Nov 16 (Reuters) - Everton left back Leighton Baines is confident he will soon be back to his best as he nears a return to first-team action after spending his longest spell on the sidelines following surgery.
The England international, an integral part of Everton manager Roberto Martinez's first team for the last two seasons, is yet to feature this campaign after twice undergoing ankle surgery in the space of three months.
He scored in a behind-closed-doors friendly win over Preston North End on Wednesday and is eyeing a return to Premier League action for the first time since May 9 when the league resumes on Saturday.
"The injury has been new ground for me. It was weird in that respect. I have never had more than 10 days off my whole career in terms of stopping and doing nothing (even in the close season)," Baines told the Daily Telegraph.
"I was able to adopt that attitude of 'Maybe it is a blessing'. I lean towards that, that things happen for a reason.
"You have the initial disappointment and then you pick yourself up. Part of being a footballer is having the ability to do that.
"There's no reason I can't be as good as I was five years ago. If I am not I can look at myself in the mirror. It won't be for the want of trying," he added.
"If you had seen me train over the last few months you can see I'm keen to work.
Everton, who sit ninth in the league table, host rock-bottom Aston Villa when the league resumes this coming weekend (Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien)