Tyler Onyango says he “couldn’t have asked for a better return” after completing 82 minutes of Everton Under-23s' terrific come-from-behind win over Leeds United on Monday.
Midfielder Onyango, who made a senior debut at the beginning of this year, sustained a serious ankle injury in an FA Youth Cup tie back in April.
The 18-year-old returned to full training a fortnight ago following six-months of rehabilitation when Onyango was engaged in a fight to resist the urge to do too much, too quickly.
And the player's patience was rewarded with a successful comeback against a strong Leeds team.
The visitors led 2-0 but a strike from Eli Campbell shortly before half-time began the recovery and David Unsworth’s team scored three unanswered goals after the restart for victory.
“It’s been amazing and I couldn’t have asked for a better return, to play 80 minutes after such a long time out," Onyango told evertonfc.com.
“It was tough… nearly seven months out, which is the longest time I’ve not played.
“Watching the lads play and train, you wish you were back.
“But the staff said, ‘Don’t rush it’ and I know my body and knew when it was ready to play again.
“Hopefully, it pays off in the long run.
“I spent eight weeks on the grass but when you go into training, it’s totally different.
“Being back with the lads, the tempo is totally different from rehab.
“I did the whole of last week and this week as well, so two weeks of training.
“When I am training and playing, I forget about it [injury].”
Onyango, who joined the Club aged eight and played as a substitute in Everton’s FA Cup tie with Sheffield Wednesday in January, established a regular Under-23 position last term.
He scored twice in 16 Premier League 2 starts but suffered a premature end to his campaign after hurting an ankle in the Youth Cup victory over Manchester City.
Under-23s manager Unsworth reserved praise for the England Under-17 international’s “great” performance in his comeback game.
Everton were in a fix after conceding twice in seven first-half minutes but defender Campbell headed home on 42 minutes to halve the deficit.
Lewis Dobbin equalised eight minutes after half-time and a Charlie Whitaker strike with five minutes remaining turned the game on its head.
Onyango was a spectator by the time Whitaker netted and, as he rested his legs, the midfielder saw Rhys Hughes add a fourth goal at the death.
“The boys were amazing,” said Onyango. “I thought we were a bit unlucky to be 2-0 down, we were the better team for all of the first half.
“We got the goal just before half-time and that was perfect timing for us.
“It gave us the boost to come out in the second half and we were the better team again.
“A draw wouldn’t have been good enough, we had to win and that’s what we went out and did.”
Unsworth disclosed the original aim was for Onyango to play a minimum of an hour, so the additional 22 minutes qualified as a bonus for the player.
“It got to the 75th minute and I was thinking, ‘I’m not sure how much longer I’ve got here’,” added Onyango.
“Unsy must have seen that and taken me off.
“But it couldn’t have been a better night.”