The Sheffield United meeting that changed England striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin's life
Dominic Calvert-Lewin was a young, frustrated midfielder in Sheffield United’s U18 side when he was summoned to a meeting that would change his life.
The Sheffield-born star even remembers playing centre-half in an FA Youth Cup tie against Everton, a game he ended at right-back after also featuring up front and on the right wing.
Calvert-Lewin’s days as a utility man were ended at a meeting between him, former United coach Travis Binnion and ex-head of academy, Nick Cox. Calvert-Lewin, they decided, would be best suited to scoring goals, rather than stopping or creating them.
And as he prepares to win his latest England cap tonight against San Marino, on the back of a goal-laden season that has propelled Everton into European contention, Calvert-Lewin is grateful for that fateful intervention.
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“I was always quicker than everybody else, and I was a centre midfielder because I could cover ground and tackle and score goals,” Calvert-Lewin remembered, speaking on the Super6 podcast.
“I was a bit of a box-to-box midfielder, and I was up until the age of 17.
“I grew quite a lot when I hit the age of 15, and I got a stress fracture in my lower back which kept me out for about six months. I was on a roll, on fire, and got hit with injuries and setbacks. All of a sudden, lads started to catch me up and overtake me and mentally, as a kid, when you've always been up there, that was quite hard to deal with because my body was letting me down. I had Osgood-Schlatter, growing pains - you name it, I had it.
“From the age of 17, it was just a case of getting used to my long, gangly body again.
“I was with the U18s away at Cardiff and I was a second year scholar, wanting to be in the first team, but I wasn't quite there. It was getting frustrated and my coach at the time, Travis Binnion, could see it.
“He gave me a rollocking after a game at Cardiff – I played centre midfield and didn’t think I played that bad – and told me to come in the following day, on the Sunday.
“Everyone else was off and he said to come in for a coffee with him and the academy manager, Nick Cox. He sat me down and we went through England players who were my age, who were being called up, and where I wanted to be. My dreams and goals.
"And he said: ‘If we said to anyone about your best attributes, they'd probably put you as a centre-forward on paper. So we're going to try you as a centre-forward.'
“And it was like something switched, like I had a new lease of life. I felt like I had a chance again, and I played in the 18s for a little bit and went to Stalybridge when I was 17 in the Conference North over Christmas.
“To this day, it is still one of my favourite experiences as a football player. It was my first taste of men's football, rough and tumble, and I always loved a physical battle. I got bashed about, I scored goals, celebrated in front of fans, and it was an experience that I'll always hold close to me.”