Last season was a difficult campaign for everyone at Goodison Park, but for Michael Keane it was a particularly demanding year.
The 25-year-old struggled to replicate the form that had earned him rave reviews - and an England call-up - at Burnley the previous year.
He wasn’t alone, of course, but his dramatic dive in performances stood out given how well he had played just a few months before. Many Evertonians were happy for the club to cut their losses in the summer, allowing Keane to follow the likes of Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney out of the exit door.
But Marco Silva choose to keep faith with the former Manchester United youngster - and he was been richly rewarded.
Keane has been fantastic this season, despite it being punctuated by a fractured skull suffered at Bournemouth.
That injury was a result of his own commitment, making a desperate headed clearance in the final minutes only to collide with his own player.
Keane, remarkably, was back playing within a month, making his comeback at Arsenal last week. He showed no ill-affects from his injury, the only sign being his protective headband.
His promising partnership with Kurt Zouma yielded a first clean sheet of the season on Saturday, meaning the continued absence of Yerry Mina hasn’t been as keenly felt as it could have.
Mina suffered a setback in training last week but is still hopeful of returning this month, and it was the presence of that increased competition that appears to have driven Keane on.
Speaking to the club’s official website, he said:
“I was desperate to get back. I feel like I started the season well.
“There’s a lot of competition for places and I thought the sooner I get back in the team the better, to and show the manager what I can do again.
“That’s the quickest I could have possibly come back. I’ve still got to protect my head for another week or so. I’ve been lucky, though, I’ve had a lot of headers and not felt anything.
“I think, consistently this is the best I’ve played since I’ve been here. I believe I’ve played well in all the games I played so far this season.
“I feel good, I feel strong. I just need to continue that form. I think the clean sheet against Fulham will give us a lot of confidence to kick on.”
Keane is everything he wasn’t last year; calm, composed and confident. Watching Ashley Williams having another shocker for Stoke on Saturday, I can’t help but wonder whether the source of Keane’s struggles was playing alongside such an out-of-form partner.
He is certainly keen to maintain that form, with Tuesday’s Carabao Cup clash against ideal opportunity to maintain their momentum.
“We’ve got some big games coming up and we want to progress in the cup on Tuesday and then we go away to Leicester.
”We’ve got some tough games coming up and we want to keep winning. We want to keep this momentum now. Hopefully this can kickstart something good for us.”