Michael Keane has revealed his hunger to help Everton kickstart a positive run of form on their travels with a victory at Bournemouth on Sunday, as he insisted playing at the Vitality Stadium for the first time since fracturing his skull at the stadium last year will have “no effect” on his performance.
Keane netted his maiden top-flight Everton goal in a 2-2 draw against Eddie Howe’s team in August 2018 before being taken off on a stretcher after a clash of heads with Idrissa Gana Gueye.
It was discovered the defender had suffered a hairline skull fracture and the extent of the blow meant that, upon his return to first-team action, Keane initially wore protective headgear as a precautionary measure.
Keane was sidelined for almost a month with the injury but recovered from the setback in impressive fashion, emerging as one of Everton's most consistent performers during the 2018/19 campaign.
His composed, authoritative displays saw him recalled to the England squad last November and he has remained a fixture in Gareth Southgate’s squads.
The 26-year-old played every minute of the Three Lions’ recent EURO 2020 qualifying victories over Bulgaria and Kosovo.
Now back at Everton, Keane is intent on continuing his fine Toffees form in Sunday's clash at Bournemouth (2pm).
“Bournemouth is a place I always enjoy playing,” he told evertonfc.com.
“I fractured my skull there last year but that is not going to affect anything.
“We let a two-goal lead slip in our last game there and we want to go and put that right.
“I think getting back to Everton [after international duty] and refreshing my mind will be good for me.
“I will refocus and I want to help us get another positive result.”
Everton head into the Sunday's match having secured back-to-back victories. Marco Silva's team won 4-2 at Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup before overcoming Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-2 in a Premier League meeting at Goodison Park.
Everton’s success against Wolves means the Blues have now taken maximum points from their past six matches at the Grand Old Lady.
Keane says Sunday’s game represents an important test for the players as they strive to replicate their excellent home performances on the road.
“We want to get an away victory as soon as possible,” he added.
“If we want to push in to the top six or even higher that is what we have to be doing.
“We know we won’t win them all, but more often than not we have to go to the teams we want to be ahead of and win at those places.
“That is what we will try to do on Sunday.”
Keane has been an integral figure in a resilient Everton backline that has kept 10 clean sheets in their past 15 top-flight matches.
The Blues have accumulated 28 points over the course of those matches – the joint-third highest total in the Premier League during this period.
Keane explained how Everton’s impressive defensive record has intensified the players’ desire to register further shutouts.
“When you get on a run like that, you want to do it more and more,” he said.
“We were gutted when we conceded against Wolves. We were quite unlucky with the first goal but should have done better on the second.
“But if you look at how we have been defending over the long run, we will get back to that.
“It is something we are all very proud of, not just as defenders.
“It starts from the striker, the way they stop the midfielders getting on the ball – all those little things.
“It is something everyone should be proud of.”