Martinez hopes for Gibson return

Everton manager Roberto Martinez has dismissed the idea that Darron Gibson’s cruciate knee ligament damage was caused by pushing too hard to come back from a previous injury.

Gibson needed surgery after being carried off after rupturing his ligament during the first half of the Republic of Ireland’s 3-1 win over Kazakhstan in Dublin on Tuesday.

It was only his fourth game back after recovering from another knee injury that had forced him to miss the opening month of the season.

O'Farrell: Coping without Gibson

The 25-year-old had made his Everton return with a 69-minute appearance at Fulham in the Capital One Cup on September 24, then played the final 27 minutes as a substitute in the 3-1 Premier League defeat at Manchester City on October 5.

He made his first 90-minute appearance of the season in the Republic’s 3-0 defeat against Germany in Cologne last Friday, before suffering ligament damage 35 minutes into Tuesday’s match.

Martinez, who was watching Gibson at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday, has not given up hope that Gibson will return before the end of the season.

And asked if he had been pushed too far, too quickly while on international duty, the manager said: “No. If the injury had happened in the 80th minute, then you can go down to detail and see if fatigue played a part in it.

“But it happened in the first half of the game. He looked really free in his movement.”

Martinez was disappointed to lose Gibson to long-term injury, having been impressed by his midfield partnership with Everton team-mate James McCarthy during the early stages of the Republic’s game on Tuesday.

But he believes the injury could have been far worse.

He said: “It was such an innocuous incident, and those can be the ones where the really bad injuries are picked up.

“I was really fearful for the worst. With the scans yesterday, we are very, very positive.

“Yes, it’s anterior cruciate ligament damage, but the whole structure of the knee is perfectly fine, and it’s just going to be straight-forward surgery.

“From that point of view, I’m looking forward to seeing Darron back – hopefully this season.

“And that, in a way, was really good positive news yesterday, taking into consideration what it could have been.”

Martinez will also be without midfielder Steven Pienaar as Everton bid to improve on their current position of seventh when Hull visit Goodison Park in the Premier League on Saturday.

The former South Africa captain has missed his side’s last four league games with a hamstring injury, but should be back for the trip to Aston Villa on October 26.

Martinez said: “Steven’s been working with the group really, really well. It’s a bit too early in terms of being available for this weekend. But I expect him to be fully fit for next Saturday.”

Centre-back Antolin Alcaraz, meanwhile, could be in the frame for the visit to Crystal Palace on November 9.

Alcaraz has yet to make a competitive appearance for Everton since signing in the summer after Wigan released him.

The 31-year-old missed the early weeks of the campaign as he recovered from a hernia operation, and has continued to suffer with a groin problem since.

Martinez said: “Antolin is looking strong every day. Three weeks ago, we had a little bit of a setback. Now he’s back on the road to full recovery, and I feel he’s going to be ready in the next three weeks.”