Everton defender Seamus Coleman admits he felt he had a point to prove after facing criticism in recent weeks.
The Republic of Ireland international scored his first goal for 652 days in the 3-1 win over Brighton and his celebration was suitably emotional with a hands-to-the-ears celebration in front of the Gwladys Street End.
However, Coleman, who was sidelined for 10 months after an horrific double fracture of his leg in March 2017, insists he was not having a go back at fans but merely trying to show he was back to his best.
“I’m the first to criticise myself and the last couple of games I’ve probably not been where I want to be,” he said.
“I’ve been out for four weeks and I didn’t do a lot of training and part of my game is my fitness but I felt much better, much fitter and I just wanted to prove a point.
“I am a person who is very capable of taking it on the chin and knowing when I am not good enough.
“I’ve been here nine years and had good spells of form and bad spells of form. Players can be very precious over criticism. It’s part and parcel of the game.
“As footballers we all get stick so it’s not like I’m having a go back at the fans, it’s just me saying ‘I’m all right’. When I am fit and at it I am OK.
“When I came back here in January (for his first game after recovering from his broken leg) and played against Leicester, the reception I got from Everton fans is something which will stay with me for a long time.
“The fans understand the love I have for them and vice-versa.”
While Coleman has not been at his best in recent weeks he refused to look for excuses and insists the leg which was broken has never been a problem for him since making his comeback.
“Never for a second. It does not give me a day’s bother,” he added.
“Unfortunately the injury I’ve had this season (stress fracture of a foot) has turned out to be very frustrating; coming back, pulling out, coming back.
“But there are no excuses, to play in the Premier League you have to be at the top level and if you are not you get found out.
“Unfortunately this season I’ve not been up to my own high standards and I’m the first to admit that.
“The other thing is because I’ve scored a goal it doesn’t mean I’m the best player in the world.”
One player he believes could go on to join the world’s elite is team-mate Richarlison, who took his tally for the season to six with two goals against the Seagulls.
“You don’t want to put massive pressure on him but we are all excited by him and his ability,” said the Irishman.
“His quality to score goals is amazing and his work-rate is second-to-none so that’s impressive.
“He’s a top player and we are lucky to have him. He won’t get big-headed by his performances.
“He’s a great lad, he’s had a tough time to get here and I can see him going to the very top.”
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