Calvert-Lewin: Dad Would Never Let Me Get Big-Time - I Can Always Do More

In an interview first published in Everton's matchday programme this month, Dominic Calvert-Lewin talks about an enduring commitment to the Club and desire to go down in Goodison Park history, unequivocal England ambitions, a tweak to his personal training programme, why he frequently abandons social media and the white lie to his mum responsible for the sure touch we see today.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin is starting to think about a suitable home for a burgeoning collection of mementoes.

“Something prettier in my house,” as he puts it, to store the England caps and hat-trick balls and Under-20 World Cup winners’ medal.

As he warms to the subject, the Everton striker unintentionally lets us in on the drive and attitude underpinning a captivating emergence as one of this country’s best and most exciting young footballers.

“I am thinking of getting a cabinet built,” he continues.

“And there will be extra space in it, for what is to come.”

Calvert-Lewin speaks how he plays football; forthright and purposeful, certain and ambitious.

He will explain in this interview why honours won at Everton would have far greater personal value than medals picked up elsewhere.

This bright 24-year-old has the words and manner to convey an inbuilt belief in his own talent and vast potential but remain humble in the same breath.

Anyway, should Calvert-Lewin start acting “big time” – his words – dad Karlda would bring him back to earth with a notable bump.

Calvert-Lewin won his first England cap in October after scoring by the bucketload from the beginning of the season to make an irresistible case for inclusion.

He has been in three squads and it is illuminating to hear Calvert-Lewin assuredly on the front foot in response to a query over whether he pays special attention to the methods of frontline centre-forward Harry Kane.

“Uhm, I would say, yes, of course,” says Calvert-Lewin.

“He is in the driving seat, at the moment.

“He is England’s striker.

“But my dreams as a kid weren’t to sit on the bench for England.

“My dreams were to play for England in big competitions.

“I am always striving for more.

“I look at how I can cherry-pick things from many strikers’ games.

“It is small steps to, ultimately, being England’s number nine.

“That is my dream and I will do everything to achieve it.”

If Calvert-Lewin sets his mind to a task, the sensible wager is in favour of a successful conclusion.

Gareth Southgate, the England manager, formerly admired Calvert-Lewin’s attributes – the speed and power and slick combination play and cute football brain – but wanted end product.

Indeed, it took a 10-goal burst midway through 2019/20 to convince some pundits Calvert-Lewin had the capacity to function as Everton’s centre-forward.

He started last season with 10 goals in seven games and finished the campaign with 25 for Club and country.

“It is hard to put it [regular scoring] down to one thing but, above all, it is belief in myself,” says Calvert-Lewin.

“We’ve had many interviews when you’ve asked about me doing everything but scoring goals.

“I’ve had to grit my teeth and say, ‘The goals are coming, I am persisting’.

“I truly believed they would come, even when, maybe, other people didn’t.

“I had periods when people doubted I could score at all.

“I knew I was doing the right things and the penny would drop.

“And that when the penny did drop, people would ask me, ‘What changed?’

“Nothing has changed, I am still the same me, working hard and doing the same things.

“I knew this day would come, when you would ask me this question.”

When Calvert-Lewin called home to relay the news of his England call, mum Rachel dissolved into joyful tears.

She will, perhaps, have remembered all those evenings hurrying back from work to deposit her boy at training with first club Sheffield United.

What mum will discover, if she reads this interview, is that she could have gone steadier on the pedal.

“I’d tell her my training would start at 4.30pm, which was two hours early, just so I could practice by myself,” says Calvert-Lewin.

“I did that from probably 12 until 16, when I became full-time.

“I don’t know if she knows to this day.

“I’d go on the indoor pitch and smash the ball against the wall for hours on end.

“I loved the ball at my feet.

“I would clip it at the wall from long range and short range.

“Go in the corner and smash the ball off one wall, take a touch with my right foot and play it with my left off the other wall.

“Without realising, all that contact on the ball was probably a catalyst for helping me cope with the Premier League.”

Calvert-Lewin watched his dad working one job during the week and another at the weekend, mum leaving the house for night shifts and, at times, holding down two jobs, and his grandad “fitting kitchens all his life”.

“I am surrounded by hard-working people,” he says, “who instilled in me that if you want something, you have to work as hard as possible to make sure you achieve it.”

That work ethic survives today and Calvert-Lewin is renowned at Everton for first-class professionalism and overtime on the training ground.

“It comes from my desire to make the most of my potential and my football career,” he continues.

“When I reach the end of my career, I want to be satisfied I gave everything, every day, in every training session, to be the best player possible.”

Calvert-Lewin possessed raw physical assets – his spring and turn of foot, in particular – when he joined Everton from Sheffield United in August 2016.

But the progressive transformation from callow, ungainly teenager into the prodigious athlete we see today is something to behold.

The training and nutrition programme responsible for that broad, granite top half and game-changing pace and agility has undergone some minor tweaks of late.

“I go in the gym a lot but, funnily enough, I don’t do much upper-body weightlifting or body building anymore,” says Calvert-Lewin.

“It is more plyometrics and exercises based on performance to make me go faster and higher and stay injury-free.

“I try to do everything possible to stay on the pitch in peak condition.

“I have a structured diet, not necessarily for building muscle – just to make me as efficient and robust as possible.

“I have always had a big appetite and love eating nice food.

“Lloyd [Parker, Everton Head of Nutrition] is great… but I have my own nutritionist, as well, and they provide my food.

“What I eat and when and the portion sizes are all quite regimented.

“These are the finer details to achieve those marginal gains to help me score goals.”

If Calvert-Lewin has grown in stature over the past five years, then so have Everton.

Players and supporters expecting “big things” is nothing new, he insists, but “now it is more realistic for us to achieve what we want”.

Calvert-Lewin scans a dressing room filled with international talent, a mix of wily seniors and blossoming contemporaries, and concludes, “It is the best squad I have been in”.

The swell of euphoria around Everton, the sense of happiness and elation as Spirit of the Blues bumped Miley Cyrus off the top of the UK iTunes chart, when Carlo Ancelotti’s team won game after game to start the season, provided a teasing glimpse into how success would be greeted.

“I have been thinking about that all season,” says Calvert-Lewin.

“When I have been scoring goals and we’ve been winning games, it’s felt like, ‘This is what we’ve been waiting for, this push, this squad, this manager’.

“The new stadium is under way, and to have Carlo Ancelotti guiding and leading us, you couldn’t ask for more.

“All that has been missing is the fans, the passion they bring rubs off on us players.

“Everything is in place for us to move into that top-six category.

“But it is down to us to turn our ambitions into reality.”

Calvert-Lewin signed a contract last year keeping him at Everton until at least June 2025 and duly confessed the Club’s bid for silverware felt “personal”.

He’s all-in with Everton, then, too far down the track to contemplate an alternative?

“Absolutely,” asserts Calvert-Lewin.

“As a club we have not achieved for a long time.

“To be one of the players in this squad to win a trophy, to win a league, would be massive.

“You would go down in history, at a club with a very rich history, which is striving to be back up there.

“For me, it is that personal connection with Everton and the raw emotion winning for this club brings.”

Calvert-Lewin is well-liked by teammates and popular among fans, who have warmed to the Yorkshireman for more than his goals.

They identify a competitor and a player who cares. What’s more, Calvert-Lewin is personable and relatable.

We know this partly because of a fun and empathetic presence on social media.

Twitter users playfully highlighted Calvert-Lewin’s apparently miniscule shin pads when playing for England against San Marino in March.

The player’s response contained a picture of a custard cream and the accompanying message “… this is what I use for my shinnys”.

Had Calvert-Lewin been on one of his self-imposed social media exiles we’d have been denied the exchange and that would have been a pity.

This is where we come to the sinister side of various platforms, the element that compels Calvert-Lewin to intermittently switch off.

Football united in stepping away four weeks ago but Calvert-Lewin saw racist abuse aimed at Raheem Sterling and Stan Collymore directly after the three-day boycott and wondered about the point of it all.

“It is like Groundhog Day,” says Calvert-Lewin, following an audible sigh.

“We can have these boycotts all we want but they are just that unless there is action to go with it.

“I was slightly underwhelmed by it.

“It is all well and good having a weekend’s social media boycott but what happens when it is Monday morning and people are being racially abused again or receiving general online abuse?

“Until people are held accountable for words they type into their keyboards, things are not going to change.

“It is more deep-rooted than, ‘Right, everybody stop being racist, everybody stop abusing people online’.

“I am not a politician, I don’t have all the answers.

“But I believe more can be done higher up [in Government], and higher up in social media companies, to counteract this.

“There will be victims until true changes are made.”

Calvert-Lewin continues: “I use social media sparingly.

“I go through periods when I take the app off my phone to have a break from it.

“For your general health, it is not good to be on it too much.

“I like to try to live in the real world, in my real world.

“You have a good game and people tell you how good you are.

“You have a bad game and it is the other extreme.

“How do you read that all the time and have balance?”

The shin pads, says Calvert-Lewin, “might have got smaller” after his regular pair was lost – “not by me” – a couple of years ago.

“It is just what feels comfortable,” he says.

“It caught on and went viral.

“That is why social media can be good.

“You can have a bit of fun and interact with people and show you are a normal person and only human.”

Calvert-Lewin marked the first of his double strike in England’s win over San Marino by kissing a fist and raising it towards the sky.

The celebration was for Evertonian Chris Howgate, a fundraiser for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, who was introduced to Calvert-Lewin after footage of an emotional reaction to the player’s last-ditch equaliser at Manchester United this season was watched by nearly one million people.

It was the gesture of a man unaffected by a soaring global profile.

“My family always kept me grounded,” says Calvert-Lewin.

“I’d go into end-of-season player reviews at Sheffield United from 12 or 13 and the coaches would tell me I was doing really well and had a chance.

“And my dad would always say, ‘Keep your feet on the floor, I will never let you get big time’.

“I wouldn’t say he was hard on me but he ensured I kept working and never grew complacent and comfortable.

“Enough was never enough.

“I could always do more.

“Although it was tough, sometimes, I thank him so much for helping keep me grounded and instilling that work ethic and belief in me.

“I owe a lot to my family, for how they brought me up and gave their all, so I had the best chance of becoming a professional footballer.

“There have been very low times and some highs getting to this position.

“They have been with me every step of the way.”

The World Cup in 2006, when Calvert-Lewin was nine, features prominently in hazy memories of watching summer tournaments.

Wayne Rooney’s race to be fit and the “uproar” caused by Cristiano Ronaldo’s wink following Rooney’s red card against Portugal.

For one competition, Calvert-Lewin positioned an England flag in his bedroom window.

“The window faced onto my old primary school,” he says.

“I put the flag there so when I was at school, I could see it.

“I remember thinking, ‘What an atmosphere [around the country], these guys [England players] are my role models and that is where I want to be.

“I guess, because my dad, more than anyone, told me I could do it, I just believed it – and I am closer than ever.”

A young, technically-gifted England squad have raised public expectations for this summer’s European Championship.

“I play football to try to play in big games, in big competitions,” says Calvert-Lewin.

“The expectation is what gives me that thrill when I play football… you can achieve big things and score goals and it creates that raw emotion you can’t replicate anywhere else in life.

“I would relish going to the Euros and if and when I am called on, I will be ready to grab the chance with both hands.”

Calvert-Lewin regards Everton’s draw with Crystal Palace in April as “one of my most frustrating games… because, overall, I had not met the standards I set myself.”

The disappointment stemmed from a handful of missed chances.

Calvert-Lewin, however, has the poise to apply perspective.

We’re increasingly witnessing similar composure on the field, the dead-eyed finish after running through at West Ham United for the only goal of the game this month, a case in point.

Everton manager Ancelotti praised the player’s ability to turn “cold” in the clutch moment.

“It is mainly instinct,” begins Calvert-Lewin.

“You can overthink in those situations but the best strikers back themselves, trust their instincts and put the ball in the net.

“There have been times this season when I’ve not been as clinical as I wanted.

“I can improve every area of my game – and I am improving all the time.

“I try to learn in every match.

“When teams sit deep, I have to drop and improve at getting on the ball and trying to make things happen, maybe fashioning chances for myself.

“In other games, I can stay high and run in behind and be in the box to score with one-touch finishes.

“There will always be something people say you need to improve.

“I enjoy that, it gets me out of bed every morning and is motivation to keep scoring and getting better.

“I welcome criticism and pressure. I feel it makes me a better player.

“As a centre-forward, you won’t score every chance – although you believe you will.

“You have to learn from the misses and analyse how you can get better in those situations.

“And when the chance comes again, put the ball in the back of the net.”

Calvert-Lewin reached his century of Premier League starts at West Ham.

Hear his name mentioned today and it is invariably in the context of Everton and England striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

“It has a nice ring to it,” he says.

“My dad used to say, ‘You are not a bona fide Premier League player until you have played a certain number of games.

“I’d like to think, I can say to my old man, ‘I have started 100 games, does that make me a Premier League player?’”

We know the answer.

But, as always with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, he wants a great deal more.