It is one year ago today that Ben Godfrey’s inveterate self-belief was validated with a first England start at the home of the club that released him as a schoolboy.
For a player who recognises he “needs to make enough noise” to contend for further international honours, and who was sidelined for the final month of the Premier League season, therefore, the domestic calendar’s summer pause probably feels rather ill-timed.
Godfrey, who insists he “loves everything about playing for Everton", fully tunes-in for a game on the preceding evening – but the mental preparation starts as soon as the previous fixture finishes.
The 24-year-old, then, will be climbing the walls by the time Everton reconvene for pre-season, given he last played on 20 April due to a thigh injury.
Frank Lampard had Godfrey at his disposal for only eight matches following the manager’s appointment at the end of January.
And Godfrey started and finished seven of those fixtures. The other, Lampard’s first game in charge, against Brentford in February, was prematurely curtailed by injury.
Perhaps Lampard, a famed football obsessive who stopped at nothing in pursuit of self-improvement, identifies a kindred spirit in the driven Godfrey, who was limited to 27 appearances in all competitions last term.
“I start visualising bits of the game the night before, my dad used to tell me to do it when I was a kid, so it’s ingrained in me,” said Godfrey, in an interview originally published in Everton’s matchday programme.
“You are thinking about the next game as soon as the last one finishes, you are training towards it, so it is always there.
“But there is a switch, a massive changing point, the night before. That is when you begin to think about it in-depth and visualise who you are coming up against.
“It is hard to switch off from football. I’ll manage, sometimes, but it’s not a hindrance if I can’t.
“I don’t think, ‘I want to get it out of my mind’.
“It is my job and something I love doing.
“My dad always emphasised the importance of retaining the enjoyment of playing.
“I am able to keep a level head and avoid getting carried away with either extreme. I won’t be on the floor after a bad game, or sky-high when it has gone well.
“I love everything about playing for Everton, it is a massive club, a great club, and I felt this was my home from the day I signed.”
There wasn’t a lot of need for recourse to Godfrey’s stoic qualities in his opening Everton campaign, following a transfer from Norwich City in October 2020.
He was a fixture in the team pretty much from the off and a succession of powerhouse performances earned the defender the Club’s Young Player of the Season honour.
And when England manager Gareth Southgate needed to supplement his squad for a pair of pre-European Championship fixtures, Godfrey was an obvious candidate.
Godfrey came off the bench on 2 June last year in a 1-0 win over Austria and four days later played 90 minutes as England defeated Romania by the same scoreline.
There was added piquancy in the location of the matches, at the Riverside Stadium home of Middlesbrough, the club who released Godfrey eight years earlier.
“I’ve had a fair few people to prove wrong from some academies and it made it sweeter,” said Godfrey.
“Mum and dad put in a lot of effort getting me up to Middlesbrough throughout the week. To be told, ‘No’, at that young age was so hard.
“The journey from there has been special and I am so grateful they did get rid of me – because things could have been very different otherwise.”
Godfrey began his professional ascent with York City.
He’d left his hometown club for the opportunity with Middlesbrough and subsequent trials at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United.
Back at York as an Under-15 and determined to create an impression, Godfrey would use Friday practice matches, staged as warm-ups for the first team, to garner attention.
“I’d be folding players in training,” says Godfrey
“Some pros hated me for it. But I would do whatever I had to, to stand out.”
Godfrey is adopting a similar mindset today.
The overarching priority is a clean bill of health to pave the way for a core role in Lampard’s first full season as Goodison Park boss.
As for England, there are only two Nations League matches in September following the current round of fixtures before Southgate names his World Cup party. Even accounting for the occasional bolter in tournament squads, Qatar in November could come too soon for Godfrey.
He won’t abandon hope, however, and there is the prospect of a European Championship in Germany in 2024, when the Everton player will be just 26, for additional motivation.
“I need to make enough noise to get noticed,” says Godfrey.
“I was just excited to meet up with the England boys last year – not too nervous – and discovered over those two weeks the level you need to reach to feature in the squad.
“The quality is incredible and that will push me to learn and keep developing my game, to strive for consistently top-standard performances.
“I set my eyes on nicking a chance to go to the Euros, proving I was capable of being in the squad, so it was disappointing to miss out, to a certain extent.
“But I tried to not view it that way. I had to use it to inspire me and make me hungrier, so when I next go [away with England], my name is there for the tournament.”