Oumar Niasse’s transformation from lockerless outcast to Gwladys Street cult hero has been one of the more uplifting stories of a difficult season so far.
Lets face it, we were all giving each awkward glances when Niasse first pulled on an Everton shirt. As well as looking desperately short of fitness the 27-year-old appeared barely capable of controlling a ball or even staying on his feet.
Few were complaining therefore when he became the most high profile victim of Ronald Koeman’s first-team cull last summer.
Banished to the U23s before later being sent to Hull on loan, he appeared to have no future at the club.
Had Everton managed to find a striker to replace Romelu Lukaku then that may well have been the case, but their failure to do so opened up a spot in the first-team.
It was the opportunity Niasse was waiting for and he duly took it with both hands after scoring three times coming off the substitute’s bench against Sunderland and Bournemouth.
Throughout last season Niasse refused to criticise the manager or the club, instead getting his head down and working hard, playing a key role in the U23’s PL2 title win.
It is that honest attitude and humble outlook on life that has appealed to Evertonians and explained why they were so delighted when he finally made it into the first-team.
When asked about his ordeal in an interview with the Liverpool Echo, Niasse’s relentless positivity again shone through:
“It’s not difficult when you arrive at Everton , it’s much more difficult when I left to go to Russia and Turkey.
“At Everton when you arrive you can feel, before you’ve even been on this kind of project, you arrive and there are always people to help you settle and asking you about everything you need.
“I remember when I arrived Aaron Lennon was always every day asking ‘If there’s anything you need, call me.’
“In the future anything could happen to you and you always think this club can help you.
“I think the most important thing is to be ready and I have been every time. The first three or four months here were difficult but after that I’ve kept my mind and I’ve tried to settle and I think I’m settling very, very well now.”
“I will not say I’m lucky, I’m blessed. I always take things in a positive way in my life because some things can be negative, but if you look more forward you’re going to see that you have a lot more positive things in your life.
“Every time anything bad happens, I say that good things will happen soon. That helps me to always believe in myself and believe in what I’m doing.”
Niasse was speaking at an ‘Imagine Your Goals’ event organised by Everton in the Community at Clock View Hospital in Walton.
The project, in collaboration with Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, offers local people suffering from mental health problems the chance to talk about their issues in a supportive environment and seek relevant help and support.
For more information on Everton in the Community's Health and Wellbeing programmes head over to www.evertonfc.com/community