Dominic Calvert-Lewin was deployed from the bench against Austria
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To lighten the mood as Dominic Calvert-Lewin waited to find out his fate in England’s squad, his father gave an impromptu version of the John Barnes rap from World in Motion.
His son does not need telling what “Three Lions on my chest” means but a trip back to 1990, seven years before Calvert-Lewin was born, is a reminder of what is possible in a summer when the nation unites through football.
“My dad FaceTimed me and started singing the tune,” Calvert-Lewin says. “He’s rubbish, but it’s quite funny and I expect nothing less from him. That’s the kind of relationship we’ve got. So I was laughing at that.”
The most pertinent comparison for Calvert-Lewin from Italia 90 would be David Platt coming off the bench to become a key player for Sir Bobby Robson in the latter stages, as the Everton striker will start as back up to Harry Kane.
When he comes on, Calvert-Lewin will finally have his parents, Karlda and Rachel, watching him at an England game, as seven of his eight caps have been behind closed doors. He is poised to start against Romania on Sunday as Kane is rested, after coming off the bench against Austria on Wednesday when World in Motion played at the final whistle. The Euros will be the next stage on his journey that started on loan at Stalybridge Celtic with trips to Colwyn Bay, Tamworth and Lowestoft in Conference North.
“It was my very first memory of men’s football, really, and getting bashed around,” he says. “It’s still one of my fondest memories in football because the age that I was, 17, it was just a great experience.
“I’d gone from driving in, being a scholar at Sheffield United to sharing a car pool with a few lads and meeting at a junction and training at a college on artificial turf every day. Just a complete polar opposite to perhaps what I was used to.
“Twenty minutes into my first game, I was smashed in the face and had to carry on. Perhaps if you’re in the under-18s, you might come off. But I wanted to stay on the pitch.”
The 24-year-old will have the world watching him at the European Championship but that is nothing compared to the nerves at Hyde United’s club bar, where players would be among the punters after matches.
“I won man-of-the-match on my very first game and I had to go in the lounge after,” he says. “It wasn’t the biggest of lounges but there were a few people in there and I remember them welcoming me in and everyone clapping and them giving me the mic and asking me a question and my leg was shaking.
“I was just thinking, ‘Don’t sound nervous, don’t sound nervous.’ I was more nervous doing that than actually playing. It was the whole experience.”
Calvert-Lewin was at Sheffield United at the time, then moved to Everton while still in his teens. His run leading to an England call-up started with Carlo Ancelotti’s appointment and led to his call-up last October. Ancelotti’s instructions were simple: be more focused in the penalty area. Stay central and rely on others to create chances.
When the goals came there were comparisons with former Italy striker Filippo Inzaghi, who often scored with one touch and was more concerned with poaching than pressing.
“I’ve always, since I was a kid, studied the game. Perhaps I was more inclined to look at Inzaghi after the gaffer mentioned the similarities. I was a bit too young to remember him putting them in the back of the net, but that’s what YouTube is there for,” says Calvert-Lewin, although he insists there is more to his game than scoring.
“Are you suggesting all I do is put the ball in the net?” he jokes. “If you check the stats, because the stats don’t lie, I do cover quite a lot of distance.”
After scoring 22 goals during Ancelotti’s time at Goodison Park, it is no surprise that Calvert-Lewin was sad to see him leave for Real Madrid in a quick decision that has left little time for the news to sink in.
“It’s come as a shock,” he says. “I don’t think anybody expected it. We all felt the same. It’s a big, big surprise. I first saw the speculation on the day that he left. By the evening, he was gone. You just have to roll with these things in football.”
Ancelotti’s partnership with Duncan Ferguson, the former Everton striker, in his backroom staff brought the best out of Calvert-Lewin, who says the unlikely pair are actually similar with their calmness.
Carlo Ancelotti brought the best out of Dominic Calvert-Lewin
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He feels ready to learn quickly in international football and add to his four goals. He was taught about foreign officiating during the friendly against Austria last week, when his huge leap took him above Aleksandar Dragovic but also earned a booking.
“No one could ever beat me at the long jump at school when I was a kid,” he says. “It’s just something that’s always kind of come naturally to me. “Usually the defender jumps with me – so I’m less likely to land on his head. I was a bit bemused. The ref blew the whistle and started running over to me and I was thinking, ‘What have I done other than contest for the header?’ ”
It was the type of leap that would have been applauded at Stalybridge, although Calvert-Lewin has come a long way since.
Kalvin Phillips thought his European Championship dream was over
By Mike McGrath
Kalvin Phillips has admitted he feared his European Championship dream was over in the final minute of his breakthrough season in the Premier League with Leeds United.
The hard work had been done already, with Marcelo Bielsa’s side cruising to the win that secured a top-half finish in their first season back in the top flight, only for a rush of blood to the head to put everything in jeopardy.
Phillips saw the red mist when he was guilty of an error leading to a goal for West Bromwich Albion. Instead of focusing on getting through the last seconds of the campaign, a reckless challenge on Grady Diangana dislocated his shoulder.
“I was very fearful I wouldn’t be involved in the camp or the tournament,” Phillips said. “They are the first emotions as soon as it happens.
“It was my mistake that did lead to a goal and after that you could see my mood change. I was annoyed with myself letting a goal in and then that resulted in me getting injured.
“I know it’s a learning curve. It’s something I need to work on and I will continue to do that. Throughout the season I think I’ve done reasonably well. I am very confident in myself when I’m called upon to put in a good shift.”
Kalvin Phillips scored before his injury
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Phillips was playing against Cardiff City and Luton Town in the Championship in June last year as Leeds closed in on promotion and the title. Now, he is on the biggest stage.
Gareth Southgate has used him further forward than his “Yorkshire Pirlo” role at Elland Road, where he sits in front of Leeds’s defence and dictates the pace of the game, a function Bielsa instantly saw in him.
His chances of playing at the Euros have increased in the second half of the season with Jordan Henderson’s injury. While Declan Rice has returned from the treatment table, it is an area Southgate looks short on numbers. Jude Bellingham or Phillips could get their chance, as would James Ward-Prowse if called in after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s injury.
“For the formations I’ve played in different positions for Leeds, overall it doesn’t really make a difference whether I play defensive for England or a little bit higher,” he said. “I feel like whenever I get the chance to pull on an England shirt, I’ll play anywhere and am happy to do that whether I’m playing defensive midfield or No 8, I’m confident enough to do that."
Phillips is moving house and for his games room is getting a Newell’s Old Boys shirt framed. It was a gift from Bielsa after his England debut earlier this season and he has kept his place in the squad during his rookie season in the top flight.
“In the Premier League, every player has different qualities and is technically good and tactically coached very well, especially when you come to England with the standard of training and the standard of how they apply themselves during the days, it is top notch. “When I first came in I was in awe of how good and quick some of the players were. Now, I try to keep up with them and it raises my game when you have such quality around you. Your game raises a little bit more and you want to compete to be just as good as them.”
Phillips has come a long way since watching the last World Cup with friends, having finished a season in the Championship.
“I think whenever there’s a major tournament when England’s included, I’m just a fan,” he said. “Even now, I don’t consider myself a fan as much but I’m still a fan, I still want them to do well, to get to the finals, to win it. I think three years ago I was sitting in my living room with my friend from school, we just put flags up all over the house.
“I remember one instance when Harry Kane scored a penalty against Panama and remember celebrating that moment. Now when you say it, it just gives me goosebumps. So I’m very excited. It’s a very exciting moment for me and the team, and hopefully we can do well in the tournament.”