Everton midfielder Seamus Coleman's return from injury has given manager David Moyes another timely boost. The Toffees are on a high after back-to-back home wins over Premier League leaders Manchester City and Chelsea.
And Coleman's goalscoring return for the reserves more than a month after being sidelined with a thigh problem provides more good news as the club look to maintain progress in both the league and FA Cup.
Teenager Ross Barkley, who made such an impact in the first two months of the season but has not featured since 26 November because of a knee problem, also stepped up his bid for full fitness with a run-out and goal in the 6-3 win over Newcastle at the club's Finch Farm training complex.
The 18-year-old has made a couple of appearances for the academy side in the last fortnight and was named on the bench for the first-team games against City and Chelsea but remained unused.
It leaves only Phil Jagielka (knee), Leon Osman (knee) and Jack Rodwell (hamstring) of the senior players to return from injury.
Rodwell, who has made only three appearances since last November, was in training last week until he suffered a setback.
However, Jagielka's return was scheduled for late February/early March and the defender is looking forward to edging closer to first-team involvement.
"It has probably been the longest January ever but I have got over that and am out of the brace and starting to do more in training as well," said the centre-back, who has not played since damaging medial knee ligaments in the defeat to Bolton on 4 January.
"I have had Ossie [Leon Osman] for company which has been good and we'll hopefully be stepping it up in the next couple of weeks. I am getting there. We are itching to get back – although we'll probably be sat on the bench or in the stand the way the team are playing at the moment."
In the time Jagielka and Osman, who has also been out since 4 January after having a piece of floating bone removed from his knee, have been sidelined, the whole atmosphere at the club appears to have been transformed.
The arrivals of former Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson and ex-Rangers striker Nikica Jelavic on permanent deals and the loan signings of Landon Donovan and Steven Pienaar have given everyone a lift and that has been reflected in performances.
Even striker Denis Stracqualursi, a loan signing in the summer from Argentinian side Tigre, has started to look like he has found his feet in recent weeks. Jagielka acknowledges the change that has taken place in a short period of time.
"The whole team looks different and they look brilliant every game," he told the club's own TV channel.
"We have added quality in January – Nikica has not played much yet – but Denis is like a new signing, the raging bull up front chasing everything down and he has got himself a couple of goals.
"The back four are doing fantastically – they have changed around in the last month or so – and hopefully we can have a much better second half of the season to the first. It proves what a good team we've got."Reuse content