Godfrey 'Stronger' After Toughest Moment Of Career

Ben Godfrey is back in blue after recovering from a fractured fibula sustained on the opening day of this season against Chelsea. The defender has started and impressed in a three-man central defence alongside Conor Coady and James Tarkowski in recent away games at Manchester City and Manchester United. Here, Godfrey - who turns 25 on Sunday - discusses his rehab journey, the life-changing moment during his time out, progressing under Frank Lampard, and what he wants to achieve with the Blues.

It has to be the most haunting sound in football — hearing your own injury.

The 2022/23 campaign was only nine minutes and 22 seconds old when Ben Godfrey attempted a characteristically full-blooded challenge to dispossess Kai Havertz as the Chelsea forward bore down on Everton’s goal.

While his face didn’t paint the picture — indeed, teammate Yerry Mina went to hoist Godfrey straight back to his feet — the defender knew he was in trouble when he grabbed his lower leg.

“I instantly knew it was broken,” Godfrey recalls. “As soon as I made the tackle I felt it and I could hear it as well.”

After initial treatment on the pitch, Godfrey was given medication to help curb the pain before being taken on a stretcher to an ambulance waiting in the corner of the Sir Philip Carter Park Stand.

On the way to the hospital, accompanied by First-Team physiotherapist Carl Howarth, Godfrey was understandably wrestling with thoughts of worst-case scenarios, while also trying to reassure concerned family and friends.

“The first feeling was just being completely gutted because I knew I was going to be out for a long time,” he explains. “Someone had brought my things from the changing room over to the ambulance so I had my phone with me on the way to the hospital.

“I was sat there with Carl and I just remember my phone going completely mad with messages from family and friends asking if I was okay. 

“The painkillers were strong and they had kicked in by that point, so I was a bit spaced out but trying to get back to everyone to reassure them that I was fine.”

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Defender excelled in 1-1 draw with defending Premier League champions.

Frustrations amongst Evertonians were compounded when replays confirmed the action was allowed to continue after the ball had gone out of play by some distance in the seconds leading up to Godfrey’s injury.

The man himself, however, applies an admirable level of accountability when the topic is mentioned, insisting it was his own mistake — a loose pass for Jordan Pickford — that ultimately landed him in the predicament.

It would be later confirmed Godfrey had sustained a fractured fibula, as well as damaged ankle ligaments, and surgery was required.

Then began the long, gruelling rehabilitation process.

“I wanted to know every detail because, at the end of the day, it’s my body,” says Godfrey. “I wanted to know each bit of the puzzle that we had to put together in order to get back to where I was physically. 

“It’s been the longest time I’ve been out with an injury but I’m in a good place and I definitely feel like a stronger person having come through it.

“The physios really helped me with understanding exactly what had happened and what needed to be done throughout the process. 

“I have to thank them for everything they’ve done for me — for all of the hours they put in. They’ve worked tirelessly to get me back to where I am now. 

“The likes of [First-Team Physiotherapist] Joe Hinnigan, [First-Team Sports Scientist] Jason O’Keefe… everyone. They’ve all done their bit for me and helped me and I’m extremely thankful for it.”

That support network extended beyond the medical team at Finch Farm, too.

“The manager and coaching staff… I know they understand me as a player and as a person — and how massive competing is in my life,” he explains. “So they knew it was a tough period and they’ve kept me going. 

“That’s massive from them — to not just be coaches but be people who look out for you and genuinely care. 

“It’s something I’ll always appreciate. It’s certainly something that has stood out for me. 

“Everyone — on the inside and outside — is aware we can always learn on-pitch things from them, but sometimes people don’t realise how good they are as people as well. They’ve been unbelievable.”

Ben Godfrey
The manager and coaching staff… I know they understand me as a player and as a person — and how massive competing is in my life. So they knew it was a tough period and they’ve kept me going.

For all of the obvious physical hurdles to overcome with such an injury, it was the absence of competitive action that Godfrey admits, without hesitation, he struggled to come to terms with most.

“Not being able to compete, not having gameday, having what you love doing and what your whole routine revolves around taken away was a shock to the system,” he reflects. “I feel like I need that routine in my life of being able to play something competitive regularly. 

“I found not having it so disruptive for day-to-day life because it throws off everything that you’re used to. I found it really, really tough. 

 “People don’t see the effects injuries like that have on your home life but I have to mention my partner, family and friends because for them to all be there for me and help me through it was so important.”

Despite the difficulties, Godfrey and his partner had one life-changing positive.

In early December, the couple became parents for the first time to a baby boy, Reign, and Godfrey says preparations for the arrival of his son became a more-than welcome distraction away from his recovery.

“Of course, getting ready to become a parent is an exciting time and it definitely kept me positive — and busy — when I wasn’t doing my rehab,” he says. “I enjoyed getting the nursery ready — although I won’t lie and pretend I had a say on what it looked like! And getting everything else prepared, ready for him to be here.

“Now he is here and we’re getting used to a new life as a family.

“My partner is brilliant. She understands that sometimes I need my sleep to be able to train and perform, so fair play to her for that. They’re both doing really well. 

“I’m adapting, learning on the job! I’m loving it.

“It changes a lot of things. I think it changes you as a person, instantly. 

“There were a whole load of emotions but the over-riding one was just pride — proud of my missus for getting through it so well and then it was an amazing feeling holding him for the first time. 

“There’s no love like it.

“It gives you an extra drive, 100 per cent. My motivation levels… I’m someone who is always motivated, anyway, I’ve never struggled with that, but it’s given me even more drive to do the right things and set the best examples possible.”

In Godfrey’s absence and with fellow centre-backs Mason Holgate and Yerry Mina also suffering significant injuries so far this term, summer signings James Tarkowksi and Conor Coady began to forge an impressive partnership in the heart of the Blues’ backline before domestic action paused for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

And Godfrey has nothing but praise for the England duo, who boast more than 460 Premier League appearances between them, as he bids to force his way back into Frank Lampard’s starting line-up on a regular basis.

“I tried to watch training as much as I could but I’d always watch the games,” says Godfrey, who frequently contacted the Club’s media department to secure a means of watching the matches he was unable to attend. “To support the boys but, of course, because I care, too.

“It was a way of feeling as close to it as I possibly could. 

“Conor and Tarky have been consistent in the Premier League for years and everyone can see the quality they have. 

“I think they’ve been doing really well together. It’s a strong partnership and it’s my job to train as hard as I can to get involved and get back into the team — but I was really happy for them doing well while I was out.

“They are two experienced centre-halves and players I can learn from and take bits and pieces of their game to put into my own. 

“They’re great lads as well. They’re both massive personalities in the changing room and they’ve definitely helped to bring us all closer together as a team. It’s hugely important — to not only have good players but to have good characters as well.”

On potentially complementing the attributes of one or both of Coady and Tarkowski, Godfrey continues: “Absolutely. Every player has their own attributes, their own strengths that can help the team. You have to bring that every time you play, regardless of who you play with, then those partnerships and understanding builds the more you play with someone. 

“It’s up to the manager to pick who he feels is best suited to any given situation. 

“All I can do is train as hard as I possibly can and hopefully my attributes can help us win matches whenever I’m called upon.”

Some of Godfrey’s most obvious strengths — pace, power, aggression and being comfortable on the ball — form the basis of a legitimate case to suggest he, in some ways, has been a victim of his versatility during his football career to date.

The 24-year-old has operated as a central midfielder — “a six, an eight but not a 10 because I don’t score enough goals for that!” — full-back and wing-back on both flanks, as well as a central defender in a back three and a back four during his career so far.

“It’s nice as a player to play in a set position consistently but then I think some of my attributes allow me to change positions, which is something that has always happened throughout my career,” he explains. “Some people may look at it as tough to constantly change positions, or you can look at it as a positive in terms of allowing the team to change shape and me being part of that. 

“I look at it as a positive. 

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me what position or what formation I’m asked to play in, if I’m playing I’ll always give my all to help the team.”

Quickly diverting the subject back to goals for a brief moment, he adds: “I’ve still not scored one for us yet… I think about it all of the time, to be honest!

“It’s something I have to put right soon. I’ve been waiting for it and I do imagine what it’d be like.

“It’s something that probably should have come already but it is what it is. I know when it does come it’ll be an unbelievable feeling to score for this football club.”

Godfrey’s commitment to the Everton cause has been unquestionable since the moment he arrived from Norwich City in October 2020 and now, two-and-a-quarter years on, he says his feelings for the Club continue to deepen in the best possible sense.

His maiden campaign in L4 saw Everton sit second in the Premier League table on Christmas Day, before battling but ultimately falling short in the quest to secure European football.

Then, for better or worse, came an unforgettable 2021/22, with current Blues boss Lampard joining the Club midway through the term and successfully guiding the Blues to safety to preserve a record of 68 consecutive years in the top flight.

“I’ve absolutely loved every minute of my time here so far,” says Godfrey. “As soon as I arrived I got the feel of the Club, it’s a massive club and I love being an Everton player.

“I’ve had a rollercoaster. We’ve had some extreme ups and some downs as well, but we’ve got through those difficult periods.

“Last season, of course, it was never a situation we wanted to be in but, ultimately, to be in a position where the goal became to escape relegation and then achieving that was an unbelievable feeling.

“Good or bad, there has always been pressure, which is what you want as a player. 

“Obviously, nobody wanted to be down fighting relegation and the chase for Europe was more like the feeling we want, but it’s felt like every game has been really important and you have to thrive off that pressure. 

“I’ve learned a lot along the way from all of those situations. 

“And the fans have been massive in every set of circumstances — they’ve been great for me personally but also in how much they’ve helped us.

“I think it’s something that even they underestimate — their presence, their influence in the stadium is so, so vital. 

“It’s always a pleasure playing in front of them and hopefully I’ve got many more years to come experiencing it.

“It can be such a difficult place to come as an away team when it’s bouncing. I know that’s not always easy, especially if we’re in a bad moment, but the part they play is huge for us. 

“We need to use that as much as we possibly can. 

“We want it to be a place nobody wants to come and play against us.”

Ben Godfrey
I’ve absolutely loved every minute of my time here so far. As soon as I arrived I got the feel of the Club, it’s a massive club and I love being an Everton player.

There has been plenty of time for reflection over the past months on the sidelines, so, what about the future? 

“I just know that when people look back in years to come I’d like to be remembered as someone who gave their all every single time I wore an Everton shirt,” says Godfrey. “There are no guarantees that it’s all going to go well every time, but if you can look at yourself in the mirror — and the fans can look at me — and say I never gave less than 100 per cent, then that has to be the absolute minimum.”