Campbell: What I've Learned From Tarkowski

Everton Under-21s defender Elijah Campbell believes his performances with the young Blues have been boosted by his time spent in training sessions with the Men's Senior Team.

He will be hoping to be back in action on Wednesday evening (7pm GMT) when Everton Under-21s take on Benfica at Walton Hall Park in the Premier League International Cup.

The game against the Portuguese giants will be streamed live and for free on both Everton's official YouTube channel and Everton's official KICK channel.

Campbell – a 19-year-old left-footed centre back and now an established member of Paul Tait’s Under-21s team – has earned plenty of opportunities to train with Sean Dyche’s squad, impressing enough to earn a place on the bench during Everton’s Premier League clash at Burnley last month.

While out on the pitch at Finch Farm, he has been keeping a close eye on centre-halves James Tarkowski and Jarrad Branthwaite, identifying aspects of their game that could become key components in his own development.  

“I enjoy it every day I’m there because I’m learning from the players as well as the coaches,” he told evertonfc.com. “So, for me, I always look at Tarkowski, when I’m training to see what he’s doing, and to see what I can add from his game to my game.

“The main thing I’ve picked up from him is leadership and communication. He’s a very good leader. He’s a very good defender and footballer, but he leads on the pitch. He sets examples for other players, and he organises the whole team.

“That’s something I want to add to my game and being able to watch Tarky do it in training every day – you pick up on little things like that.

“With Jarrad, I played with him before with the Under-21s, and even then, he was a top, top player. Seeing the pathway that he went through – it’s something that you look at and think: ‘Well if he can do it, then why can’t I do it?’”

Eager to learn in person from two of the Club’s senior defenders, Campbell – who joined Everton aged 13 – also makes sure to watch plenty of tape, analysing the displays the Manchester City centre-back pairing of Ruben Dias and former Blue John Stones.

“I’m not sure how I’d describe my style of play,” said Campbell. “I’m comfortable on the ball and I’m quite athletic, but obviously, there are bits of my game that I need to tidy up. 

“The people I watch to try to improve my game – I watch a lot of Stones and Dias from Manchester City. You have to aim for the highest level, and at the moment, I’d say they’re at the highest level. 

“There are different types of centre-backs. There are things I’d look at from Stones: how comfortable he is on the ball; how he can manipulate the ball like a midfielder; how he plays with his back to goal in midfield.

“Then when I look at Ruben Dias, it’s his defensive side, like how aggressive he is, and how he’s a leader. So, that’s why I like watching those two. The trophies that they win together speak for themselves.”

Due to an injury suffered in the summer, Campbell missed Everton Under-21s’ first four encounters of the season, while also being absent for Senior-Team’s pre-season tour in Switzerland.

Back to his best following a return to the young Blues’ backline for September’s EFL Trophy clash against Doncaster Rovers, the Manchester-born Campbell continues to make positive strides, while seizing the opportunities to test himself in battles with the Club’s experienced forwards.

“I’ve enjoyed every session I’ve done with the Senior Team,” he added. “When you first go up, it’s definitely a step ahead. The best players in the world are Premier League players, so when you go up, it’s a little bit of a shock to the system: the intensity; the work rate of the players; the demands of the coaching staff; the demands of the sessions. 

“It’s a massive challenge. They’re older than you, they’re stronger than you, and they’re a bit faster than you are too. But then it helps to develop other sides of your game. Because you can’t win the physical battles, you have to try to outsmart them, which is obviously important, as well as the physical side.

“Playing against physical players like Beto and (Dominic) Calvert-Lewin, it makes it easier when you play against strikers your own age.

“For example, if I went and played with the Senior Team all week, and I was playing against those two, and then I went down to the 21s to play at the weekend, I’d feel much more comfortable in what I was doing.”