(Reuters) - New Everton manager Sam Allardyce said the return of defender Michael Keane from injury and striker Oumar Niasse from suspension is a boost ahead of his first Premier League game in charge of the club against Huddersfield Town on Saturday.
Centre-back Keane missed Wednesday’s 4-0 win over West Ham United after picking up a knock in last weekend’s 4-1 loss at Southampton, leaving the Merseyside club with only four first-team defenders available for selection.
Niasse returns after serving a two-game ban for simulation while left-back Leighton Baines has not recovered from a calf strain.
“I‘m glad to have them back in the squad, especially from a Michael Keane point of view because, defensively, we only had those four players who played on Wednesday night,” Allardyce told a news conference on Friday.
Everton have climbed to 13th in the table with 15 points after four draws, three wins and seven defeats but have struggled for consistency this season under Ronald Koeman, who was sacked in October, and caretaker boss David Unsworth.
“It is my job to steer them back in the right direction, then back in the European places... and the FA Cup final. The first thing is to get the club back to winning ways. And get them playing consistently as they did on Wednesday.”
Everton have endured a busy schedule this season, with Saturday’s clash their 26th of a campaign that began in the Europa League third qualifying round in July.
The Merseyside club will play seven league games this month starting with the visit of 14th-placed Huddersfield with tough clashes against derby rivals Liverpool and defending champions Chelsea to follow.
“Fatigue may be a factor because it’s such a short period of recovery time and looking at the load these players have had over the last few months... every month has been like Christmas because of the number of games,” Allardyce said.
Meanwhile, Allardyce confirmed Sammy Lee had been appointed as his assistant manager while former Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare would work alongside first team coach Duncan Ferguson.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Chopra