Seamus Coleman returned to competitive football last night as he made a cameo appearance for Everton Under-21s in their EFL Trophy tie at Mansfield Town.
The Irishman hasn’t featured for the Blues since he suffered a severe knee injury at Leicester City back in May. Last night was a excellent opportunity for him to get some match minutes under his belt.
Seeing his 35-year-old skipper back in action will have no doubt pleased Sean Dyche a great deal and it represents another timely boost for the Everton manager.
Just a few days ago Abdoulaye Docoure publicly ruled himself out of playing for Mali in the Africa Cup of Nations, meaning Dyche won’t now have to find a way to cope without his key attacking midfielder in January.
All this is excellent news for the Toffees boss as he looks ahead to the usual congested fixture list coming up over the festive period.
Everton play on the 7th, 10th and 16th of December in the Premier League and then have the small matter of Carabao Cup quarter-final against Fulham on the 19th, before another league game on the 23rd.
It is a testing run of matches which will stretch Dyche’s playing resources to the limit, given how small his squad is.
Having the experienced and canny Coleman back in time for that run (assuming no setbacks) will certainly help, as will the knowledge Doucoure won’t be jetting off to play for his country when 2024 begins.
While I am a strong advocate for Nathan Patterson to be given an extended run at right-back, Coleman’s return is obviously a good thing providing Dyche with another option in that position.
Given the manager’s track record favouring older and more experienced players – with 38-year-old Ashley Young currently his first choice at right-back being an obvious example – Coleman is likely to get plenty of game time as soon as he is fully fit.
That might be a while though if Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s injury situation is anything to go by as Dyche certainly couldn’t be accused of being premature in bringing his top striker back!
Injuries played a significant part in undermining Dyche’s predecessors with both Rafa Benitez and Frank Lampard being undermined by losing key players (although that doesn’t mean they didn’t greatly contribute to their own downfall of course).
And with such a small squad after a summer of serious pruning, the current incumbant cannot afford to lose many players or else he could be in even greater trouble. Fingers crossed his current luck with injury holds out.