Godfrey On Staying Ready And Everton Pride

In an exclusive with the Official Matchday Programme for Monday's visit of Crystal Palace, Ben Godfrey sits down to discuss the depth of work he has undergone to be prepared for competitive minutes, added inspiration from a new close friend in the Blues’ changing room, the influence of manager Sean Dyche and why there remains an unshakeable confidence in camp. Keep reading for the first half of his story...

Patience has been a virtue for Ben Godfrey this season.

The defender’s playing time has been limited but his influence around Everton’s tight-knit group has not gone unnoticed by those in the inner sanctum of the changing room.

Back in December, following a 2-0 away victory over Burnley and a standout Godfrey performance on his first Premier League start of the season, Sean Dyche summarised that appreciation, explaining: “It’s something we have built over my time here, not just me, the staff have been working really hard with the players to let them know the respect we have for them when they’re not in the side.

“I’ve always thought the strongest groups I’ve played with or worked with are the people outside the starting XI because they keep you strong, because they’re not just accepting it.

“I don’t mind players being disgruntled and asking me questions, but when it comes to your training, do it right, do it properly and it will pay you back – and it is. There are people having to come in who haven’t played in a while but they’re coming and delivering.”

York-born Godfrey has had his share of hurdles following an excellent maiden season for the Blues having signed from Norwich City back in October 2020, a campaign that culminated in the now-26-year-old being voted the Club’s Young Player of the Season.

A particularly damaging bout of long COVID halted a steady upward trajectory during his second term, then a fractured fibula – suffered in frustratingly avoidable circumstances with match officials deciding to let play go on despite the ball going out of play on the opening day of the 2022/23 season against Chelsea – once again put the brakes on progress.

Refreshingly, though, Godfrey has never been one for excuses. Now feeling back at his peak, competitive minutes in the first half of the season were hard to come by but he has since started the Toffees’ past three matches.

“On a personal level, I’ve just had to be patient… Stay ready,” he says. “I’ve been working hard every day, I’ve made sure of that, so I’m ready for when my chances come around.

“I didn’t want to have any regrets. I knew a chance would come at some point, so I wanted to be ready to go when it did.

“When you’re on the bench for a long period it can be frustrating because every player wants to go out and play. I feel like it’s what I’m built to do.

“As a player in that situation you have two options – either, take your foot off the gas and let the months pass by but then you’ll be maybe 80 per cent when you get your chance, or, you go hard, you treat every training session like a game and that’s what I did.”

Godfrey’s acute awareness of his privileged position also continues to be as strong as ever.

“I very quickly realised how big this club is and what it’s about,” he insists. “I have had that understanding of what it means to be an Everton player for a long time. I love that. Obviously, there are going to be games where… ultimately, you are judged on performances. I am the first one to say when I haven’t hit those levels and it’s absolutely fine to be criticised or to be judged on that, but, for me what matters most is people in and around the Club – my teammates, the supporters, staff – to know that I am putting 110 per cent in for Everton regardless of what is happening.

“Yes, I would like to have played more this season but it is one of those things… there is no benefit to going any other way. Why would I sulk? At the end of the day, I’m part of this group. If you can affect the lads around you positively, even when you’re not playing, then it’s a far better thing to do than go in the opposite direction. That’s just what I’ve tried to do.”

The relentless pursuit of improvement comes naturally for Godfrey, but there has been added inspiration in his environment since last summer’s arrival of Ashley Young, with whom he has forged a strong relationship over recent months.

“Youngy is someone I like to spend a lot of time with,” reveals Godfrey, who is also close friends with Dominic Calvert-Lewin. “I didn’t know him before he came here but from pre-season it became clear we’ve got a similar sense of humour and then, obviously, in terms of football, he’s so knowledgeable and he’s a top guy.

“He has had his hands on just about every trophy going. You can pick up good habits being around him and learn so much from his experience in the game – I know because I have. We have a great dressing room and he is someone else who I can trust and someone who has given me a lot of sound advice this season.

“For me, the biggest thing I’ve taken from him is his emphasis on standards.Standards every day in training are so important. When you have a player who has done what Youngy has done through his career, you see how high the standard they set is and how consistently they hit them. I’ve tried to replicate that over the past year.

“Me and Seamus were having this conversation… When Youngy plays, it’s ridiculous to think that he’s 38 years old. It’s madness. He has the knowledge of a 38 year old – you can see that when he plays because he always knows where to be – but then he makes everything look so easy. Physically, he still looks like he could go for years. In the nicest way possible, he’s a freak!”

Ben Godfrey
“You have two options - either, take your foot off the gas and let the months pass by but then you’ll be maybe 80 per cent when you get your chance, or, you go hard, you treat every training session like a game and that’s what I did.”

The hard work behind the scenes has been evident, with excellent displays in all of his first three starts this term, each complete with game-altering contributions.

Against Burnley, deployed in a three-man defence, Godfrey contributed to a dominant away performance and shut the door on the Clarets’ clearest opportunity on the stroke of half-time with his miraculous recovery speed – that became something of a trademark early in his Everton career – on show to scoop Vitinho’s cross away from danger and deny Zeki Amdouni a tap-in.

Godfrey had to bide his time again for more action but when it came, six weeks later, he started at right-back and helped the Blues to a clean sheet on the road against Fulham, with that speed on show once again to divert Bobby De Cordova-Reid’s cross off the toe of Willian at a crucial moment.

Then, last time out at Goodison, he retained his starting berth at full-back and provided yet another eye-catching passage of defending to stop Timo Werner from applying what would have been a simple finish to Brennan Johnson’s deep cross, as Dyche’s side dug in to take a point from a game in which they twice trailed. Godfrey finished the contest with two tackles, two interceptions and four clearances, with only Idrissa Gana Gueye completing more defensive actions (11).

“Football, especially at this level, is decided by such fine margins a lot of the time,” reflects Godfrey. “You’re not guaranteed to get across to those balls across the box, if you set off a split second too late, or whatever it may be.

“But, for me, to know that physically I’m capable of getting back in and pulling off those sorts of challenges, which has probably been missing from my game for a couple of years through injuries and getting back to myself, is pleasing.

“It’s only been pretty recently I’ve had that back fully. With the leg break, I think it’s easy to underestimate the effect it can have on your whole body. Even when I thought I was ready to return and I was playing games, I was probably still nowhere near what I was before.

“I had to have that period where I had to rebuild and it took a lot of time. It took hours, weeks, months to get myself back to where I am now. I feel like I’m in a good place.”

Read Godfrey's full interview in the Official Matchday Programme for Monday night's visit of Crystal Palace. For more information about the matchday read, which is priced £4 per edition - or discounted when you subscribe, click here.