A “refreshed and excited” Michael Keane admits the positive reports he heard on manager Marco Silva left him counting the days until he returned for pre-season training.
Keane joined his Everton teammates at USM Finch Farm on Monday as the Blues’ players underwent a series of fitness and medical checks ahead of starting work on the training pitches on Tuesday.
The defender already has an idea of what to expect from his new boss after speaking to twin-brother Will, a Hull City player when Silva was in charge at the KCOM Stadium in 2017.
Keane, who also asked fellow England international centre-half and former Hull City man Harry Maguire about Silva’s methods, started following his own fitness programme last month to be ready to hit the ground running this week.
And he is braced for six weeks of “extremely hard work” as Everton gear up for their Premier League opener at Wolverhampton Wanderers on August 11.
“It is really good to be back,” Keane told evertonfc.com. “I had a good break but after about three weeks you really miss coming in every day and being around the lads.
“I am excited about the next few weeks now.
“It is a fresh start and everyone is on a level playing field. It is a new chance to impress and I am sure everyone will be trying to do that.
“I have heard excellent things about the new manager from people I have spoken to and I am looking forward to working with him.
“My brother said really positive things about him and I spoke to Harry Maguire who really enjoyed playing under him.
“Speaking to them made me even more excited to come back in and start training.”
Keane featured 38 times for Everton last term after completing a move from fellow Premier Division team Burnley 12 months ago.
The former Manchester United player used some of his downtime this summer to review his first campaign at Goodison Park and consider his targets for the forthcoming season.
He nevertheless conceded it was important to recuperate, mentally and physically, before switching back on to football – and doing his homework on Silva.
“I made the most of the break I had,” said Keane. “It is nice to go away and reflect and also look forward to the new season and think about what you have in front of you.
“You have to look at what you can improve, what went well and what you can build on.
“I certainly did that. I try to do those things early on in the break, then you can then switch off for a while. But once the last few weeks of the holiday come you start working on your fitness.
“And I am looking forward to being back in with all the lads, meeting the new staff and getting back at it.
“I asked [my brother and Maguire] what training is like and how the manager expects you to play as a defender, whether he gives you the freedom to bring the ball out or if he wants you to stay in your position.
“It is just a bit of insight. I am sure he will explain everything on the grass and we will get a clearer picture [of Silva's approach] over the next few weeks. But it is always good to know something in advance.”
While Keane could not conceal his delight at being back at USM Finch Farm, he confessed the anticipation over returning to work was mixed with some healthy nerves.
“There are always a few butterflies on the first day back but it is excitement more than anything,” added Keane.
“It is really good to be back and I have been looking forward to it for a few weeks.
“To not think about football for a short while is good for you and leaves you feeling refreshed and excited for the new season. Everybody needs to do that and the whole team benefits as a result.
“I started working about three weeks ago and then steadily stepping it up. I trained about four out of five days last week so I have been building it up nicely.
"The first day back mainly involved various tests and some time in the gym and now we have a month of working extremely hard to get up to full fitness so we are raring to go when the season starts.
“You get used to being around your mates every day, then when you are not around them for six or seven weeks it is a long time.
“You miss being at home [during the holidays] so it is good to be back and in at the training ground.”