Emile Heskey, speaking exclusively to HITC, believes it’s only a matter of time before Gareth Southgate hands Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin his first England call-up.
It’s no wonder the former Liverpool hero is a big fan of Everton’s old-school number nine, who continues to go from strength to strength on the other side of Stanley Park.
With his insatiable work ethic, fearsome aerial presence and ever-improving link play, there are shades of Heskey in the way Calvert-Lewin leads the line for Everton.
And, after taking his game to a new level under Carlo Ancelotti with a career-best 15 goals in 2019/20, ‘DCL’ started the new campaign with a soaring header his Everton mentor, the legendary Duncan Ferguson, would have been proud of.
Early in the second half during Sunday’s 1-0 opening-day win at Tottenham, the former Sheffield United youngster rose like a salmon on steroids before powering a Lucas Digne free-kick into Hugo Lloris’ net.
Carry on like that and, Heskey says, Calvert-Lewin could be leading the line in a white shirt as well as the blue one he wears on a weekly basis.
“I think he will be in Gareth Southgate’s thinking, especially because he’s a young lad,” Heskey tells HITC. “He’s done a fantastic job at Everton. He’s got one of the best teachers in Big Dunc anyway, (teaching him) how to attack a ball.
“I think he’s done a great job and he’s got plenty of time on his side. He’ll get better and better in what he’s doing. His hold-up play is getting better, he’s bringing more people into play and he’s got good people around him in the sense of learning.
“If you put the ball in the box like they did for that free-kick (against Spurs) he’ll go and attack them all day long. That’s what he thrives on. It will be interesting to see, given the different options you can have with him, whether Gareth will put him in one of his squads.
“There’s no use going with the ‘same old’ all the time when you need someone to change a game or a different approach – he can be that guy.”
Calvert-Lewin might have missed out on a place in Southgate’s 23-man squad for September’s Nations League clashes with Iceland and Denmark but, in Southgate, England have a coach willing to think outside the box when it comes to squad selection.
James Tarkowski, Jack Cork, Lewis Cook, James Ward-Prowse, Nick Pope, Nathaniel Chalobah, Lewis Dunk and Callum Wilson have all been handed international bows since 2016, despite plying their trade outside the traditional ‘big six’.
Conor Coady, meanwhile, was finally rewarded earlier this month for his stellar showings as Wolves’ “Black Country Beckenbauer”.
And Calvert-Lewin, with his relentless pressing, ceaseless running and set-piece presence, boasts attributes that set him apart from every other centre-forward at Southgate’s disposal.
As Heskey proved during a decade leading the England line, there will always be a place in the international game for a classic number nine capable of coaxing the best out of those around him.
Everton’s opening fixtures of the 2020/21 season
West Brom (H)
Crystal Palace (A)