Everton attacker Yannick Bolasie has taken a giant step towards a return to first-team action after appearing as a second-half substitute for the club's Under-23 squad in their 1-0 win over Leicester City on Monday (11 December).
Bolasie replaced summer recruit Dennis Adeniran with half an hour to go at Belvoir Drive and managed to come through the clash against the young Foxes unscathed. Fraser Hornby, who led the line for the senior squad in the Europa League against Apollon Limassol last week, scored the only goal of the game as David Unsworth's side moved to third place in Premier League 2.
Bolasie, who cost Everton around £25m ($33.37m) when he joined from Crystal Palace in the summer of 2016, knows he is still far from peak condition and does not expect to be firing on all cylinders for another two months. But the former Plymouth Argyle winger is simply delighted to be back on grass after losing over a year of his career to a horrific knee injury and could not contain his glee.
"Playing again was overwhelming," Bolasie told Everton's official website. "When I got on I felt good. I knew about two weeks ago I was going to play in this game so it's good.
"There wasn't any nerves! Now that I've played the 30 minutes there isn't any. Maybe before there was some because it's been a long time. Training is training – it's totally different in the matches when it matters so, yes, I'm happy.
"I want to be with the [first team] boys. Right now the team is doing really well so you're going to have to try to fight your way in but there's no rush for myself. I know what my role is because a year out in football means it will be a month or two before I'm really back at it but the main thing is that I feel okay. Just the smell of grass again in the game was great."
Everton manager Sam Allardyce recently hinted that Bolasie may feature in one of his match-day squads during the gruelling festive period, but the 28-year-old will have to sit out of the trip to Newcastle United on Wednesday as the Toffees go in search of their fourth win in five matches.