group of the Club's Academy graduates as Martinez experimented with a blend of youth and experience. Shane Duffy, Tyias Browning, Luke Garbutt, John Lundstram, Matthew Kennedy, Conor McAleny, Hallam Hope and Chris Long all gained valuable experience by heading out on loan to the Football League last term. And Martinez was pleased by their efforts against League Two Rovers. "I thought the amount of youngsters we were able to fit in and how they played in the way we want them to is a demonstration of all the good work we did last season," added the Toffees chief. "It was a great opportunity for them and I'm really happy to see so many youngsters showing what they can do. They all have different profiles, great personalities and great standards. "That's something they have been brought up with and we're very proud of that."