The rise of Anthony Gordon: from 'moody' teenager to Everton's saviour and Chelsea target

·5-min read
The rise of Anthony Gordon: from 'moody' teenager to Everton's saviour and Chelsea target - GETTY IMAGES
The rise of Anthony Gordon: from 'moody' teenager to Everton's saviour and Chelsea target - GETTY IMAGES

Richarlison is gone. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is out until October. Within a year, Anthony Gordon has gone from wannabe starter to Everton’s talisman; the great Scouse hope charged with ensuring the club avoid another season of struggle.

The early signs have been ominous, with two defeats from two matches, but Gordon - a born and bred blue - will not shirk the burden of expectation, a point visibly demonstrated when he assumed the weighty No 10 jersey during pre-season.

“He has fire in his belly,” says Everton’s Under 21 coach Paul Tait, observing the irrepressible rise of his former charge and excited by what comes next. “Anthony has always wanted that kind of responsibility.”

It was telling that when interest materialised in Richarlison there was room for negotiation. When Premier League clubs asked about Gordon, there was none. The latest to express an interest are Chelsea, who value him at around £45 million, but Everton have rejected it out of hand because Frank Lampard has seen a little of himself in a young winger who treats every training session like his and Everton’s future is at stake.

“There is a kindred spirit there. Anthony responds to having an arm put around him,” says Tait. “You hear Frank talk about the young players and a big part of what he is looking for is character. He wants players who are at it every day, fitting into that environment that the manager was accustomed to as a player.

“It is not an easy step for everyone. Anthony has shown the way. When he was coming here as a schoolboy he would never miss training, no matter how big the commitment getting here six days a week. His mum was unbelievably supportive and you knew Anthony would always be there, wanting to get better.”

Tait thinks one of the reasons Gordon seized his chance last year is because the path to stardom has not been without setbacks, establishing first-team status taking longer than anticipated.

“He has always had Premier League quality attributes - the acceleration, the movement and high technical level. What he was missing in his teens was the power and size,” says Tait, who has coached Gordon since he was an Under 15. “He was a late developer. We knew we had to wait for him physically. But I think that has helped. He had to work extra hard to have an impact and survive in games. Even in the age groups of 15 and 16 some lads are like men - well developed physically. It can be hard for the late developer.

Frank Lampard (L) and Anthony Gordon during the Everton Training Session - GETTY IMAGES
Frank Lampard (L) and Anthony Gordon during the Everton Training Session - GETTY IMAGES

“Some players get to that Premier League level at 17 or 18 and for others it needs a couple of loan spells and they are ready at 22 or 23. When Ross Barkley was coming through here he had the physical development early. He was running through people aged 14. Anthony had the technical ability but could not do that so other parts of his game developed.

“Everyone at the club knew the type of player Anthony could be. It was a matter of patience. The message was ‘let him grow’ and ‘let him mature’. He has shown a lot of resilience dealing with the ups and downs the game throws at you. It is not always a smooth career. Anthony was flying as a first year scholar, scoring 20 goals as a 16-year-old. He realised he was a good player so the question was ‘what’s next?’

“When he went on loan to Preston it was not a success. He would have expected to walk into the team. It didn’t happen but it helped him grow on and off the pitch. It put even more fire in his belly. Now he has the physical stature, the pace stands out most. His speed last season was frightening.”

Tait notes another key development in Gordon’s game.

“There has been a psychological change,” he said. “Anthony could be a typical teenager - quite moody and getting the hump if things didn't go his way. But has been guided in the right way. The way he applies himself on and off the park is of an elite level.

“There was a game at Tottenham away last season when he sprinted back into his own penalty area to regain possession. He was not doing that at 15. He was thinking solely as a front player. He has matured so much and embraced what the game is about.”

Now 21, Gordon is longer an academy graduate finding his way; instead, he has been asked to lead from the front as Everton try to avoid another relegation battle. He has started both of Everton’s games to date - the opening day defeat to Chelsea, and the 2-1 reverse at Aston Villa last Saturday - as a notional centre-forward, but clearly has licence to roam from Lampard.

Either way, Gordon will thrive on the responsibility - and a good job, given a third defeat to Nottingham Forest this weekend really would send tremors of apprehension through Goodison.

“Local lads usually find something within,” Tait adds. “I’m a Geordie but I can see it is definitely cultural within the Liverpool mentality. I see it in Anthony and I call it scouse power.”

Everton will need plenty more of that in the weeks ahead.

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