Michael Keane has spoken of his determination to get back challenging for a place in Everton's defence after suffering a hairline fracture of his skull which left him having to “shut down from everything” for a week.
Centre-back Keane has resumed training at USM Finch Farm but is yet to be given the green light to join in with contact sessions.
The 25-year-old was injured in an accidental collision with teammate Idrissa Gana Gueye as he courageously hurled himself at a ball into his box in the closing minutes of Everton’s game at Bournemouth last month.
He recalls heading home his team’s second goal of the 2-2 draw but confesses large chunks of the action at the Vitality Stadium have escaped his memory.
Keane also revealed his family, who had not travelled to the south coast, were reassured over the defender’s well-being by boss Marco Silva after frantically chasing news of his condition.
“After the incident I did not remember what happened to me at all,” Keane told evertontv. “It was only seeing it that brought back my memory of the cross coming in.
“I thought I was going to get clattered by [Bournemouth striker] Callum Wilson because he was trying an overhead kick. He did not hit me but Gana came flying in.
“I can’t remember anything from the next 15 or 20 minutes. I remember little bits of the game… all the goals but not a lot of the finer details.
“The Club doctor was by my side in hospital and told me what had happened to me. The doctors were continually checking my blood pressure and I was just waiting for the scan results. I travelled home the next day in a car because I could not fly.
“I had to take things easy, day by day. I had a week at home just resting. Every time I got up or sat down the room was spinning, so I had to completely rest and shut down from everything.
“But it could have been a lot worse, so while it is not a great injury to have suffered, I am thankful I will recover and be alright.
“My family weren’t down there for the game, it is a long way and one they do not come to. They were really panicking, trying to get hold of the doctor and people at the Club to find out what was happening.
“They spoke to the manager and he told them what was going on. It can’t have been easy for them but they were alright.
“And I was really well looked after by everyone at the Club.”
Keane’s injury came as a particularly cruel blow after he had started the Premier League season in commanding form.
He provided the assist for Richarlison’s debut Everton goal at Wolverhampton Wanderers and in the same match was one of the bedrocks of a controlled and resilient Toffees display following the first-half dismissal of captain Phil Jagielka.
Keane has been prodigious in the air this term, completing 11 headed clearances and winning 14 aerial battles.
He boasts a passing success rate of 84.1 per cent – locating his target with 127 of his 151 passes.
And the former Burnley player, who moved to Goodison Park in a then Club-record equalling deal in summer 2017, is champing at the bit to be back involved.
“I wasn’t in pain at all [following the injury]," said four-cap England international Keane. "My head was a bit tender to touch and I had a constant headache but it was not excruciating pain or anything like that.
“Now I am feeling alright in myself, it is an annoying one. My legs are fine and I feel like I can train and do everything, so it is a bit frustrating.
“I am running outside and feel fine. But you have to be careful not to do too much, too soon and aggravate it. It is one of those injures which, if you give it a little bit of time, will get better.
“The more exercise you do and the more you push it, you could prolong your time out, so I have to be careful.
“I felt like I was getting back to my best and the level I know I can play. It has come at a bad time but a lot of players have to deal with injuries. I am no different. I will be fine and get over it.
“I can’t have any contact yet, it takes three or four weeks minimum for the fracture to heal. I can’t head a ball in that time. While I can kick a ball and feel okay. I can’t fully join in training. But I have had to deal with it and I am working really hard to stay fit and get even fitter so I can come back stronger.
“Competing in the air is something I really enjoy. I know I have the height for it and I am aggressive enough to go and win a lot of headers.
“It is something I have been doing well and this injury won’t stop me doing it in future.”