CAST your minds back to last summer and York-born defender Ben Godfrey has just completed his first full season at Everton.

Having featured in League Two for York City only five years earlier, Godfrey racked up 31 Premier League appearances as Everton finished 10th, just three points adrift of qualification for European football.

A two-places and 10-point improvement had been managed in Carlo Ancelotti’s first full season in charge at Goodison Park with Godfrey an essential part, winning the club’s young player of the season award and being rewarded with a first senior England cap that summer.

But as Godfrey stepped out for his international debut against Austria, Ancelotti begun the first week of his second spell in charge at Real Madrid.

Controversially, ex-Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez was appointed as his successor and, in spite of his former allegiances, four victories came from the first six league matches.

Everton would only win once more under Benitez in the Premier League and in January he was sacked.

Things fared little better in the early weeks of the Frank Lampard era, with the Toffees inside the bottom three for the first time all season by the start of May.

In the end, a trio of wins in the campaign’s last month was enough to see Everton safe, yet the club recorded its lowest finish since 2004 and its joint-worst points tally since 1981.

“This season has been really tough, mentally so tough,” admitted Godfrey, speaking to The Press.

“To be part of a side that should be nowhere near the bottom end of the table was really disappointing and it was tough for long periods of the season.

“In terms of personal performances, I was nowhere near what I’ve achieved before and nowhere near what I aim to perform like.

“I don’t want to say that it was a season to forget because I think that we’ll look back and learn things from this and we pulled out of it which is a massive positive.

“But, speaking for the team and myself, we were definitely a shadow of what we’re capable of.”

It took until the penultimate round of the league season for Everton to eventually secure their Premier League status for 2022/23.

At Goodison Park, the hosts trailed 2-0 at half time against Crystal Palace but second-half goals from Michael Keane, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the latter scoring with five minutes left, capped a stunning turnaround, sparking wild celebrations in the post-match pitch invasion.

“The emotion that you saw from everyone involved that night was frightening,” recalled Godfrey.

“It was a special night and I think it showed how much it meant to everyone: the players, the staff, the fans.

“The emotion would have been there regardless of how we won the game but to win it in that fashion multiplied that by a thousand.

“It was dramatic and I wouldn’t like to put myself through it all again, but we got there in the end.

“This will be a massive learning curve for a lot of us and I think we’ll be able to take a lot from it.”

Everton manager Lampard may have his detractors but he led the Merseyside club to shock end-of-season wins over Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester City at the crunch point of the season.

The former Chelsea boss, along with the backroom staff he has brought to the North West, received plenty of praise from Godfrey.

“He’s made a massive impact,” insisted the 24-year-old. “He’s a top guy, all of his staff are first-class and his CV speaks for itself, as a player.

“He’s spent a lot of time speaking to me and helping me where he can, and that goes for all of his staff too.

“There’s not a lot of other people that I’d rather have to get that (advice), to be honest. I’m really fortunate to be working with him.”

At the end of his second season at Everton, Godfrey has experienced his fair share of highs and lows.

From the brink of European football and an England call-up in his first term to a tightly-fought relegation battle and issues with injury in his second.

While he had played Premier League football before, with Norwich City, the pressure of representing the eighth-most successful club in English football history is immense.

That level of expectation is not something that particularly phases Godfrey though, he is keen to stress, rather it is something to relish.

“I’m absolutely loving it here, I’m loving every single second of it,” he enthused, reflecting on his time at Everton so far.

“The lads are great, the fans are unbelievable and I’ve been welcomed from the very start with open arms which is always appreciated.

“The pressure does increase when you come to Everton from a club like Norwich.

“But that’s why you play football, you want to play in pressurised environments where it seems like life or death, that’s what you want to be involved in.

“The pressure is a lot higher than at Norwich and I think that I’ve thrived off that at times.

“When you make mistakes, they’re highlighted, it’s seen by a bigger audience and you do feel it more.

“But I think that’s all part of learning. I’m really enjoying it here.”