Dominic Calvert-Lewin says his physical condition is improving with each Everton match and training session as he strives to reach his "top level" – and has opened up on the “mental battle” he faced during a four-month injury layoff.
After scoring in each of the Blues’ opening three Premier League matches of the season, Calvert-Lewin sustained a quadriceps injury that kept him sidelined until the new year.
The England attacker revealed how suffering setbacks during his spell out of action was “soul-destroying”, with the 24-year-old desperate to return to full fitness and contribute for his team.
Calvert-Lewin insists he will emerge from the experience as a “stronger person and player” – and says he now feels fitter than at any point since his comeback. He has started Everton’s past two matches and completed the full 90 minutes of Saturday’s defeat at Southampton.
“The injury was so frustrating because I started the season so well and I was in a good moment,” Calvert-Lewin told evertontv.
“To re-injure the same leg three times, it was soul-destroying at points, and it takes you to the depths of a mental battle.
“It’s difficult seeing the boys play and you feel so far away. I’d feel close to coming back and then I was sidelined again.
“You have to dig deep and show courage and character. I feel I’m now a stronger person and a stronger player and off the back of that I’ll return to a top level.
“I’ve been training consistently for a couple of weeks. Now, I feel physically a lot better and much more confident in my body.
“I hold high standards for myself and when you’re not quite at that level that you expect, it can become frustrating.
“I’m trying not to get too frustrated with myself. The fitness and sharpness will come and I just need to keep getting in the right areas, doing the work, and I’m sure the goals will follow.”
Calvert-Lewin enjoyed an exceptional 2020/21 campaign, in which he finished as Everton’s top scorer with 21 goals and scooped the Blues’ Player and Players’ Player of the Season awards.
The striker’s impressive performances saw him named in the England squad that reached the final of the European Championships last summer.
Calvert-Lewin admits having his positive momentum stalled by an enforced absence provided a significant challenge – and explained how being unable to play only reinforced his unstinting passion for the game.
“I had to dig deep and I learned a lot about myself,” he added.
“I made me appreciate being fit and my love for football and the atmosphere in games… To have that taken away, it was difficult at times.
“I did a few appearances like Monday Night Football [on Sky Sports] and people can misinterpret that for not putting the work in.
“I was doing two treatment sessions every day. It’s harder being injured than when you’re playing and you’re trying to push your body every day to get back to being fully fit.
“It was a very tough time for a number of months. I now know the amount of mental strength it takes from people who have been out for a long amount of time. I feel I can only become stronger from that.
“On a personal note, it’s good for me to have got through 90 minutes against Southampton.
“But the result was the most important thing, and we were very disappointed with that – and I’d like to apologise to the fans who made the long trip down there.
“We know how disappointed they will be and all I can say is we will work hard to put that right.”
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LAMPARD'S VERDICT ON SAINTS REVERSE
During his layoff, Calvert-Lewin admits he regularly visualised scoring in front of a vocal and vibrant Goodison Park or a rocking Everton away end.
And the Yorkshireman is confident he will soon be regularly sharing those moments with Evertonians again.
“It’s the feeling I’ve missed the most,” he said. “It’s the feeling I thought about when I was out injured for so long.
“That elation, there’s nothing like it.
“I was looking at the away fans at Southampton and it was packed out. I was dreaming of scoring and wheeling off celebrating.
“I know that moment will come and it will become more frequent. It’s a case of holding onto that [belief] and doing the right things, plugging away, and hitting the back of the net.”