Abdoulaye Doucoure has revealed how he “did everything in my power” to play a part in Everton’s season-defining run-in after initial injury diagnosis reported his campaign was likely to be over.
The influential midfielder played the full 90 minutes in Everton’s goalless draw at Aston Villa on Thursday evening – the match represented his first Toffees appearance in more than two months after fracturing his foot.
There was no sense of Doucoure easing himself back into action at Villa Park, as the Frenchman performed with typical energy, dynamism and authority.
The 29-year-old was central to Everton increasing the tempo of their play in the second half as the Blues hunted a winner. Doucoure embarked on two dribbles and had three shots during the game – totals unsurpassed by any other Blues players.
Doucoure explained how his energy levels improved as the game progressed and he is already looking forward to taking on Sheffield United at Goodison Park on Sunday (7pm BST).
“It was a hard injury for me, the diagnosis was not so good at the beginning,” he told evertontv.
“To be honest with you, I was expecting that my season was finished, but I did everything in my power to come back on to the pitch.
“We have great support here, with very good medical staff. They are good guys and very professional. And we worked together to manage my recovery.
“My target was to come back before the end of the season and I’m happy to be back here and helping the team.
“I have been training hard and trying to make sure I was ready for this game. We have an opportunity to get into Europe, so I was very happy and excited to come into the team.
“I had even more energy at the end [of the game]. I worked hard when I was injured, so my fitness was very good. I hope to play again on Sunday.”
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ANCELOTTI: WE ARE STILL IN EURO FIGHT
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti paid tribute to Doucoure’s performance after the game, saying the midfielder “did really well and did not look like he had been out for two months”.
Ancelotti has admitted Doucoure’s extended absence was a significant blow for Everton and has described him as one of the Blues’ most important players.
Doucoure says the Italian’s unstinting support provided extra motivation during his recovery.
“To hear those words from him was very good and gave me a lot of confidence,” he said.
“I want to repay that and achieve good things until the end of the season.
“Carlo has been very good and has trusted me since the beginning [when I joined Everton]. He has been a great supporter of me.”
Everton remain in the thick of the fight for a European place following Thursday’s draw at Villa.
The Blues are level on points with Tottenham Hotspur in seventh place – a position that would secure a spot in the inaugural Europa Conference League – and just two points behind West Ham United in sixth.
Following Sunday’s home clash with Sheffield United, Everton will welcome 6,500 fans back to Goodison when Wolverhampton Wanderers visit L4 on Wednesday evening.
Doucoure says Everton’s sights are firmly fixed on finishing their Goodison campaign with successive victories – ensuring the Blues head into the final game of the season at Manchester City with European football up for grabs.
“We have to win at home – we don’t have any other option,” he said.
“The form at home has not been so good, but I think before the end of the season we can change that and can win the next two games.
“I think it is a good pressure to have. We are professional and we know pressure is part of our job.
“We know the pressure is on us to be successful. Personally, I have always dreamed to play in Europe one day, so it would be huge for me to do that.
“This is the biggest opportunity I have had, so I will do everything I can to help the team and be in Europe at the end of the season.”