Dominic Calvert-Lewin says his first conversation with Rafa Benitez gave him confidence he could “hit the ground running” in 2021/22 – and revealed how he was eager to take on the responsibility of being Everton’s number one penalty-taker.
Calvert-Lewin nervelessly scored from the spot as the Blues played out a breathless 2-2 draw at Leeds United on Saturday.
The 24-year-old – who also netted in Everton’s 3-1 opening-day win over Southampton – delivered another fine all-round centre-forward display at Elland Road.
He aimed four shots on target during the game, more than any other player on the pitch, while his sharp link-up play and movement caught the eye throughout.
Calvert-Lewin says he is enjoying working under new boss Benitez and explained how the Spaniard reached out to him while the striker was on England duty at Euro 2020.
“The manager called me straight away [after his appointment], just to introduce himself,” Calvert-Lewin told evertontv.
“We had quite an honest chat and it made me excited to come back. He kept on checking in with me whilst I was away on holiday, too.
“As a player, to have your manager do that, it’s what you want.
“It gives you the confidence that, when you come back, you’re going to hit the ground running.”
Calvert-Lewin sent the travelling Evertonians at Elland Road into raptures when he fired the Blues in front on Saturday.
In the face of a four-minute wait to take his penalty while the decision was being checked by VAR – as well as a roaring home crowd trying to put him off when the spot-kick was eventually awarded – he showed impressive composure to slam a precision effort past Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier.
“It’s something I’ve wanted for a while [becoming Everton’s penalty-taker],” he said. “I’ve been ready to step in and take that responsibility.
“I spoke to the manager before the first game of the season, we had that conversation. He put me on the pens and thankfully I put one away against Leeds
“It’s what you practise, practise and practise for, but nothing can replicate taking it in front of a packed stadium.
“I actually didn’t hear the whistle because it was so loud! That’s why I looked at the referee [before taking it], because I didn’t know if he had blown his whistle or not.
“Then I just reset and took the penalty. It’s just about holding your nerve.”
Calvert-Lewin says Everton’s collective effort and application at Leeds offers a blueprint for how the Blues must approach every game this season.
He also paid tribute to manager Benitez’s tactical plan and forward Demarai Gray’s dazzling goalscoring display.
“The confidence and desire we showed is what we want week in and week out, whether we’re at home or away,” he added.
“To a man, starting me and Richy, defending from the front, we stuck in there.
“I think tactically we knew what we needed to do, to a man. I think that helps a lot.
“We know the way that Leeds like to play, man for man. So, it was about how we could counteract that and exploit it in the best way possible.
“I think Dimi [Gray] was top. He got his goal, which was fully deserved.
“It was difficult at times, but we came away with a point and, on another day, I think we’d come away with all three.”