My Football Journey...With Everton U23s Defender Eli Campbell

Everton Under-23s face Manchester United in a Premier League 2 clash at Southport FC on Friday (7pm BST) – and you can watch the game live on our Official YouTube channel!

Ahead of the match, you can learn more about teenage Toffees defender Eli Campbell, as he discusses honing his skills on the streets of south Manchester, relives the best moment of his burgeoning career, and reveals why Everton ‘feels like home now’.

My passion for the game was inspired by…

My dad. Ever since I was able to walk, I was kicking the ball about in the garden with him and my brother. My dad would teach us little basics of the game.

When I got a little bit older, I would play on the street or in the park; on the astro across the road from my house. I played a lot with my brother and his friends who were older than me. I think I was about 13 when I realised I was getting better than my brother! He was an okay player…a little bit lazy, though!

Playing with older people makes you think faster. I could get frustrated at times, but it gives you that hunger. I would get the ball but get pushed off it. They’re bigger than you so you can’t use your strength or pace as much ­– you have to be good on the ball, use it well and use your skills.

My heroes were…

I grew up in Wythenshawe, south Manchester, and I’ve been going to football matches since I was three years old. We had season tickets at Manchester City. My heroes changed, it was Carlo Tevez when I was a little bit younger, then David Silva.

When I became a defender, I started to love watching Sergio Ramos. I like his aggression. He is so good on the ball and defensively he’s great. He’s not the biggest defender in the world but, somehow, he always finds a way to outmuscle and outsmart attackers to win the ball.

Before I became a defender…

I started off as a goalkeeper at Under-8s or Under-9s. I was pretty good. I got a little bit bored in goal, though, so I went into midfield, then left-wing, striker, left-back, centre-back… Now I switch between left-back and centre-back.

If we ever needed a keeper, I’d definitely back myself to do a job. I remember an Under-15s game when we played against Sheffield United, our keeper got injured, so I played 60 minutes in goal. I made a few good saves and I think we won the game 4-1. It was a good day, that.

My first memories of joining Everton are…

I was 13 when I joined the Academy. The first time I came to the Club as a trialist, we straight away went on a tour to Italy.It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done because I didn’t know anyone! I soon settled in, though. For the first hour, I didn’t speak to anyone, but then I quickly settled in with the lads.

The things that stands out the most about my first few months at Everton was the desire to win. I know it’s still development football and it’s about individual development, but you need to have that winning mentality at Everton. It’s important everyone knows what the goal is.

My best moment in football was…

Beating Man City in the Youth Cup last season, when Luke [Butterfield] scored in the 98th minute. We went into the game knowing they’d have the majority of the ball, but we were defending well, blocking shots and our goalie was pulling off some top saves. We were running, running and running! I had a great view of Luke’s goal, I was right behind it when he smashed it in. I got a mad burst of energy and sprinted across the pitch to celebrate with the lads!

The first thing we did after the game was to go to see Tyler [Onyango], who got a very bad injury in that match. Then, when we got back in the changing room…wow. I haven’t been involved in better scenes. It was amazing.

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01:04 Sat 03 Apr 2021


Luke Butterfield's late, late, strike sends Everton through to the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup with a win over the holders.

My Everton dream is…

I’ve still got a lot to develop but, of course, I’d love to break through to the First Team and become an important player for Everton.

I’ve been at the Club for coming up to four years and I love it. Everton was the start of my proper football career, so it’s alI I know, really.

I feel at home here.