In the second and final part 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 exactly how manager Sean Dyche has allowed him to get back to his peak physical condition, reflects on the impact of patching himself up to play not fully fit and discusses the addition of firepower during the summer transfer window.
Click here to read the first part of the interview now.
When plotting Calvert-Lewin’s journey over the past year-and-a-half or so, following setback after setback, the obvious question is: At what point did things start to change?
There isn’t one simple answer but instead a culmination of a few factors.
Up there with the 26-year-old’s diligence in his physical rehabilitation is the influence of manager Sean Dyche.
After arriving at the Club in late January this year, Dyche has half-joked that he has been asked about the fitness of Calvert-Lewin in every single press conference held since.
Given his importance to the side when fully fit and on song, the constant stream of queries are understandable. They also make Dyche’s decision to give Calvert-Lewin time to fully recover all the more impressive.
“The manager [Dyche] has played a massive role,” he says. “I think I’ve been victim of my own eagerness in trying to rush back and also the expectation from others, at times, in wanting me to be fit because of what I can bring to the table. I think it turned into a bit of a vicious cycle. Now, since the manager came in, he’s been big on me trusting my body again and feeling good in my body.
“It’s not about just ticking off the boxes in terms of being fit to play, it’s more about how I feel in myself.
“It took a lot of guts from the manager to bat off questions about me every week. He put it to bed by saying I’d be back when I was ready and that gave me confidence and a bit of relief, really.
“It took the pressure of myself and removed that feeling of having to rush back. I like to think it’s paid off so far. The condition that people see me in now — that’s from the manager allowing me to get there.”
It was around this point last year when Calvert-Lewin was patching himself up, putting himself forward for selection despite managing a dislocated shoulder and damaged LCL ligament in his knee.
“I think you look back at those performances compared to what I can produce and people can start to kind of think, ‘He doesn’t care’,” ponders Calvert-Lewin. “Then there can be another narrative of only being in it for money, but money has no correlation to feeling and what someone is actually giving to be available.
“For me, when you care so much it can it can become fiery at times and that’s just because there’s so much passion involved. Because there is so much passion, when things are going well you feel absolutely on top of the world — and when they’re not going well, it comes with the territory that it’s going to fall on my shoulders.
“I understand it’s only because we all care so much about Everton being successful.
“The stress I was putting myself through to try to play, only to be at 60 per cent, it wasn’t worth it. The new manager came in and put a stop to it and made sure I was able to be patient to get back fully fit.
“That’s had a positive domino effect for me.
“Whenever a manager has backed me, typically, I’ve seemed to do well. I’m at peace now, I’m happy and I’m enjoying my football.”
Perhaps another contributing component has been Everton’s summer recruitment.
The addition of firepower in the form of youngster Youssef Chermiti, who revealed he had followed Calvert-Lewin for a “long time” and labelled him “a big reference” from his time with Sporting CP, and Beto, who arrived on Merseyside having reached double figures for goals in each of his past four campaigns, has significantly increased the Blues’ attacking options and eased the burden.
Calvert-Lewin and Beto shared a pitch for the first time together last weekend and it’s a partnership he believes can be successful looking ahead.
“I think Beto has been excellent since he came in,” says Calvert-Lewin, when asked about the 25-year-old Portuguese striker. “It’s not easy leading the line for the Toffees. I think other strikers that have come in the past have realised that, but I think Beto has got what it takes and hopefully we can see ourselves on the pitch together at different points, bullying teams.
“He’s a physical presence and I’ve actually really enjoyed training with him as well.
“We’ve had a few conversations about things and about being on the pitch together at the same time and how that would look and how we can make it work.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had someone as physical as myself to be up there at the top of the pitch to share the workload. A lot of the time I’ve had to be a battering ram and sometimes that takes away from other parts of your game.
“We have to keep working and looking forward. I’m a believer in staying level because that’s the way you put yourself in the best position possible to succeed. Just like after the back-to-back wins when it was important not to get too high, we can’t get too low after last weekend’s setback.”
Whatever the answer to Calvert-Lewin’s welcomed return to fitness and form, one thing is for certain — his feelings for the Club are deep and genuine.
“Everton is part of me and it is always going to be part of me,” added Calvert-Lewin, who became a father for the first time this summer. “I’ve been here for seven years and in key stages of my life I’ve been an Everton player.
“I love Everton Football Club and I love playing for Everton Football Club.
“Even in the difficult moments, you keep going for those moments like scoring in front of a packed-out away end for the passion that they give.
“Evertonians have given me some of the best feelings I’ve ever had, scoring goals in front of them.
“I’ll never complain.”