Michael Keane helped Everton pitch a shutout against Chelsea on Saturday in his return to the first team, and picked up the Man of the Match gong to boot. The defender missed some time with concussion-related symptoms after leaving the game at Southampton, and the break could not have been better timed for him after he had put in some abysmal performances before that.
Speaking to evertontv after the encouraging draw, Keane spoke highly of Sam Allardyce and his methods.
“A lot of work has been put in on the training ground and, obviously, getting results help because it makes you believe more in the system that you’re playing and the work that you’re putting in.
“All the lads are buying in to what the gaffer is doing. Getting results breeds confidence and we’ve probably rode our luck a little bit at times against Chelsea but we earned it.”
Adding more about the effort it took to keep out the Stamford Bridge side -
“It was a tough game. I think in the 50th minute I was getting cramp and I never get cramp! So I was struggling at the end but it’s all about concentration in games like that. The lads dug in really well, worked hard for each other and if someone made a mistake there was someone else getting around them to cover.
“I thought that was on show today. Jordan [Pickford] had to make some great saves, which he has shown he’s capable of doing previously. All in all, it’s a very pleasing result because we knew it’d be a difficult game. We know we need to improve on the ball, going forward, but we had a few chances and I could have won it in the last few minutes. It’s something we’ll work on.”
Everton didn’t have too many chances on the day, but Keane was left free for a corner right at the death and could have won the game. Despite making room and getting his head on the ball, he couldn’t keep it under the bar and the chance was wasted.
“It would [have been sweet to win it at the end]. I got great contact on it. It was a great ball in from Gylfi and I just needed to keep it down - I’ll make sure I practice them in training! We’ll take the point in the end.
“We knew it was going to be tough against the Chelsea, the champions of last year. We really wanted to keep our momentum going and we got another clean sheet, so it’s great.
“We’re looking up now. I think a month ago we were looking behind us but it’s been a great month, with five clean sheets from seven games and a lot of wins in there. That’s allowed us to look up in this Christmas period. We’ve got some tough games coming up and they come thick and fast but we need to make sure we’re on it so we get some more points on the board. We want to climb the table.”
Allardyce already appears to have worked wonders with Ashley Williams and Mason Holgate, and should be relishing the opportunity to make Keane the kind of cornerstone this team needs to build upon for years ahead.