How 'Student' Calvert-Lewin Is Honing Goalscoring Talent

In our latest longer read feature, Dominic Calvert-Lewin discusses becoming "a student of football", being lauded by a Premier League goalscoring legend, and why he now walks out for matches feeling taller than ever before...

Keep it going, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is told by an Evertonian unaware of how deliciously he’s timed his message.

Minutes earlier, the Everton striker was disclosing how his pursuit of consistency has moved him to become a “student of football”. Expounding on the pressure of being charged with scoring his team’s goals and why he wants to shoulder the weight of that responsibility.

“At a club this size, expectations are high,” says Calvert-Lewin. “If you don’t reach them, it can be a tough, lonely place.”

Thankfully for Calvert-Lewin, the memory of “my number one performance for Everton” remains fresh on the day of this interview, the 22-year-old “upbeat and energised” four days after terrorising Chelsea with his flammable cocktail of power, speed, menace and clinical finishing.

As such, he is in high demand for selfies and signatures, as a group of feverish young Evertonians converge on USM Finch Farm for their Junior Blues Christmas party.

There is a discernible bounce in Calvert-Lewin’s stride, the vivid, round blood mark soaking the ankle of his white sock a mere inconvenience, in the same way the forward was undisturbed by all 15 stones of Kurt Zouma landing on his foot during that harum-scarum clash with Chelsea.

Calvert-Lewin is too wise and, despite his tender years, experienced, to get giddy over one performance.

He is happy nonetheless to admit Everton’s defeat of Chelsea ranks as his favourite match since joining the Club more than three years ago. It is in explaining why that game usurped last season’s 4-0 thumping of Manchester United in his affections that Calvert-Lewin opens a window into his changing mindset.

He talks now in terms you expect from a gun striker.

“The Manchester United game was the loudest I’d heard Goodison in a long time and an excellent performance,” says Calvert-Lewin.

“But I didn’t score.

“To personally affect the scoreline against Chelsea, to experience that emotion of giving us a two-goal cushion, I thought, ‘What a feeling’.

“It was indescribable and you crave more of it. Deep down, you have to be selfish as a striker.

 

“If you’re not scoring goals, you’re perceived as not very good. If you are, you’re a great player.

“To carry that expectation on my shoulders is what I’ve always wanted. I believe I am capable of doing it [regularly scoring].

“But anyone can talk, you have to do it on the pitch.

“I feel more comfortable in front of goal this season. I am getting in better positions.

“I am making sure I give myself every chance to be the best centre-forward possible for Everton.”

Calvert-Lewin’s strike-rate is steadily rising. Following the win over Chelsea, he scored the only goal against Burnley on Boxing Day to give new boss Carlo Ancelotti a winning start before again netting twice at Newcastle United two days later. That took the youngster's tally for December to five goals - earning him a nomination for the Premier League Player of the Month award - while he now rests on 10 in all competitions for the season.

One of his most accomplished efforts on the way to double figures came two minutes after climbing off the bench at Brighton & Hove Albion in October.

VAR intervened to steer the day’s narrative away from Calvert-Lewin’s smart run and efficient finish.

It was an important moment for the player, though, evidence to support Calvert-Lewin’s assertion over his improved movement and reassurance his energies are being judiciously employed.

Further confirmation arrived with his winner at St James' Park in the final outing of 2019, a close-range finish that owed much to him arriving exactly where he was required at precisely the demanded moment. 

“I am working on my movement and it’s not always necessarily on the training pitch,” says Calvert-Lewin.

“I get on my laptop at home and study the game. I am doing my homework, I am a student of the game and still learning.

“Analysing the finer details has helped me a lot.

“Anyone can run and run fast. You have to do it at the right time and get in positions to be as effective as possible.

“I am trying to hone my skills and bring everything together, so it clicks how it did in the Chelsea game.

“The goal at Brighton was very good in every way. I can watch it and think, ‘How can I do that again and again’.

“It is no coincidence I was in that position because I am doing the work to be there. The next objective has to be to do it consistently.

“I am still learning about my strengths and how I am going to maximise my number of goals.”

 

Calvert-Lewin is reluctant to disclose which players he examines but his answer to the question is no less instructive for that reticence.

“I won’t go into too much detail but players similar to me,” says Calvert-Lewin.

“I look at how they get their chances. Study top-level players and how they are scoring goals. Think, ‘How can I get to that level?’

“I watch teams which play a similar way to us. It is about leaving no stone unturned.

“If it makes a difference of one or two per cent, then I am a better player for doing it.

“If you put in the work, you get the results. That is the belief I live by.”

Calvert-Lewin embraces the adulation which comes with his job even if it takes some adjusting to.

He beams for every photograph. Thanks the Evertonian – a parent of one of the children on their Finch Farm visit – for his ‘keep it going’ directive.

A nine-year-old fan who has cerebral palsy met Calvert-Lewin earlier this year following a major operation on her legs.

Emilia promised Calvert-Lewin she would be walking when he next saw her and on the Everton players’ annual visit to Alder Hey last month was as good as her word, marching in to say hello to her favourite footballer.

“It is strange to think some of these kids see me in that light,” says Calvert-Lewin.

“I was one of them, just a young kid who loved football. When I saw someone who played for Sheffield United I was in awe of them.

“It is very humbling and a reminder of where I’ve come from. A reminder of why I did this in the first place and to enjoy every moment.

“To see Emilia walking unaided and with a big smile on her face was a huge surprise for me. It was an unbelievable feeling.

“The fact I can affect someone like that and help put a smile on their face is incredible.

“But she does the same for me, she’s put a huge smile on my face both times I’ve met her.”

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02:10 Wed 11 Dec 2019

INSPIRATIONAL EMILIA GETS MASCOT SURPRISE

Dominic Calvert-Lewin catches up with nine-year-old fan at Alder Hey - and invites her to lead out the team against Arsenal.

 

A son of Sheffield United, Calvert-Lewin added another boy’s own moment this season when he scored both Everton’s goals in a Carabao Cup win at city rivals Wednesday.

He was raised a stone’s throw from his old adversaries’ Hillsborough home and would stroll past the stadium imagining lowering Wednesday’s colours.

Calvert-Lewin’s mind would drift, too, to the possibility of featuring on the Match of the Day programme he was allowed to stay up to watch on a Saturday night.

He plumped up a cushion on the night of Everton’s game with Chelsea and, yes, he laughs, was holding his breath to see if he might be the focus of former England striker Alan Shearer’s post-game analysis.

Shearer duly enthused over Calvert-Lewin’s turn, aided by a video package illustrating the all-round nature of the forward’s display.

“I thought, ‘Surely they’ll give me a little mention’,” says Calvert-Lewin.

“Alan Shearer scored so many goals and what a player, so for him to speak about me how he did gave me another boost.

“It allows you to think, ‘I am heading in the right direction, it is time to keep going and work harder than ever’.

“It was the first time I’d watched Match of the Day in a while and that was probably the case for a few people.

“As a kid, I dreamed of being on it and, at 22, it is something I can look at and think, ‘I am grateful for the position I am in’.”

 

Calvert-Lewin uses that feeling of gratitude as a device to anchor himself, for context when he hits a bump in the road.

That said, if Calvert-Lewin’s contribution on any given matchday does not tally with what he’d envisaged in his mind’s eye, he tends towards a period of introspection.

“It used to affect me…” begins Calvert-Lewin, swiftly giving up the pretence, “I can’t lie, it still affects me.

“When I don’t hit the heights I am capable of reaching, I do get frustrated with myself.

“I’ll say faster than anyone if I’ve not done well enough, it affects your mood early in the week.

“But football changes quickly. You cannot dwell on things too much, you have to work and prepare to put it right in the next game.”

The “hardest times”, says Calvert-Lewin, are those when he is on the outside looking in.

“As a striker you can probably be in and out the team more than anyone,” he continues.

“Every player wants to play every game, so you have to be strong mentally. Everyone has good and bad days, no matter your workplace or situation.

“My bad day might be different from someone else’s and I know I cannot complain.

“It is a tough road and it will continue to be tough. The grass ain’t always going to be green.

“But when it isn’t, you have to grind it out and back yourself and believe you can reach the heights.”

Calvert-Lewin exerted a forceful grip on Everton’s main striking position in the final phase of 2018/19.

His run of 10 successive starts was halted only by the minor injury which sidelined him from the last-day game at Tottenham Hotspur.

Calvert-Lewin scored twice in that period and revisiting the topic of his prowess in front of goal says, “Something has changed this season.

“I can’t put my finger on exactly what – but I am more confident than ever that I’ll score goals.”

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Free Digital Membership will provide you with the best possible experience when logged into the website, including access to the latest digital content.

Digital members will receive a monthly newsletter and get access to exclusive videos and regular member competitions offering money can’t buy prizes.

Your Digital account will also enable you to buy any tickets on general sale, and if you’re an Official member or Season Ticket Holder, the same login will allow you to access and manage your ticketing account.

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00:25 Fri 03 Jan 2020

DCL'S GOAL-LADEN DECEMBER

Striker has been nominated for Player of the Month prize.

 

Calvert-Lewin nevertheless joined up with England Under-21s for their summer European Championship campaign in buoyant mood, an outlook ushered away on discovering he would not start the opening match, against France.

England were beaten and Calvert-Lewin came in to face Romania. The horse had bolted, however, and a fancied young Lions team lost again to exit the competition.

For Calvert-Lewin, his experience in Italy couldn’t have been further removed from the Under-20 World Cup finals adventure he enjoyed with England in 2017.

“We’d won my only previous tournament and now I’ve had the experience of severely underachieving,” says Calvert-Lewin.

“But every experience is adding to my armoury, giving me the tools to adapt mentally in different situations.

“I was devastated to not be starting the first game. I wanted to play, really badly wanted to play.

“I got the opportunity in the second game but it didn’t go as well as I’d have liked.

“We should have done much better with the players we had. It was a big disappointment.”

Calvert-Lewin had to regain his poise in short order.

He reported back for pre-season training to be greeted by another challenger for his Everton striking jersey.

Moise Kean came from Juventus, an Italy international and the same age, 19, as Calvert-Lewin when he swapped Bramall Lane for Goodison Park in August 2016.

Rather than shrink from the competition, Calvert-Lewin used Kean’s presence as additional motivation, while resolving to act as a sounding board for his new colleague.

 

“If he wants to ask me anything, I will give my honest opinion and try to help him where I can,” says Calvert-Lewin.

“As a young lad, leading the line for Everton is very tough.

“And you know the competition is always there. 

“I backed myself when we bought a new striker and believed I could do the job. You have to expect competition at a club as big as Everton.

“I wanted to be here and to work for my place.

“We have quality at the top of the pitch, so it is down to me to build on my form and make sure I am the man leading the line.”

That well-wishing Evertonian can rest assured, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has every intention of keeping it going.