Everton put an end to their recent miserable form with a comfortable home victory over Sunderland. It was a fixture that came at a good time for the Toffees, as they could rotate their starting eleven and return to winning ways. The real star of the evening was Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has been developing a reputation for himself at Goodison Park as one of the most exciting young players in the country.
The 20-year-old was given an opportunity to start against Sunderland and it was important that he delivered a good performance. Everton’s struggles in attack mean that he is on the verge of breaking into the first team as a regular starter and he strengthened his case with two goals on Wednesday. He displayed confidence in front of goal with two great finishes to put an end to almost seven and a half hours of goalless football from the Toffees.
Despite the praise that came their way during the transfer window, Everton have started the season poorly and their attack looks to lack pace. Ronald Koeman has some exciting young players in Calvert-Lewin, Ademola Lookman and Sandro. However, none of them had done enough to earn a regular starting role. This performance from the former Sheffield United player will have provided the manager with some food for thought.
The rapid rise of Calvert-Lewin
It has been an incredible few years for the 20-year-old striker as he has managed to go from non-league to the Premier League quicker than he would have ever imagined. In 2014, he had started to make progress at Sheffield United and the Blades chose to send him out on loan for experience. Stalybridge Celtic were a team struggling at the bottom of the Conference North, but they played a key role in the story of Calvert-Lewin.
He was only with the club for five matches, but he scored six times and proved to himself that he could compete in senior football. The level wasn’t the best, but the experience was a positive one for the young forward as it taught him about the physicality of playing in the professional game. The Stalybridge manager of the time, Keith Briggs, discussed his debut against Hyde United with The Sun:
“He got an elbow and had a big lump over his eye. But Nick Cox, who was his academy manager then, came down the stand and told him to stay on the pitch and don’t come off. I always knew he had the talent, physique and everything he needed to be a footballer – but this was a toughening up process for him.”
The loan spell to Stalybridge was designed to toughen up a lightweight Calvert-Lewin and it certainly had the desired effect. He took the bumps and rode out the physical onslaught, before responding in the best way possible – goals. In that game, he ended with two goals and two assists. The attacker showed that he had the talent to go higher in the game and this experience will have given him the mentality to achieve that.
Another period on loan, this time to Northampton Town, gave him vital experience before he returned to Sheffield United at the beginning of 2016. He was afforded a few opportunities in the first-team and it was all lined up for the striker to have his breakthrough season during 2016/17. Chris Wilder was a big fan of the player from his time at Northampton, but a deadline day move from Everton saw him move to Merseyside in a £1.5 million deal.
Upon joining the Toffees, he spoke of the move being a no-brainer due to the opportunities that Everton gave to their young players. The Liverpool Echo reported the following quotes from the then-teenager:
“It was a no-brainer for me. You only have to look at the chance that’s given to youth here and the opportunities that have been given. The players that are in there now, you look at Mason Holgate, and that’s something that appeals to me as a 19-year-old player. You can’t ask for more than that. Obviously, your hard work pays off and I’m just looking for a chance to impress and show what I can do.”
Southampton fans had criticised Koeman for refusing to play youngsters at St Mary’s Stadium, but the Dutchman has been much more open to it at Everton. There is always a risk when moving from the Football League to the Premier League as a teenager, but Calvert-Lewin was correct. He was given opportunities at Goodison Park.
Last season, he made 11 appearances, including five starts, in the Premier League. Despite being a striker throughout his career, he has mainly been used as a wide forward by Everton. His pace and skill when dribbling makes him an effective wide option. However, club coaches believe he has the lot and can eventually make the grade as a top-flight centre-forward.
His club career has taken off and he now has a growing reputation in this country, but Calvert-Lewin’s most memorable career moment came on the international scene. During the summer, he played for England during the Under-20 World Cup and scored the winning goal in the final against Venezuela. Few players can claim to have scored a winner in a World Cup final, but the 20-year-old can already say that at this early stage of his career.
What is next for the young striker?
The striker is full of ambition and ready to continue progressing in his career. The next aim will be to break into the first-team on a regular basis and he is on the verge of doing so. Everton’s attack is struggling in the Premier League and Calvert-Lewin can provide pace to their front-line. That was clear against Sunderland as he showed impressive movement to race away from the defence in the build-up to his second goal.
Wayne Rooney is currently the first-choice centre-forward at the club, but he is approaching the end of his career and won’t be able to start every game. The cup competitions will provide the chance for Calvert-Lewin to gain experience as a centre-forward for Everton. His game-time in the Premier League may be limited to being on the wing, but he certainly has something to offer now.
Ronald Koeman is clearly a huge fan as he has used the striker in all five Premier League matches to date. This is a year of transition for the Toffees as they recover from the sale of Romelu Lukaku. They have the chance to build Calvert-Lewin and if they do it correctly, it could be his breakthrough season. He has the talent and mentality to go all the way to the top.