Gibson close to Everton comeback
ROBERTO MARTINEZ has praised the 'sensational' desire of Darron Gibson and confirmed that he is close to a return to Everton's first- team squad.
Gibson has been sidelined since suffering a cruciate ligament injury in Ireland's concluding World Cup qualifier with Kazakhstan last October. The midfielder was recently set the target of a return in Everton's final home game of the season with Manchester City on May 3, but Martinez says the immediate focus is to get the Derry native back involved in training.
"He is out on the grass, though he hasn't joined in with the group yet," said Martinez, "That's not going to be too far away with how he is recovering.
"He is well ahead of schedule and that always pleases me. The desire of Darron has been sensational in that respect and to have him around the place is a great sign."
Martin O'Neill has said that he would like to speak with Martinez and see if the Toffees would be willing to release Gibson for Ireland's end-of-season matches.
Meanwhile, Gareth Barry says team-mate James McCarthy rates favourably with the best midfielders he has played with.
The England international, who arrived on loan at Everton after long service with Aston Villa and Manchester City, hailed the maturity of the 23-year-old.
"For me, from playing alongside him, (in terms of) influencing games, James is up there with the best already," said Barry. "Until you play with someone week in week out it's hard to judge how good somebody is. For someone so young, he is so mature."
* REPUBLIC of Ireland U-18 head coach Paul Doolin has hailed his young squad after their "fantastic" 2-0 friendly win over the Czech Republic in Libcice nad Vltauou. Goals by Cobh striker Ryan Goldsmith and West Brom's Jack Hallahan helped claim the victory.
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