Yannick Bolasie revealed he was “overwhelmed” and felt “good to smell the grass again” after playing competitive football for the first time in more than a year in Everton’s Under-23s’ defeat at Leicester.
The winger came on as a 61st-minute substitute in the young Blues’ Premier League 2 clash – another key step in his recovery from the serious knee injury he sustained in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United last December.
After Bolasie returned to training last month, Everton manager Sam Allardyce revealed in his pre-match press conference on Friday that the 28-year-old could be back in his first-team plans in “a number of weeks”.
And the DR Congo international vowed to keep working hard to make that happen.
“Playing again was overwhelming,” Bolasie told evertonfc.com. “When I got on I felt good. I knew about two weeks ago I was going to play in this game so it’s good.
“There wasn’t any nerves! Now that I’ve played the 30 minutes there isn’t any. Maybe before there was some because it’s been a long time. Training is training – it’s totally different in the matches when it matters so, yes, I’m happy.
“I want to be with the [first team] boys. Right now the team is doing really well so you’re going to have to try to fight your way in but there’s no rush for myself. I know what my role is because a year out in football means it will be a month or two before I’m really back at it but the main thing is that I feel okay.
“Just the smell of grass again in the game was great.”
Bolasie nearly made an instant impression for David Unsworth’s Under-23s at Leicester when he headed the ball back across goal for Morgan Feeney whose volley was blocked.
The 2016 summer signing from Crystal Palace joked that the young Blues skipper should have put the chance away and what Unsworth said to him as he got ready to make his long-awaited comeback.
“He [Unsworth] just said, ‘Congrats’, and to go on and play simple,” added Bolasie. “I did and we had that chance. For me, Morgan should have done better!
“It was a good game, although we lost unfortunately. It was disappointing on that front but for myself I’m overwhelmed that I came on to play 30 minutes.”