In part one of two of an exclusive interview with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, which first appeared in The Official Matchday Programme for the visit of Bournemouth last weekend, the Blues' number nine reveals why “the fire has been lit again”, how he has found peace following the most difficult spell of his career, how his Sheffield roots help him in Merseyside and what it means to wear the Club's most iconic shirt number.
Look out for part two of his interview on evertonfc.com later this week.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin looks liberated.
In his own words, “the fire has been lit again”, equally as important, he is “at peace” following a hellish battle to get back to - and maintain - his peak level of fitness.
Confidence in front of goal is flowing having scored three goals in his past 141 minutes of action.
It it those goals that mean most to the 26-year-old, a self-labelled action man, conscious that speaking in interviews is “just talk”.
But, for someone who prefers to express themselves through action, Calvert-Lewin is impressively articulate - and somewhat philosophical - when it comes to reflecting on the toughest period of his professional career to date.
“I think it’s true that you learn the most about yourself in difficult times,” he reflects. “It’s taught me a lot of things. Patience. I’m not a very patient person but I’ve had to be patient and to repeat the process more times than I would have liked in terms of working so hard to get back and then have another upset, that was the most difficult part because it’s like the cycle repeats again.
“It’s my normal, playing football - and it has been since I was a kid. It reminds you of how precious it is and how much you enjoy doing it, when it’s taken away from you.
“I just love it. Playing football is part of my identity so when you can’t do it and you’re not involved, you miss the training, the schedule, the camaraderie of being around the lads and being in it, prepping for games, rather than going home to prepare for a training session on your own or, even worse, in the treatment room.
“I can’t really put into words how happy I am to be back playing. I think you can see it on my face. To train every day and not worry about when I’m going to be back, what I’ve got to do when I’m back… I’m an action man. I prefer to do than to think or to speak, so to be able to do it makes life a whole lot easier.
“I put it together into a period of 18 months or so and I feel like the person I was going into that period… It’s like I’ve gone from boy to man. I feel like I’m more of a man now with what I’ve had to deal with. I felt like I was perhaps on a steady upwards trajectory and then you hit a road block - and that’s when you have to look in the mirror and decide who you are going to be.
“I have a saying, ‘Time waits for no-one, the world keeps spinning’. When you’re sat on the sidelines everything goes on. I was doing well before the injuries, here at Everton and I got myself into a good position in the England set-up but people go past you because you can’t do anything about it.
“It’s hard to be deprived of playing but now to be back… The fire has been lit again.”
Naturally, last weekend’s home defeat to Luton Town has left a sour taste. Despite getting on the scoresheet, Calvert-Lewin shoulders his share of the responsibility when he goes on to talk about being made to pay for a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.
It’s typical of a man who has developed a bulletproof mentality since joining the Blues as a fresh-faced 20-year-old in August 2016.
The truth is, wearing the Club’s most iconic shirt number, following in the footsteps of the likes of Everton Giants such as Dixie Dean, Dave Hickson, Bob Latchford, Joe Royle and Graeme Sharp, means there is no hiding place.
You are, correctly, held to the highest standard - and that’s something Calvert-Lewin will never shy away from.
That quality, combined with a refreshing candidness when it comes to discussing both what the role means and dealing with his fitness issues, makes for a fascinating insight into his approach to getting to getting back to this point.
“I absolutely know the responsibility that it comes with and I relish it,” insists Calvert-Lewin, who is one strike away from a half century of Premier League goals for Everton; he sits fourth in the Club’s charts behind Romelu Lukaku (68), Duncan Ferguson (57) and Tim Cahill (56). “I think it comes from who I am as a person - my character and what’s engrained in me. I come from Sheffield, the steel city, and I think the people here - at Everton Football Club and the city of Liverpool — are not too dissimilar to the people I grew up around.
“I understand them. I’ve always accepted and enjoyed the challenge of how they perceive me as a number nine. I’ve always used that as motivation. It’s definitely something that fuels me. I think, when I’m fit and flying, I play with aggression and energy - and I think that’s how the Evertonians want their number nine to play.
“It gives me great confidence that I can play a big part because I do care about the Everton fans and I’m not one that would ever say ‘I don’t care, I come in and do my job’… I do care about this club. I do care about how the fans perceive me as well. I can be honest and say that.
“I’ve been here since I was a young kid and I’ve grown into a man. I wear that number 9 shirt with pride. I want the fans to back me and put out performances where they can say, ‘He’s our number 9’.
“Deep down I’m still just a kid inside who wants to play football. That’s what’s in me and I’m very positive about the future.
“Of course, I have future goals that drive me but to lead the line for Everton for as long as I have, knowing what it means in the context of the history of the club and what it means to the fans, I’ve said it many times before but it’s something I take on with massive gratitude and pride.”