Everton manager Frank Lampard is happy to ignore the external noise around striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin to ensure he manages him back to full fitness.
Calvert-Lewin made his first appearance this season in the 2-1 defeat by Manchester United at Goodison Park.
The England man suffered a “freak” knee injury in training before Everton’s opener against Chelsea in August.
Initial hopes Calvert-Lewin would only miss the first month of the season proved to be optimistic.
“We need to be a bit careful with him,” said Lampard, who limited the 25-year-old to a 14-minute cameo on Sunday. “We have to look long-term.
“We got him on the pitch today. It is important we do that in the right manner and get him match fit. In the Premier League, you have to be match fit. He has to get to the level where he can really affect games the way we want him to.”
It has been a tough 15 months for Calvert-Lewin since he was part of Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad.
At the start of last season he had four months out with a fractured toe. That, and his latest problem, are a major reason why he has only scored two goals in almost 14 months.
Given his contribution prior to that, it was little wonder the Everton fans gave him a standing ovation when he came on against United.
However, Lampard will block out the clamour for greater involvement and make sure he makes the right decisions to ensure Calvert-Lewin is available on a consistent basis.
“The noise isn’t a problem,” he said. “We have to deal with that in a professional manner.
“Hopefully with another week it will be longer and then he becomes our player and someone we can rely on.”