Arouna Kone reckons scoring his first goal for Everton FC against Krasnodar would be the perfect way to kick-start his “big comeback”.
The striker is yet to hit the back of the bet for Everton after he missed a year through injury following his £5m switch from Wigan in summer 2013.
Kone, 31, will make his first-team return in the Europa League Group H dead-rubber tie, as Roberto Martinez sends out a much-changed side to face the Russians.
And even though there is nothing resting on the outcome of the fixture, the Ivory Coast international admits he can’t wait to draw a line under a difficult year and repay the Toffees faith in him.
He said: “If I did manage to score it would be fantastic. I would say it would represent the beginning of a big comeback.
“I’ve got such a huge passion to get my first goal in an Everton shirt. It would be marvellous.”
Kone admits there have been times over the last 12 months, as he battled a complicated knee injury, when he wondered if his ordeal would ever end.
“The worst moment was after I stayed here to do some extra physical work over the summer break,” he recalled.
“I was almost all ready to start doing pre-season with the team. Having done that I felt the same problem and an extra pain when we started that, so that was the lowest point.
“I thought then ‘when’s it going to end?’
“But certainly having the other lads around helped in a way because it encouraged me and gave me that extra incentive and motivation to carry on through that pain barrier and start again and say look ‘keep working away’.”
Everton during a training session at Finch Farm on Wednesday December 10. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.
Kone won’t have failed to notice that Martinez signed two additional strikers in the summer, one a club record £28m coup, the other a three-time Champions League winner with plenty left in his legs.
But he insists he did not let the influx of quality competition for his place get him down as he battled to get fit.
“I was always quite positive about the situation,” he said. “I think people are different, we are different players as strikers and what I would say is that working all together we would be a tremendous threat for any opposition.
“In terms of, it was almost like an extra motivation to get myself back and in the team and get some good performances to get this team up the table.
“I’m certainly confident enough to know I can fight for my place on an equal footing with both of them and all three of us together.”
The former Sevilla and Wigan striker did not leave anything to chance in terms of getting a step closer to fitness during the long summer, including cancelling his holidays and remaining on Merseyside to do extra rehabilitation.
“I took the decision having spoke to the medical team here,” he explained.
“Basically they gave me an option to have a total break, a 100 per cent usual break and go back to my home country to do the normal summer break.
“Or, a half summer break mixed with special treatment course in Belgium. Because I was so determined to get back as quick as possible, and I was mindful I’d hardly played any time at all for the club since I signed for them that was the option I decided to take.
“That was when I looked to get back to full fitness from there.”
As he prepares to try and prove why Martinez made him one of his first signings in 2013, Kone at least has the ringing endorsement of his boss to bolster him.
The Everton manager said: “Having him back adds greater competition straight. But Arouna is very different to Samuel and Rom.
“Probably Arouna has got a really strong back to play, he is someone that can give you a real focal point and you can play high up the pitch, he’s a finisher, a clinical finisher, he has real pace and power.
“He is a mixture of what Sam and Rom do each.
“All I’m looking at is tomorrow and an Arouna who is enjoying his football and the injuries are behind him.
Everything else is going to be an incredible bonus. You look at the three strikers we have and I wouldn’t swap them for anyone at the moment.”
Want something else to read? How about ‘Grievous Censorship’ By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed’s Blog