Saturday 18 November 2017

Oumar Niasse revelling in a fresh start at Everton

Recalled Everton striker Oumar Niasse does not hold a grudge against manager Ronald Koeman.
Recalled Everton striker Oumar Niasse does not hold a grudge against manager Ronald Koeman.

Former Everton outcast Oumar Niasse bears no grudge against manager Ronald Koeman for being unceremoniously frozen out of the team for a year.

On the back of one 45-minute performance in a pre-season friendly last year Koeman decided the Senegal striker, a £13.5million January signing by predecessor Roberto Martinez, was not good enough.

He was told he had no future under the Dutchman, stripped of a squad number, banished to the under-23s and even refused a locker, although Koeman disputes this final anecdote.

In January he moved to Hull on loan and scored five times in 19 appearances, which was not a bad record for the relegation-doomed side, but even when he returned to Merseyside his was minutes away from being offloaded to Crystal Palace on deadline day before the deal fell through.

With Koeman unable to sign the striker he wanted to replace the goals of Romelu Lukaku he had no option but to bite the bullet and give Niasse another go and the 27-year-old's two-goal salvo in the 2-1 win over Bournemouth eased a lot of the pressure growing on his manager after four successive league defeats having spent £150m in the summer.

"It was a difficult time for me but I wouldn't say anything against anyone here or against the team," said Niasse.

"He (Koeman) just said this was a new opportunity for me. I didn't want to go over the past with him. There is nothing to say about that.

"He said (last year) I wasn't ready and maybe I wasn't ready. I went away, I learned and I have come back stronger.

"Even if I wasn't on the pitch for every game or was with the under-23s I was running on the pitch like a dog.

"I tried just to keep my head on me, to not lose it, and the best way to do that is to just keep working hard."

Even after being told there was no future for him and being farmed out to Hull the striker's determination to play for Everton never dwindled.

"I signed for Everton for four years and I knew Everton were still my team when the loan finished and I had to come back," he added.

"You have to have a strong mentality. I know where I am from and where I want to go.

"It is not a case of something bad happening and so I give up. I kept saying to myself 'Anything can happen'.

"It was a hard time with the under-23s, seeing my team-mates enjoying the games here without me. I was with the under-23s instead, travelling and playing at empty stadiums, but that's life."

Niasse's attitude has certainly impressed fans and he is well on the way to being the next cult hero.

Koeman is still in the market for a striker but the Senegalese will take that in his stride should a new rival arrive in January or next summer.

"Everton is a big club and I don't mind if he (Koeman) has an opportunity to bring in another striker as that will make the competition in the club much better," he said.

"I will keep working hard if I am still here. You don't know what will happen in football - we could play two or three up front, have another striker coming off the bench."

Press Association

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