Ben Godfrey interview: Everton defender on why proving people wrong has propelled him forward since his probation days |  Football news

Ben Godfrey interview: Everton defender on why proving people wrong has propelled him forward since his probation days | Football news

Ben Godfrey is at an adidas photo shoot at Altrincham football club, along with players from Everton and Manchester City. He is more reflective than most. For some Premier League players this is a far cry from what they are used to. For him it is a memory.

“It takes me back to my days in York,” says Godfrey air sports while surveying the stands, the huts and the local billboards. “This is where it all started for me.”

At 24, he is already an established Premier League player at Everton and a senior international at England. The hats are home. “Until my family comes along and has them all in their hands.” But before all this, his career was on the line.

Godfrey was cast by Middlesbrough. “It kind of felt like the dream was over.” Then there were trials with Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United. None led to a contract. “For them, saying no was a huge confidence breaker,” he adds.

“It seemed like the end of the journey.”

It was a comment from a coach in Leeds that set him on a new path.

“The moment that really stands out is after that Leeds United trial. The coach told me they would offer me nothing but to go and prove him wrong. That stuck with me. I was desperate at the time. I couldn’t wait to to go and prove them wrong.”

The process began almost immediately. “It started with hard work. My dad and I spent hours practicing things at our local field nearby. I started that journey to prove the people wrong who said no to me all those years ago.

“I was lucky enough to have good people around me. My family always believed in me and kept me going. They took me around the country, reminding me that I had what it took to overcome it and my dream to fulfill to be a football player.

“Resilience has played a big part in my success.”

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It was a loan spell to Shrewsbury that prepared him for the Norwich first team. There were two trips to Wembley and 51 appearances that season. “That was huge. I absolutely loved it. It was such an important stepping stone. I am still in touch with some of them.”

As a teenager playing in midfield in League One, he remembers the learning curve was steep. “I liked being thrown in at the deep end. Luckily I had the physical qualities to handle it. It just helped me grow as a player. And as a person if I’m honest.”

He recalls a recent training call with Everton youngsters Ellis Simms and Tyler Onyango. “They asked me about my experiences. There comes a time when you have to play. Make those mistakes, learn from them. It will make you better.”

This continues to shape Godfrey’s mindset.

Ask him what aspect of his game he wants to improve and the answer is immediate. “Everything,” he says. “Tactical, technical, leadership, decision-making, my all-round game. I just want to be a better player. I know there’s more in the tank than I’ve shown this season.”

“I am my own biggest critic. I always want to be above the level I am at, but your best years are only ahead of you if you keep working hard. If you feel comfortable, you can quickly flatten your progress or even retard go. It is ingrained in me to remain hungry.”

Where does that drive come from? “Making my family proud is a huge motivator,” he explains. “I want to achieve things in football. It’s the thrill of doing that. You’re always chasing things. Improving my game brings me closer to those accolades.”

And that’s about much more than just the 90 minutes.

“It’s the work no one sees. It’s not always about what happens on match day, it’s the work you do on the training pitch when no one is there or practice at home in your spare time when other people aren’t.” Those are the extra percentages.”

It helps explain why even the memory of his two appearances in England comes with a warning. The satisfaction of having reached that pinnacle is coupled with the thought that he failed to make the next Euro 2020 roster.

He continues to strive for more.

“It comes back to hunger for more and being my biggest critic. While I enjoyed making my debut in England, not making that Euro squad, I now use that as fuel. I saw the level I need to reach if I want to stay in squads, that’s what I’m aiming for now.

“Wanting to do well is an addiction.”

Everyone is a product of his environment, the sum of his experiences. Godfrey himself wonders if his own disappointments as a young player trying to find his way around the game shaped his thinking even now.

The desire to prove others wrong continues to exist.

“It’s a strange old journey,” he concludes.

“I looked up to those guys in big club academies when I did my scholarship in York, but in the long run is that good for them? I’m not so sure. I have friends who were at so-called bigger clubs than I was at a younger age and we just passed each other.

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“But every path is different, there is not just one route to success, you have to try and consider the best options that are presented to you according to your goals. I started along the non-league route and hopefully that inspires other young players that may have been released that there are several routes to make it still in the game.

“I really had to believe in myself and never forget to work those extra hours hard. I had to have the confidence that I would always get where I wanted to be. I am so grateful for the ups and the downs for getting me where I am now am.

“I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.”

Ben Godfrey wears adidas X Speedflow, available at adidas.co.uk/football-shoes

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