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Arouna Kone Excited Ahead of Everton Comeback

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Arouna Kone feels like he is starting his career again ahead of his long-awaited comeback for Everton.

The Ivory Coast striker followed Roberto Martinez from Wigan to Everton in the summer of 2013 but made just one start and five substitute appearances before suffering a knee injury last October.

More than a year later he is finally ready to play for the first team again and will be in the starting line-up for Thursday's Europa League clash with Russians Krasnodar at Goodison Park.

Speaking through a translator, the 31-year-old said: "It's going to be absolutely fantastic, I'm really excited about it.

"It's been such a long wait and it's almost like making my debut, the very first match of my career. It's going to be a special night.

"I've been really motivated to try to get back with the first team and Thursday's going to present that opportunity.

"It's a special occasion for the club as well. We want to give a great performance for the fans, both myself and the team, in order to celebrate the qualification."

"It's been very, very tough. Any player will tell you the most difficult months are the months where you're absent through injury.

"I've had two fairly serious injuries, two cruciates, but I've never been out for this long. This was something similar but more complicated and I've had to really be patient during those tough times.

"I feel a lot better now, in every training session I feel great. It's important that we've taken our time and looked after it.

"I'm hoping to start getting into some good form, both myself and the lads, and not only can we do well on Thursday night but maybe then start to head towards the top four in the league."

With Everton already guaranteed to finish top in Group H and Krasnodar eliminated, manager Martinez will take the opportunity to completely change his team.

Bryan Oviedo, Antolin Alcaraz and Steven Pienaar have also struggled with injury this season and will get a valuable run-out while the rest of the side will be a combination of fringe players and youngsters.

But there is no one Martinez will be more pleased to see out on the pitch than Kone, and he said: "To have Arouna back is priceless.

"I wanted to thank all the fans, they've been terrific with their support towards Arouna. It's been a difficult time. Bryan Oviedo as well, two long-term injuries, and we missed them.

"Hopefully this will be the opportunity for them to get that good feeling back, enjoy their football and be ready for the second half of the season.

"Arouna is quite unique in what he brings into the squad. He's very different to Samuel Eto'o and Romelu Lukaku.

"With the amount of games that we have, we need every possible option, especially in front of goal and the way we want to play in our attacking combinations. Arouna will be pivotal in that."

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