Gareth Southgate says Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin made an irresistible case for England selection by adding regular goals to an “outstanding” all-round game.
Calvert-Lewin has, in manager Southgate’s view, “hit the ground running” as an England player.
The 24-year-old scored twice in Thursday’s 5-0 defeat of San Marino and has four goals from six Three Lions appearances.
Calvert-Lewin was touted as a potential England centre-forward for an extended period before a first call-up back in October.
He pressed his claims last season, striking eight times in Carlo Ancelotti’s first 10 Premier League games as boss following the Italian's appointment in December 2019.
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REVEALED: THE EVERTONIAN WHO INSPIRED CALVERT-LEWIN'S ENGLAND GOAL CELEBRATION
The coronavirus pandemic placed any England hopes on ice, however, and when international football resumed Calvert-Lewin missed out a squad for Nations League matches in September.
But sheer weight of goals – he scored nine in Everton’s opening six games across the competitions this term – forced Southgate’s hand for fixtures the following month.
“On the field, really, the difference [determining factor in Calvert-Lewin’s selection] has been his goals,” Southgate – talking in a press conference on the eve of England’s World Cup qualifying game in Albania – told evertonfc.com.
“We’ve always seen a player whose link play has been good.
“Whose work for the team has been outstanding.
“Who presses well.
“He has a great threat in the air, from crosses, in particular.
“But until the past 18 months, or so, he wasn’t quite finishing those chances.
“He’s now doing that consistently for his club and he’s hit the ground running with us.
“Pretty simple, really, that [consistently scoring] has been the difference.”
Calvert-Lewin scored on his England debut, against Wales, and was on target again when handed his third senior start in a friendly win over Republic of Ireland in November.
The player, whose 23 goals for club and country this season have all been scored from inside the 18-yard box, attributes a renewed ruthless streak, in part, to Ancelotti’s instructions over positioning and shooting first-time.
He clinically finished crosses from Reece James and Jesse Lingard at Wembley during the week.
After heading home Chelsea full-back James’ delivery, Calvert-Lewin kept a promise to Evertonian Chris Howgate to celebrate by kissing his fist and raising it in the air, to recognise the supporter’s fanatical backing of the Club.
And Southgate – while playfully mentioning Calvert-Lewin’s wardrobe choices – admits he couldn’t have been more impressed by the player's personality after getting to know him over the past six months.
“I really like his character,” said Southgate.
“He is really engaging and fun to be around.
“I am aware his dress sense can be dodgy but that’s not an issue here, we’re in tracksuits, so no problem with him and [Everton teammate and England Under-21 player] Tom Davies with us.”