SHANE Duffy has been told by Everton boss Roberto Martinez that pre-season will be his chance to fight for a return to the first team, after a season-long loan spell at Yeovil Town.
The 22-year-old centre-half met with Martinez before joining the Ireland team on international duty, and was given the opportunity to return to action at Goodison Park next season provided that he proves his form later this summer.
"Roberto told me that pre-season was my chance to shine and he's said to me that if I am where he thinks I am – from what he's seen of me this season – then I'm going to be involved,” Duffy said.
“And if I'm not, we'll see at the end of pre-season what we're going to do. It's a big summer for me, it's up to me."
Following Duffy’s positive meeting with the Everton manager, he shared his praise for the man who led the Merseyside club to fifth place in the Premier League last season.
"It's just the amount of planning, every stat, every little thing," he added.
"I can see him going higher, but hopefully he stays at Everton."
Duffy’s Irish teammates Aiden McGeady and Seamus Coleman are also admirers of Martinez’s precision and hands on approach to training, and Duffy believes that Coleman’s performance in particular is fast improving under the Spaniard’s guidance.
"Seeing Seamus progress is brilliant for me because he's such a hard worker and it's a reward for how he lives," Duffy said.
"And he's very good to me, he says, 'If I can do it, you can do it' so we'll see what happens."
The Derryman is aiming to build on his positive experience at Yeovil, despite the season ending in relegation.
He admitted that spending eight months with the Somerset-based Championship side allowed him to concentrate on football and appreciate his role at Everton further.
"Having been around the Premier League and the players and that lifestyle, you sort of get into it,” he said.
“When you're away from it, you see a different kind of life and it makes you grateful to be where you are at Everton.”
The former Ireland U-21 captain joined his international teammates and new management team in Malahide this week, and whilst he is hoping that Martin O’Neill will award him his first cap this Saturday, he was also able to speak to the Ireland boss about his performance at Yeovil.
"He's told me to enjoy it, that he'd been to watch me and I'd done some good stuff and some bad stuff. He hasn't promised me anything, so hopefully I'll do alright."