SHANE DUFFY hopes his steady pre-season performances will force him back into Everton’s first-team equation next term.
The 20-year-old has featured in all three fixtures so far and played another 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw with Motherwell at Fir Park on Saturday, giving his side the lead with a first-half header.
But despite that highlight, the Republic of Ireland U21s defender is simply focusing on building on his fitness ahead of a pivotal season, when he hopes to make further Premier League appearances for David Moyes’ side.
He said: “It was a good run out for most of the lads.You can see they are getting their fitness back now with the 90 minutes.
“It was our most competitive game I’d say and you can see Motherwell are a good team. They have a Champions League qualifier soon so it was a good test. I think we perhaps could have played a bit better but at this stage it’s all about the fitness.
“I felt okay out there, it was my second game in a couple of days so the legs are heavy but that’s what pre-season is for – you want the games. I think most of the lads feel that way.”
“It was nice to score,” he added on his goal.
“It’s not my job but if I can pop up and get one it’s good. I guess I’m a threat – I’m big aren’t I? I was hoping for a clean sheet but unfortunately we didn’t get one.”
Lining up against Everton was former Toffee James McFadden – who made a cameo for the side he has been training with recently as he bids to engineer a move to Celtic.
And McFadden insisted he enjoyed his second spell at Goodison last season, even if it did not lead to a permanent deal.
“It was great to be playing against Everton. Shane’s nearly spoilt the party because it was supposed to be a testimonial and a Motherwell win but he had other ideas,” he said.
“Being at Everton helped me get my fitness back up because it’s an excellent set-up. Everyone was great and looked after me. It was good to go back knowing I wasn’t under any pressure.
“Obviously I put pressure on myself to do well when the manager brought me back, but I knew I would be looked after.
“Any time I got on the pitch was great for me – I was just delighted to be back.”
Meanwhile, Everton appear to have inched closer to a permanent deal for Steven Pienaar, after the South African did not travel on current club Tottenham Hotspur’s pre-season tour of America.
The midfielder has agreed personal terms with the Blues, and negotiations between Bill Kenwright and his Spurs counterpart Daniel Levy are at an advanced stage.