How Dominic Calvert-Lewin came into his own at Everton

To have a rollercoaster season may be a grand football cliché, but it is certainly applicable to Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s 2019/20 campaign thus far.

Despite Everton having had three different managers in the space of a few months, the 23-year-old has finally come into his own. He has already scored 13 Premier League goals this season – more than double his tally from last season with significantly fewer games played – and has built a good partnership with fellow striker Richarlison in Everton’s forward line.

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Calvert-Lewin had scored five in seven league games before English football was brought to an abrupt halt in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which also saw a strong claim for a spot in Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad thrown into doubt.

But just how has the Everton striker found his best form?

“It was a lot of things coming together at the same time,” he said in an exclusive interview with Laura Woods ahead of Sunday’s game against Liverpool, live on Sky Sports.

“I’d gone through a lot of ups and downs and learnt from a lot of experiences as a young player joining Everton and playing under pressure. Perhaps being ready, then not ready at certain times and maybe this season was a little change in mindset and things falling into place.

“It [the suspension of football] was unfortunate timing because I believe I was as close as I’ve ever been to an England call up, which is what I’ve always dreamt of since I was a kid.

“It was frustrating at the same time, but I also looked at what I had achieved and how that can’t be taken away, it’s still there and it’s something I can build on which is the most important thing. It would be a shame to be in that good vein of form and then not continue that. So that’s what I’ve been working on, keeping fit and staying ready to go.

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“I’m enjoying playing up front with Richie [Richarlison]. I think we’ve developed a good partnership and we get along off the pitch as well. I try to speak a bit of his language while he tries to speak a bit of English as well… He’s been living in England longer than I’ve been learning Spanish, but he speaks a bit of Spanish, Portuguese, a bit of everything so we do get by.

“He works hard and I like to think I work hard myself so we do complement each other when we’re on the pitch.”

Calvert-Lewin also credits former caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson with helping to turn Everton’s season around, and Carlo Ancelotti for continuing in the same vein with Ferguson as his assistant.

“I think for me, when Duncan got the job, he pulled [me aside] the next day and gave me all the confidence in the world to set the game alight. Straight away, I was looking forward to going to play and I felt like there was a little weight off my shoulders. I had his full backing, he was the gaffer at the time and I believe he was the catalyst for turning our season around and getting the lads going again.

“You look at how [well] we were playing in that period, which should have been the case anyway, but I think sometimes you can stagnate in football when things don’t go your way. I really enjoyed playing under Duncan and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to kick on, which thankfully has continued under Carlo.

“I think the biggest thing [Ancelotti has taught him] is to be more selfish in my movement and stay more central. I had a tendency to run here, there and everywhere to try and help the team but at the end of the day, my job is to score goals and be the focal point for the team.

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“I would say when he came in, he recognised that I was in a good phase of form and he left me to it a little bit and let me keep enjoying my football and scoring goals.

“[The shutdown] has given us time away from the pressure of the Premier League to get together and work on things in training, like tactics and different systems we want to try and put in play when perhaps we wouldn’t have had the opportunity so soon. It’s been good to get together and focus on things that we can do to make ourselves a better team.”

Praise for Sterling and Rashford

Upon the Premier League’s return on Wednesday evening, players and officials took a knee as the kick-off whistle was blown to show support for Black Lives Matter, with the shirt names replaced with the movement’s name.

As a black player, Calvert-Lewin says the support of the Premier League is a huge deal and hopes racism can now be given the attention and gravity it deserves.

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“[It is] massively important. The platform football provides is absolutely huge worldwide and I think that has to be used to help change. It’s the biggest movement I’ve seen in my lifetime where the world has to be changed. Seeing people of my generation and perhaps a little bit older protesting in the way that they are, I think it’s been a nice thing to see.

“I think when I first saw what kick-started this whole movement [the death of George Floyd in the USA], it was very emotional and I think it was the same for a lot of people. I’m in a privileged position with the way I’ve grown up, I’ve not had to see too much of that whereas I know even in this country, even to this day, people are living that on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel it as much as they would and I want to use my platform to help that in whichever way possible.

“You see the racial incidents that happened [before] with Raheem playing for England and ones that have happened in the Premier League in the last couple of years, which from my point of view, slightly got brushed under the carpet. I don’t think they were disciplined in a severe enough way, [with] how much more significant they seem for me now. I hope the way the Premier League does deal with it going forward is how it should be.

“It’s very difficult, but if I’m talking from my personal view and what I do as a job, which is playing football, how the Premier League and football handles racism should be with great severity because there’s no place for it in the world. As long as some players are getting fined more for showing an advertisement on their boxer shorts or whatever it is than other players are for being racist then that’s morally wrong and it has to change.”

Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling has been spearheading the player’s response to recent events, while Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school dinners to be extended throughout the summer saw a sensational U-turn from the UK government.

Both are causes and players that Calvert-Lewin admires, saying: “I’m a big admirer of Raheem and I think that he’s a big role model for people like myself, young black people and young people as a whole. He’s using his platform now to go with the movement and it’s nothing that he’s not stood for before. He’s been that focal point for young footballers in the world and he’s carrying that on his shoulders which I have great respect for.

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“I think sometimes footballers get a bad rep because of the way the media perceives us sometimes, they don’t always like to show us in a good light and I think it’s very refreshing to see Marcus, who is a similar age to myself doing such a great thing.

“It’s not just a great thing, it’s a massive, massive thing to go to the lengths he has to make a change. I think he’s setting the example for young players like myself to follow from and at this time in the world, it’s a very nice thing to see.”

Returning with a Merseyside derby

As Premier League football starts to get the engines running again, there is the small matter of a Merseyside derby to look forward to when Everton get their season back under way on Sunday evening, live on Sky Sports.

But the game at Goodison Park will not be any normal affair. There will be no fans in the stands and neither side will have played competitive football in over three months. There’s also the small matter of Liverpool on the verge of their first ever Premier League title.

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“I think a lot of teams are in the same boat because it’s been a long period out of playing football and it’s hard to replicate match fitness without playing games. It usually takes a few games to get fully match fit so I think come late in the second half, everyone is going to be in a similar position.

“It will come down to who wants it more and I think that will be the same for everybody, but it’s no different to how we would go into any other game. We want to win it and especially this one with it being a Merseyside derby and the first game back.

“It’s hard to anticipate [what the atmosphere will be like without fans] because it’s never happened before in the Premier League. I think it’ll be very strange and you can’t predict how it’s going to be, it’s turn up on the day and see how it goes really.

“I’ve played in a few of them [Merseyside derby’s] since I joined the club and it’s a very unique experience to play in. When I joined Everton, I move straight into Liverpool and I felt what the game meant pretty quickly because it wasn’t long until I played in a Merseyside derby myself.

“I carry that into the games with me, I can feel what it means to the fans. I want to make them proud as much as I want to make myself proud when I’m playing football.

“For Everton fans, it would mean a lot to have that over on Liverpool, but at the same time, as a player, I think a Merseyside derby is equally as important every time. I carry personal pride in that and to have personally not been able to score or win one yet, I want to achieve that in this next game.”

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