Dominic Calvert-Lewin will prosper under the management of Sam Allardyce – and a brief spell “out of the firing line” will be “hugely beneficial” for the 20-year-old striker.
That's the view of former Wimbledon and Norwich City forward Efan Ekoku, after Calvert-Lewin's incredible progress since joining Everton from Sheffield United on the final day of the summer 2016 transfer window.
The England Under-21 international eased his way into the first-team frame last season – appearing in 11 Premier League matches – before establishing himself as an integral figure in the side this term.
Calvert-Lewin had featured in all of the Toffees’ top-flight games in 2017/18 – starting 16 and coming off the bench in seven – until he was left out of the squad for Saturday’s meeting with West Bromwich Albion.
Boss Allardyce subsequently explained that the forward was showing signs of fatigue and instructed him to “chill, rest and recharge your batteries and come back”.
Ekoku, who grew up in Liverpool and who is now a football pundit, had a similar experience at the outset of his career when, after joining Bournemouth from non-league Sutton United, he was intermittently rested by then Cherries boss Harry Redknapp.
“Sam Allardyce, with all his experience, is a good manager for Dominic, because he will not expect too much from him,” Ekoku told evertonfc.com.
“He will know there are games where Dominic will be best served by watching from the sidelines, initially at least.
“It is very important not to rush kids and expect them to be blessed with the complete game so early in their development – it is too much to ask of them.
“Dominic will benefit from some time out of the firing line. When I was at Bournemouth after moving from non-league football and had spells out of the team – either because I was injured or just pulled out for a couple of games – I learned so much from watching the matches.
“It gives you a chance to appreciate how the game is being played and the runs being made by the older, more mature strikers.
“It can be a hugely beneficial part of your learning. You don’t necessarily like it because you want to play. But you can learn an enormous amount.
“This little spell out of the side will benefit him. And, when you are that young, you come back and feel super fresh.”
Calvert-Lewin enjoyed a heady summer, when he struck the only goal of England Under-20s’ World Cup final victory over Venezuela in South Korea, and used his success in the Far East as a launchpad for a productive 2017/18 with his Club.
The Yorkshireman has made 35 Everton appearances in all competitions this season – scoring seven times and adding six assists. He made a scoring debut for his country’s Under-21s against Holland last September and has gone on to cement his spot in Aidy Boothroyd’s Young Lions’ side.
Ekoku, who was capped 20 times by Nigeria, has been impressed by the speed of Calvert-Lewin’s development, for which he insists the player deserves a great deal of credit.
“It is extremely difficult as a young kid, especially when you are playing for a club as big as Everton,” said Ekoku, who was part of Nigeria’s squad at the 1994 World Cup in USA.
“The expectation is for you to perform and score goals – and to do a bit of everything else as well!
“He has plenty of room to improve and is showing the desire to really work hard at his game. That is shown by the way he has progressed so quickly.
“He has the frame to be a physical player, and he will fill out a lot more yet – then we will see how good he can go on and become.”
Ekoku, who also played for Grasshopper Zurich in Switzerland, Sheffield Wednesday and Dublin City before calling time on a 24-year professional career in 2004, now works as a television pundit on matches across Europe.
He saw plenty of new Everton striker Cenk Tosun in action for former side Besiktas – and expects the 26-year-old to be a hit at Goodison Park.
Ekoku, however, cited the case of his former Nigeria teammate and ex-Blues forward Daniel Amokachi –
who swapped Belgian team Club Brugge for Everton following the 1994 World Cup – to warn that any player coming to England from abroad must be afforded time to adapt.
“Some players are amazed by the physicality and speed of top-flight games here,” said Ekoku. “And it is not just 15 or so games a season – it is every single game. I think it even surprised Pep Guardiola last season.
“The first time I saw Daniel Amokachi after he had come over we were laughing about it. He said to me, ‘I thought I was fit and quick and strong’.
“He was… but he admitted he needed to lose weight and get fitter and sharper to play in England. Players who are not brought up here do not always understand the intensity of it – but they find out very quickly.
“Cenk is a good player and has been playing in a good side which did well in the Champions League. He does most things well – but it is imperative people create chances for him. Most strikers have more chances than the number of goals they score – even Harry Kane!
“Cenk is accomplished and has been playing at a good level – and Besiktas are a good football side. The level of physicality and expectation in the Premier League is a step up for him but he has a really good chance of doing well for Everton.”